Impact Basketball’s facility sits inside an unassuming section
of an unassuming plaza on Dean Martin Drive in Las Vegas.
The gym contains two light-colored hardwood basketball courts
with a small scoreboard, a weightlifting area, a makeshift
stretching room, a kitchenette for meals and snacks and a small
office, and it’s no place for vanities. The only flexes are the
dozens of white banners hanging on the right wall, listing names
upon names of distinguished players who have come through during
the gym’s 25 years of existence.
Among those players: Kevin Garnett, Carmelo Anthony, Kawhi
Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Kelsey Plum, Tayshaun Prince, Jaylen Brown,
Tyrese Haliburton, Ziaire Williams, Kristaps Porzingis, Nassir
Little and Saddiq Bey.
Kevin Garnett stopped by @impactbball
and offered some advice to Blazers guard Keon Johnson, Mavericks
wing Josh Green and 16-year-old prospect Dayan Nessah.@Joe_Abunassar
— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA)
July 15, 2022
Impact Basketball, founded by trainer Joe Abunassar in 1997, has
a reputation for its star-studded, closed-door pickup games that
take place during the NBA offseason. In the spring, it’s also where
some of the top NBA Draft hopefuls join pre-draft “boot camp” and
commit themselves to today’s intricate world of sports training and
The timeline is simple: Arrive by April, revamp your training
lifestyle and find your professional pathway — either via the NBA
Draft, an undrafted free-agent deal or another contract —
afterwards. The work is not flashy, isn’t always fun and, to stick
as a pro, it never ends.
But the results can change lives.
“It’s not about W’s or L’s. It’s about M’s — M’s being millions
of dollars,” said Isaac Mourier, Impact’s Director of Performance
Nutrition and Sport Science. “Once you say that to a guy like that,
that’s all they need in terms of motivation.”
Mourier is a key cog in Impact’s program. He’s from the United
Kingdom and played professional basketball in England and Germany
before starting his own sports nutrition consulting business.
Mourier has worked for the University of Georgia and the Sacramento
Kings as a nutritionist and consultant, and joined Impact in 2020
during the spring.
During his two-and-a-half years and three draft cycles with the
company, Mourier has filled his laptop with infographics and
progress charts for Impact athletes. They include individualized
goals for each player; an example involves raising one man’s weight
by 20 pounds, lowering his body fat by 2%, increasing his bench
press weight by 50 pounds and adding 2 inches to his vertical.
Mourier feels privileged to work with athletes at this stage of
their careers. To him, the noise of team ecosystems and outside
expectations all fade away. He can clearly define goals. and
players know exactly what success will look like.
“This is the first time, maybe ever in their life, where they
have a team of people that are only worried about them,” he said.
“Now, I’m just trying to get you to the NBA and keep you there. I
don’t care whether you win or lose games right now. This is you.
All the focus is on you.”
Boot camp begins as soon as players are done with their
respective prior seasons. They arrive at Impact and take part in
comprehensive body testing to establish a full physical profile.
The technology includes a bioelectrical impedence analysis that
uses electrical currents to scan body composition. Sweat patches
can read how much sodium athletes need in their system.
Variables such as blood work, stress hormone levels, nutrient
deficienies, pre-workout hydration levels and post-workout
hydration levels, body composition and body fat percentages all
help establish a baseline of strengths and needs.
From there, each prospect receives an individualized growth
roadmap. Skill development makes up one component. Players often
train together in small groups, but receive specific plans that
prepare them for team pre-draft workouts and the NBA level.
“We’re looking and analyzing and making assessments on the
court; if guys are getting bumped off their cuts, if guys don’t
have enough lower-body power in their jump shot and guys seem like
they need to get stronger, if guys aren’t fast enough, [we’ll
consider], ‘Okay, what do we need to do in the weight room or from
a nutrition standpoint to correct that?'” Abunassar told Basketball
News. “So, that’s why every guy has his own program, because every
guy has different goals.”
Hydration and dieting are also central pieces. Mourier oversees
the implementation of dietary plans through Impact’s local chef
connections, and says he outlines each meal, snack and supplement.
Along the way are regular check-ins on body metrics, sleep
schedules, mood and motivation among other factors. Mourier
estimated that about 20-to-25 Impact staffers are involved with a
But Mourier repeatedly emphasized that the technology, food and
workouts aren’t what takes players to the Association. One of his
most important jobs is reframing their habits and instilling
discipline toward health.
“When an athlete gets to the elite level with bad habits, it’s,
‘Well, I’m already one of the best in the world at what I do, so
why would I change?’ So it’s changing that mindset, and then when
we’ve done that, it’s about understanding that doing small things
consistently is what gets us the results, as opposed to trying to
do extreme things,” Mourier said.
“The way that the structure of basketball [is] from AAU to
college to the pros, a lot of the power is in the athlete’s hands,
where it’s almost like, ‘Who are you to tell me what to do?’ So I
think one of the main things that we have to do is cut through that
barrier. And again, when our goals are the same as theirs, it
becomes a little bit easier. But again, it’s, ‘Well, you’ve gotten
to this level despite your bad habits. How good could you be if we
instill some good habits?'”
Good habits, however, can be inconvenient and awkward. For NBA
players to maintain their places in the league, they have to stick
with those routines well past a pre-draft boot camp.
Josh Green joined Impact’s program ahead of the 2020 NBA Draft
cycle. He’s still entrenched with Impact today, and worked out in
Las Vegas during NBA Summer League. Part of his nutrition plan
includes avoiding butter, which can be a particular hurdle when
eating out at restaurants.
“I have to be the guy who requests light virgin oil, whatever it
is,” Green told Basketball News. “I think that’s the hardest part
about it. I’m about to go to Australia for three weeks, and all I’m
gonna want to do is eat all the food, but I’m gonna have to stay
disciplined. I want to have a big year, so my goal is focusing
right now, but just taking it one day at a time.”
— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA)
July 14, 2022
Green said he started prioritizing nutrition after his second
shoulder surgery in April 2019. Since joining Impact, Green has
been floored by how much nourishment the human body loses during
workouts. He has an app that lays out meal calories and hydration
plans, and his goal this offseason is to skip carbohydrates, even
from snacks like a simple bag of chips.
“When you’re young, whatever you see in front of you is what you
want,” Green said. “I [was] able to start here early and realize,
if I want to play ball for a while, it’s important to put the right
things in my body and stay healthy. It’s the same thing as seeing
your physcial therapist and getting treatment, if not more
important for your body.”
Abunassar has a plethora of stories about players who embraced
the importance of nutrition at the pro level. He said that Garnett
used to tape menus on the cabinets of his Minnesota home. Kyle
Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Tyrese Haliburton are examples of guys who
transformed their bodies under Impact’s guidance too.
Gym time and workouts are obviously valuable, but to Abunassar,
nutrition is what sparks physical development.
“The nutrition is really the basis of body change — for anybody,
not even just for a basketball player. You can go to the gym every
day, but if you’re eating cheeseburgers and fries, you’re just not
going to lose weight,” he said.
Mourier has his own trail of success stories. He’s worked with
dozens of players, including Haliburton and Green. Zeke Nnaji,
another 2020 draftee, was an especially interesting case as the
only plant-based-dieting prospect Mourier has guided at Impact.
Mourier does not advise athletes to follow a plant-based diet
solely for performance. However, Nnaji had chosen to be a vegan for
ethical reasons, which Mourier respected, and the two worked
together to create a nutrition plan despite the constraints. One of
Nnaji’s pre-draft goals was to add muscle, and he succeeded with
rigorous attention to detail.
“He gained 20 pounds and everyone was like, ‘Who the hell is
this?'” Mourier said. “So that was really good, just being tactful
with the timing and quantities of that stuff. And [Nnaji] was
really diligent with it. He nailed every single aspect of it down
to the gram… He was a really easy one. I really can’t take credit
for all that stuff. I just put the blueprint down and he just
rolled with it.”
This year, Impact has worked with several 2022 draft prospects,
including MarJon Beauchamp, Blake Wesley and Michael Foster Jr.
— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA)
July 14, 2022
Wesley has been an Impact athlete since he was 17, meeting
Abunassar for the first time as a junior in high school. Wesley
would come in occasionally for workouts, staying on the far court
and watching as NBA players like Leonard and Paul George would get
their reps in. He returned in offseasons and locked in for his
pre-draft boot camp.
Mourier praised the Spurs rookie for his attention to detail
regarding nutrition. Wesley frequently FaceTimed Mourier while at
restaurants and stores, and asked questions about what he should
eat. He’s also a staunch advocate for Herbalife’s CR7 Drive sports
drink mix, and even has an endorsement deal with Herbalife.
As part of his pre-draft plan to put on weight, Welsey would
cook three eggs, plus eat oatmeal, milk and orange juice for
“[Changing my nutrition] helped my body a lot,” Wesley told
Basketball News over the phone. “I kept doing this, so I kept
getting better on the court and did everything good on the court.
So yeah, my nutrition helped me a lot.”
The result: Wesley turned himself from a relatively unheralded
four-star recruit into Notre Dame’s first one-and-done player —
then bulked up to 190 pounds in the spring and became a first-round
NBA draft pick.
“I met [Wesley] a year ago, before he went to Notre Dame, and
his transformation from then, to the start of the pre-draft
[process] to now — it’s phenomenal,” Mourier said.
The next challenge is to maintain discipline once that contract
“You gotta stay focused; the NBA is totally different from
college,” Wesley said. “I mean, you’re getting paid, you got a high
profile [and] a lot of people are watching you — watching how
you move, who you hang out with, stuff like that. So it’s a whole
Abunassar, Mourier and the Impact staff are hands-on with their
players during the offseason and pre-draft processes. But what
happens when those players head back to their NBA franchises?
“For the most part, from a strength-and-conditioning standpoint
[and] from a player development standpoint, the NBA teams have
stuff really dialed in,” Mourier said. “From a nutrition
standpoint, for the most part, they do not.”
Mourier estimated that there are only six full-time
nutritionists and dietitians in the entire NBA. The Collegiate and
Professional Sports Dietitians Association (CPSDA) lists nine full-time registered
dietitians. Mourier said that teams often have physicians and
trainers covering several responsibilites, including nutrition, due
to budget restrictions and front office priorities. This means some
athletes, specifically reserve players, receive less health
“We’re kind of the ones who are the last for the front office to
see the value in it, so a lot of times we’re really just a
check-box,” Mourier said. “So especially for those lower-order guys
that are maybe No. 7, 8, 9, 10, all the way through to 15 on the
roster, they’re not really receiving any support at all. They’re
receiving provision. They’re receiving meals and supplements. But
in terms of education and behavior change, they’re really not
Over the last 25 years, Abunassar has seen sports nutrition
dramatically change, with data and technology more interwoven into
practice than ever. He thinks there are positives and pitfalls to
“From a nutrition standpoint and strength-and-conditioning
standpoint, it’s clearly useful information to help prevent injury,
to increase lean body mass, etc.,” he said. “All of the technology
that has come out has been very helpful for us, but you do have to
watch that you don’t get too reliant on it. Sometimes, you gotta
watch the games and see how guys move and that kind of thing. But a
combination of the two is very effective.”
Impact Basketball is one progressive frontrunner in the field of
sports science, but Mourier emphasized that, at this point, all
basketball pros should be setting themselves up for success with
some sort of offseason developmental map. Pre-draft prospects
especially cannot afford to lose that critical period before team
workouts to maximize their appeal.
“It’s like doing the SAT without looking at the study guide,”
Mourier said “…I think it’s definitely a standard. There’s people
doing this all over the country, really. Nobody does it like us,
and nobody’s been doing it for as long as us, but people are seeing