Nate Robinson has been putting on for his city ever since he stepped into the spotlight way back in 2006. That was when he won his first Dunk Contest in a New York Knicks uniform, beating out Andre Iguodala. The kid from Seattle was on fire, gaining national attention, 3,000 miles away from home.
“New York City, man,” Robinson says. “New York City been showing me so much love, playing with the Knicks. I didn’t understand it, until years later. The city, they loved me, they respected me for the hard work I put in. Everything I did, I wanted to represent first and foremost my city in Seattle, WA, and playing for the Knicks, I was welcomed in for playing in New York. I felt like I was from the city. They pretty much started me on my quest.”
Robinson’s quest has been long. From his roots in Seattle, he’s played for the Knicks, Celtics, Thunder, Warriors, Bulls, Nuggets, Clippers and Pelicans. That’s a lot of jerseys and a lot of memorable moments. Seriously, go back and YouTube some of his greatest hits. And not just the three Dunk Contest wins (more on that in a bit).
Now Nate Rob is playing in Tel Aviv, Israel, for Hapoel, where he says he’s having a blast. “I love it here,” Robinson says. “It’s surprisingly super hot. There are a lot of palm trees, beaches, the water’s crazy. The world seems so small from social media, but the world’s a big place. It’s beautiful.”
The latest part of Robinson’s quest includes a dip into the business world. He’s part of the ever-growing Strideline, a Seattle-based sock company. Robinson was introduced to the Strideline crew through his brother, who went to college with the co-founder of the biz. After seeing the Pocket Sock up close, Nate says he and the company connected because of their shared ideals, developed in the Emerald City.
“They believe in what I bring from being out of Seattle and being a home guy, being from the 206 and representing what they believe. They believe in hard work, dedication, fun, swag, a whole bunch of great things. They pretty much saw that in me,” Robinson says.
That Seattle pride. A staple of not only Nate, but all the other NBA players to come from the Pacific Northwest. It comes from, Nate says, people not really taking his city seriously. He rattles off the names. Jimi Hendrix, Bill Gates, Jamal Crawford. It’s also about letting the kids and the community know that it’s OK to have dreams and ambitions. That he was once a kid in Seattle, running around the city just like they are.
“That’s something that every kid growing up, especially in the ’90s, your mom gave you a couple dollars to go to the store or chill with your friends,” he continues. “You put your money in your sock. To come up with the pocket sock idea, I thought it was genius.”
After working together with the design team, Robinson says the socks that he and Strideline are about to produce provide just the right amount of comfort and style.
“Socks represent yourself,” Robinson says. “Who you are, what you stand for, what kind of personality you have. You gotta have a fresh pair of socks on with a fresh pair of kicks. That’s just my rule.
“Comfort was a biggie,” he continues. “The socks are extremely comfortable. And the way it looks, being presentable. Like Deion Sanders said, ‘You look good, you play good.’”
At his peak, that quote applied to Nate to an extreme level. Back in the ’09 Dunk Contest, little Nate jumped up and over big Dwight Howard. This was when Dwight was the best center in the NBA and people were calling him Superman. When Nate came out with the green Knicks jersey and the neon green Nike Foams, well, KyrptoNate both looked and felt good.
His bunnies helped the Dunk Contest stay afloat, something that few others have been able to accomplish since Nate last won in 2010. Until this year, of course.
“They brought the Dunk Contest back,” Robinson says. “It was down for a little bit. What Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon were doing was unbelievable, man. It should’ve been a tie. I’m glad Zach won, he’s representing Seattle, but that was a Dunk Contest for the ages. They should’ve had two trophies for both of them guys. My kids were going crazy. I was in awe.”
Nate Rob doesn’t think the decline of the Contest is solely on the dunkers. He wants the League to loosen the reigns a little.
“They gotta find the best athletes in the NBA that can jump and just let them go out and dunk,” the three-time Champ says. “There are just too many rules with the Dunk Contest. It needs to be a little more loose and freelance. When you’re in the gym with your boys, after you hoop, guys always used to just throw the ball and just start dunking. That’s where your creativity comes from.”
He also wants music to play during each dunk, something that the participants pick. If he was still in the Contest, he’d pick a (censored) Migos song. “They get you hype, they get you full of energy, full of bounce, ready to go, ready to get it in,” he says about the trio from Atlanta.
Nate’s all ready to give the NFL a legit shot after he gets home in June, but he says he also knows his NBA days aren’t over. “There are a couple coaches that just got called up, so who knows? If a coach can get back, I can get back. Just a matter of time.”