The statement was ridiculous.
That was my reaction to reading what Nate Robinson had said as a high-school senior had said to a fellow reporter from The Seattle Times.
“I want to be the first to play in the NFL and NBA,” Robinson said, “but Randy Moss might beat me to it.”
I objected. This was 2001 and Robinson was a high-school senior at Rainier Beach. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something along the lines, “We’re just going to let 18-year-olds say crazy stuff in the newspaper now? It’s absurd to present that as even a possibility.”
The high-school sports editor informed me that if I was insistent on finding shortcomings in stories, my own copy offered plenty of opportunities. The assistant sports editor diplomatically told me that the quote illustrated both the confidence and ambition and Robinson.
Both of them were right, of course. Even more tellingly: So was Robinson.
I thought of that story Thursday when seeing a video announcement that Robinson intends to try out for football. Not only do I believe Robinson could have played both sports professionally, I honestly think that even at the age of 31 after 10 years in the NBA, Robinson can make an NFL team.
I’ve covered sports in Seattle for nearly 20 years, a tenure that includes three different stints at The Seattle Times before coming to 710 ESPN Seattle. I saw Brandon Roy play hoops as a sophomore at Garfield High School and was convinced to my marrow he was destined for the NBA. I watched Tim Lincecum pitch as a junior at Liberty High School and doubted he was big enough to be an effective college pitcher, let alone a professional.
The point is that I’ve been right, I’ve been wrong and I’ve been fortunate enough to see future phenoms compete in high school.
I’ve never seen a better athlete than Robinson, and that’s coming from a guy who brought lunch to Bruce Irvin for the past three years.
I heard Nate before I saw him. I heard the way he slapped the basketball jumping up for a rebound at about the free-throw line, literally head-and-shoulders above everyone. It was only when he came down that I realized he was the shortest player on the floor.
The game was at Bellevue Community College, and best I can remember it was during the spring or summer of either 2000 or 2001. I know it was before Robinson re-enrolled at Rainier Beach for his senior year, and I was standing next to Alvin Snow – a stud at Franklin High who went on to lead Eastern Washington to the NCAA Tournament. I don’t know if I used words to express my amazement at Robinson’s leaping ability or just grunted sounds.
“He does that ALL the time,” Snow told me.
I would learn that. Robinson was truly remarkable. You know about his springs. The guy won three NBA Slam Dunk titles. He ran the hurdles in high school even though he wasn’t built like a hurdler. Not even a little bit. But his speed and his bounce and his unrelenting competitiveness made him downright historical with a time of 13.85 seconds in the 300 meter hurdles. No one in this state has ever been faster.
As a football player at Rainier Beach, he was just as electric. People will point to his freshman season at Washington as proof of his football potential. He was on a football scholarship then and picked off two passes in the Apple Cup.
During the NBA lockout a few years back, Robinson showed up at Seattle’s training camp. He knows Pete Carroll, having been recruited by USC before going to Washington. I wondered what might happen if Robinson tried to fulfill that prediction he made way back in 2001. Now, I’m hoping I get the chance to see just how right Robinson may have been.