BIG3 Nate Robinson
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/BIG3/Getty Images)

Nate Robinson wasted no time in showing everyone that he is serious about a return to the NBA in his BIG3 debut.

Professional basketball returned to the Toyota Center on Friday night, but not exactly in the way you would expect. Fresh off the 2018 NBA Draft, the Houston Rockets are months away from returning to their home court, but Friday marked the kickoff of BIG3’s second season.

For those unfamiliar with Ice Cube’s brainchild, BIG3 is a touring three-on-three basketball league featuring former NBA players. The roster is littered with former stars including Chauncey Billups, Baron Davis, Jermaine O’Neal, Corey Maggette and Amare Stoudemire among others.

For most, it is a chance to relive some part of the glory days they experienced during their time in the NBA. For Nate Robinson, it’s arguably his last chance to make the NBA comeback that he has so wholeheartedly desired since he was cut by the New Orleans Pelicans back in 2015.

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Robinson represents some of the fresh blood BIG3 added for the 2018 season. Originally selected 21st overall by the Phoenix Suns in the 2005 NBA Draft, Robinson was dealt to the Knicks on draft night along with Quentin Richardson in exchange for Kurt Thomas and the rights to Dijon Thompson.

His time in New York came and went quickly. In 2010, he was traded to the Boston Celtics in addition to Marcus Landry in exchange for J.R. Giddens, Bill Walker, and Eddie House. As a member of the Celtics, Robinson was a key contributor in Boston’s NBA Finals run that year and made crucial contributions in the Eastern Conference Finals and NBA Finals despite the Celtics failing to win the title.

Following his time in Boston, Robinson transitioned into the role of a journeyman. In addition to New York and Boston, the former Rainer Beach High School standout spent stints as a member of the Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, and New Orleans Pelicans.

After his NBA prospects dried up in 2015, the 5-foot-9 offensive dynamo departed to Israel, where he spent 2016 playing for Hapoel Tel Aviv. The following season, he joined Guaros de Lara, a Venezuelan club and led them to their first Venezuela League championship. In 2017, he also spent a brief amount of time with the Delaware 87ers, the NBA G League affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Despite standing at only 5-feet-9-inches, Robinson has continually wowed us with his explosiveness and ability to play above the rim. As a member of the Knicks, he became the first NBA player to win three Slam Dunk Contests (2006, 2009, 2010) and was lauded for his ability to generate instant offense off the bench and playoff heroics as a member of the Bulls and Celtics.

As Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo! Sports reported, Robinson hopes to return to the NBA in the near future. While speaking to Bleacher Report’s Mirin Fader, he acknowledged that his “immature” attitude may have been a roadblock to that goal in the past.

BIG3 just might provide that opportunity for the Washington native after he powered his team to victory on the first night of the season. Tri-State, Robinson’s club, defeated Trilogy by a score of 51-34. His high energy and superior ball-handling proved too much for the defending champions, who went undefeated in their inaugural season.

Robinson posted 10 points, seven of which came in a second-half outburst that included the game-winning three-pointer. With the help of David Hawkins and Jermaine O’Neal, the Julius Erving coached Tri-State jumped out to a 1-0 record.

The beautiful thing about Robinson is that he always brings an unparalleled level of intensity and competitiveness regardless of the circumstance. After Trilogy’s Rashad McCants came out to warmups wearing a Joker mask and a toy Infinity Gauntlet, Robinson took notice immediately.

Right after draining his first three of the game, Robinson went straight up to McCants and started trash talking right in his face. During halftime, Michael Rapaport asked Robinson about McCants’s pregame antics and the early game extracurriculars to which he succinctly noted, “I don’t play that shit.” Following the game-winning three, a frustrated McCants nearly incited a brawl between the two teams. The skirmish was broken up quickly.

With Chicago on the calendar for week two of the BIG3 season, all eyes will be on Robinson after his debut performance. As a former member of the Bulls, Robinson has a contingent of fans in the Windy City and his return to the United Center should prove to be exciting.

His NBA comeback may be on its last leg, but if Clyde Drexler’s opinion counts for anything, BIG3 might just be a springboard for several players trying to return to basketball’s most prominent league. Earlier this week, Drexler told TMZ Sports that he believes there are at least 12 players who have a real shot at returning to the NBA as a product of their involvement in BIG3.

In addition to reviving his basketball career, 2018 will see Robinson return to his football roots. As a member of the American Flag Football League, Robinson has teamed up with Carlos Boozer to form a professional squad to compete in the 2018 U.S. Open of Football. The team features a mix of athletes from all different backgrounds and include Matt Barnes, Jimmy Clausen, Tajh Boyd, and Kerry Rhodes to name a few. For those who don’t remember, Robinson actually attended the University of Washington on a football scholarship before walking on to their basketball team.

After only one week, it has been a pleasure watching Nate Robinson on a basketball court once again. Despite his size, Robinson has found a way to overcome obstacles continually through his career and compete at the highest level of professional basketball. It’s impossible to definitively say whether an NBA comeback is in the cards for this journeyman, but you can be certain that Robinson’s time spent in BIG3 will be exciting. Week two of BIG3 kicks off on June 29 in Chicago at the United Center. Robinson’s Tri-State will take on Brian Scalabrine and the Ball Hogs in game two of the evening.

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