Nate Robinson
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

Former New York Knicks fan-favorite Nate Robinson has finally captured post-NBA peace in New Jersey while surrounded by family.

Justin Birnbaum

On a smoldering hot Saturday afternoon in Little Falls, NJ, Nate Robinson looked up at the scoreboard in left-center field at Yogi Berra Stadium. With hardly a cloud to obscure the blue sky, a tribute to his 11-year NBA career played on the screen, displaying moments such as Robinson’s miraculous, game-winning three-pointer over Allen Iverson during his rookie season, highlights from his three Slam Dunk Contest victories, countless in-game dunks and blocks of Dwight Howard, LeBron James and Yao Ming.

At its finish, Robinson turned around, dapped up the guys around him—as if to say thank you—and took his place in the field, ready for the kickball game to start.

The moment encapsulated the transition Robinson has undergone over the last few years—acknowledging his past and embracing the future. No longer frustrated by his fruitless attempts to return to the NBA, the former New York Knicks fan-favorite has shifted from an impassioned basketball journeyman to a multi-sport athlete, media personality, philanthropist, and, most importantly, family man.

“Right now, I’m just enjoying life,” Robinson said. “I got a great chance to see my children grow up now. So, I wouldn’t trade that for the world.”

Back in New York City for BIG3’s return to Barclays Center Sunday, Robinson used an off day to give back to the fans he endeared himself to during his time at Madison Square Garden.

Benefitting the Father English Community Center in Paterson, NJ, the 35-year-old hosted the Nate Robinson & Friends Celebrity Kickball Game at Yogi Berra Stadium in northern New Jersey. The event pitted Team Nate Robinson against Team Carlos Arroyo in kickball, dodgeball, tug-o-war, hula hooping and a race against Robinson, with children in the crowd being invited on the field to join every game.

There was no shortage of star power on hand with BIG3’s Stephen Jackson, WNBA legend Lisa Leslie, Knicks guard Damyean Dotson, former NBA players Larry Sanders and Mario Chalmers, and social media personality Laurence “Overtime Larry” Marsach all playing. Among the others participating were Robinson’s two eldest children, Nahmier and Ny’ale. The turnout left Robinson expressing a sense of gratitude.

“Just so many people came out and it was just a blessing,” Robinson said. “I couldn’t thank people enough that really came out and showed support.”

Hosting an event like this is a first for Robinson who spent parts of five seasons with the Knicks. The event fulfilled Robinson’s desire to give back to a community center similar to the “safe havens” he and his peers grew up around. In the early stages of the idea, he wanted to host his first event in a place where it would resonate.

As a Knick, Robinson captivated fans in the Big Apple and became a fan favorite, citing “the fans welcomed me since day one.” Robinson’s deep relationship with the City and New York media remains strong as he spent the week touring the city, appearing on WFAN and SNY and playing pickup hoops in lower Manhattan.

“I had to come back and do something special here first,” Robinson said.

However, Saturday’s event was no one-off. Robinson sees this as only the beginning of his charitable efforts and wants to do something similar in every city he’s played in, as well as his hometown of Seattle, Washington.

New York Knicks

Later this summer, Robinson plans on hosting another endeavor in the New York area—an instructional swimming event right before school picks up in the fall as a means of encouraging kids to get involved in outdoor activities and away from video games.

And part of Robinson ramping up his community involvement stems back to his role as a father. With two of his kids present, today’s event demonstrated what a former star like Robinson can do for a community with his platform.

“I just want to show my kids [what it’s like] giving back starting now,” Robinson said. “Once they get to the professional [level] of what they do, they’ll have all the tools to do what they’re supposed to do and give back to the community.”

As for his NBA future, Robinson is content with moving on to a “new chapter,” but wouldn’t rule anything out.

“If the NBA comes along, I’m with it,” Robinson said. “If not, it’s all good.”

 

Elite Access