Growing up in Seattle, I was surrounded by great athletes. But there are a few that have stuck out above the rest this spring.
I’ve known both Nate Robinson of the Bulls and Jamal Crawford of the Clippers a long time and I’ve enjoyed watching both of them in the NBA playoffs. I’ve watched pretty much all of Nate’s games and all of Jamal’s games. I’m a real fan of the sport and used to play myself for years. I’m a fan of athleticism and I just think it’s incredible watching people that you’ve seen grow up pursue their dreams.
Nate and I started running track together when we were like eight years old. From then on, every summer we ran track together all the way up until we went to high school and we went to the same high school as well.
After competing together for years, you naturally become friends, but he’s really like family to me. I’m really close with his mom and his entire family is an extended family to me. Seattle is big city, but a small community so everybody kind of knows everybody.
Nate hasn’t changed much at all from back then and that’s one thing that we can really respect and appreciate about him. He’s still the same person as he was when we were kids. The way he plays on the court now is the same way he’s always played. That’s how he is. He’d be doing back flips at our track meets and running around. He always had a lot of energy and it just seemed like he never got tired. He’s also a great dancer and when we were in school, he and a few of his friends would always perform New Edition songs at our assemblies.
He might not do that anymore, but he’s still the same caring person, still hyper and loud, and he never acts like he’s too big for anybody. He pays homage to Seattle. He recognizes where he came from, who his friends are and the people closest to him who helped him get to where he is.
He’s a great father and a compassionate man to other people, especially his family. As a father, he’s very hands on and will do anything for his children even though he doesn’t live in the same city as them. He might spend more time with his kids than a father that does live in the same city as his kids. His family is everything to him and he really puts an emphasis on that. There’s not a day that goes by that he doesn’t let them know how much he cares. He’s a really good friend. If anybody is ever in need of something, Nate will have their back.
But he’s always been treated that way by other people, so you learn from that. People have extended their heart and been compassionate to him, so I feel like you learn from that and become that kind of person. That’s something that both of us take from growing up in Seattle.
That’s why you see a lot of athletes from Seattle coming back to give back. We all pay respect to the city we grew up in because nobody makes it alone. We’ve all had somebody along the way that has helped us and boosted us, so it feels right to be able to do that for somebody else and give back to the community if you’re able.
It was cool to watch both of Nate and Jamal in the playoffs having the year of their lives. I think this was the best year that each of them has had. I’m glad that Nate and his team are in their second round. I hope they can get out of this hole. Miami is going to be a tough team to beat of course, but I hope the Bulls can advance. I was really sorry to see that Jamal and the Clippers didn’t advance because they played so incredibly well this year. I love watching these guys do well and I always want success for them.
Nate has always been an incredible athlete. Growing up he was really good in basketball, football and track. From the time we were little, people started calling him “Nate the Great” and if you hear something that many times, you believe it. In his mind, he has to live up to that name and he does.
He was always one of the shorter kids and stocky, but that never hindered his performance or stopped him from being the athlete that he is. I’m sure some people took him for granted because of his size, but I think as they watched him compete, they learned quick who he was and what he could do.
He used to always challenge me at track practice because, believe or not, as short as he is, we both did the hurdles. He always wanted to see if it he was going to beat me and I would say “of course you’re going to beat me, you’re a guy.” But I was so fast that I think a lot of people just wanted to challenge me. I like to think that I beat him at least once. I can’t really remember, but I think I must have. I was just too competitive not to.
I remember him saying in high school that in college he was going to play basketball and football, and run track. We were all like “yeah right.” But I feel like if anybody could do all three of those it would be Nate.
I don’t really know what it takes for you to be on the pro level in football and basketball, but I always thought he was great at all three and could’ve been pro at each one. I always knew him on the track first, so I thought he was a great runner, but in high school he really showed himself on the basketball court. At that point, I realized he had a future in basketball.
When he got to college, he played both football and basketball. I went to USC and remember going to the football game when Washington played down here and I thought then that he was good enough to make it at football. But I don’t know if his talent would have flourished the way it has in basketball, so I think he chose the right one for him.
I’ve known for a while that Nate is a capable of greatness, but what he has done this postseason has even shocked and impressed me. Watching him, he’s in his zone and thinking “this is not a game.” He’s serious out there. He’s trying to get it done. He’s really tough and he’s holding his own. When he blocked LeBron’s shot, I thought that was amazing. He’s been hitting some clutch shots that the team needs and making some great plays out there. I’ve always thought he had that in him because I believe if anybody puts their all toward something, you can maximize your potential beyond anything you ever thought you could do.
He’s played through a lot of different things this postseason, from the flu and throwing up on the sidelines to a busted lip, but that doesn’t surprise me. I’ve never seen Nate tired and I’ve definitely never seen Nate quit. I used to think he had all the energy in the world.
Before we would have to race at track meets he would never get a rest, he was never sitting down. He was always running around, doing flips in the middle of the field, but he always went out there and did what he was supposed to do on the track. He’s that person that nothing breaks him. He’s going to keep going regardless and you have to respect that.