Nate Robinson hasn’t played in an NBA game since he was waived by the New Orleans Pelicans in late October, and a subsequent tryout in China didn’t result in a gig overseas. If the 11-year NBA veteran’s got anything to say about it, though, a lack of interest in his services as a basketball player doesn’t necessarily mean his career as a professional athlete is over.
In a video Wednesday Thursday by The Lead Sports, Robinson announced his intentions to change venues and pursue a career in the NFL. That, of course, sounds crazy, as Robinson is less than three months away from his 32nd birthday, hasn’t played football in 11 or 12 years, and was last listed at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds.
That said, Nate saying he’s interested in changing lanes isn’t exactly the same as many other longtime NBA pros doing so. Before embarking on an NBA career that would see him suit up for the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers and Pelicans, Robinson was a standout high school football player in his native Seattle, totaling more than 1,700 combined rushing and receiving yards with 21 total touchdowns during his senior season at Rainier High School en route to being named Washington’s Class AAA Player of the Year by the Seattle Times.
Robinson went to the University of Washington in 2002 on a football scholarship, planning to walk onto the Huskies’ basketball team as well. He played in all 13 UW football games as a true freshman, making six starts at cornerback. After that one season, though, he decided to quit football to focus on basketball, a decision that paid off when he became a first-round pick in the 2005 NBA draft.
“In my mind, I’ve seen one athlete that can do this,” says Robinson’s former coach at Washington, Rick Neuheisel, in the video. “And that’s Nate Robinson.”
2001, during his years at Rainier High, he said he wanted “to be the first to play in the NFL and NBA, but Randy Moss might beat me to it.” Alas, Moss never joined his high school running buddy Jason “White Chocolate” Williams in the big show, and even if he had, he wouldn’t have been the first to pull off this particular feat. Bud Grant played for the Minneapolis Lakers from 1949 through 1951 before moving on to play defensive end for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL; he’d later go on to become the head coach of the Bombers and the Minnesota Vikings, eventually earning enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.The diminutive but fiery Robinson has never lacked for confidence. As far back as
Even if he couldn’t be the first to do it, though, and even as he was in the midst of an NBA career that reportedly earned him about $25 million in career salary, Robinson never could seem to kick the idea of playing in the NFL. He called for an NFL tryout with his hometown Seattle Seahawks back in 2011, but while head coach Pete Carroll seemed up for welcoming Nate into the fold, that pesky professional basketball career apparently got in the way, and Robinson’s workout never materialized. He said he’d have once again sought an NFL opportunity if no NBA team reached out to him, but he eventually caught on with the Bulls. All those missed opportunities never got in the way of Nate’s firm belief that, if he’d stuck with football, he would have been “one of the best corners the NFL’s ever seen.” (Now that’s the kind of self-regard you need to be able to shut down the best receivers in the world.)
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Even after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while a member of the Nuggets in 2014, hitting 30 years of age as he rehabilitated, Robinson remained convinced he could come back and return to the business of proving wrong all those who have doubted over the years whether someone so small could make a big impact.
“Something is going to happen, and it’s magical and positive,” he told Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times in July of 2014. “I see that, and I believe it.”
The three-time Slam Dunk Contest champion and pint-sized scoring machine still sees it, and still believes it. It’s just that now, he sees it happening somewhere else … and he wishes we’d try to see it through his eyes, too.
“For once can they take me serious please?” Robinson asked in the caption of a Thursday afternoon Instagram post. “It’s crazy cause people will tell you that you can’t do something cause they couldn’t do it… So take my approach if it doesn’t apply let it fly #holdat #dreamchaser”
Making a change this drastic, this late in your athletic life, and making it work is an awfully tall hurdle to leap. Then again, it’s not like we haven’t seen Nate jump over massive obstacles before. Here’s hoping some enterprising NFL personnel exec decides to take a flyer on Robinson this summer; if nothing else, it ought to be pretty fun to follow Nate’s pursuit of his new old dream.
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