'The NBA gave me depression': Nate Robinson opens up about therapy, his comeback attempt, and how Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown drove him to tears by dubbing him 'the little s***'
- Robinson said he begged, crying, for Brown to stop demeaning him
- Brown allegedly called him 'the little s***' again and told Robinson's Knicks teammates that he had cried - a charge Brown didn't remember or deny
- A 5ft9, high-flying spark plug known for frustrating coaches, Robinson explained it was his behavior – often seen as childish – that made him a target for criticism
- The 34-year-old Robinson explained that he also had issues with former Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni and former Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau
- He'll play in the BIG3 league this summer in hopes of making an NBA comeback
Former New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls guard Nate Robinson is on the comeback trail and hoping to return to the NBA – a league he now claims drove him to therapy.
A 5ft9, high-flying spark plug known for alternately thrilling and frustrating coaches, players and fans, Robinson explained it was his behavior – often seen as childish – that made him a target for criticism.
Nate Robinson was generously listed at 5ft9, but his limited height did not stop him from winning three dunk contests. In fact, the Seattle native was so athletic coming out of high school, he actually attended the University of Washington on a football scholarship
The perception that he refused to focus was not unfounded. While playing for the Knicks in 2009, for instance, the Seattle native hit a 3-pointer against the New Jersey Nets in the final moments of the first quarter.
The problem was, he shot it at the wrong basket.
To be clear, Robinson knew it wasn't the right hoop. He was just joking, and a subsequent and somewhat surreal review confirmed he released the ball after the buzzer, as he had intended.
Regardless, everyone at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, NJ heard then-Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni eviscerate Robinson as he entered the huddle before the start of the second quarter.
Robinson, 34, is hoping to make a comeback
'I was trying to change,' Robinson said. 'Nobody would ever know the real struggles that I had to fight to try to be somebody that I wasn't. ... That was the hardest thing in my career. Not basketball, not working out. Not my children.
'But the hardest thing in my whole life, of my 34 years in existence on earth, was dealing with 11 years in the NBA of trying to be somebody that [NBA coaches] want me to be.'
But Robinson's time with D'Antoni was a breeze compared to a previous stretch with the notorious Larry Brown in New York and a later run with the hard-nosed Tom Thibodeau in Chicago.
Robinson explained that Brown, the only head coach to win an NBA Title and an NCAA Title, relentlessly referred to him as 'the little s***.'
When Robinson went to ask Brown to refrain from demeaning him, the well-established coach again called him 'the little s***' again and told his Knicks teammates that Robinson had cried. (Brown was asked about the comment, and while he did not remember it, he could not deny it either. 'If I did that, shame on me. I would feel terrible about that. That's not who I am, but I don't want to dispute Nate.')
Robinson famously helped start a brawl at Madison Square Garden in 2006 when he and then-Denver Nuggets guard J.R. Smith got into a brawl that ultimately found its way into the stands.
Robinson's relationship with Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown was tumultuous
Nate Robinson first worked with Tom Thibodeau in 2011, when Thibodeau was serving as a Boston Celtics assistant (right), but things grew tense when the two reunited in Chicago
As he explained, Robinson also had a tense relationship with Thibodeau behind the scenes in Chicago, which exacerbated his mental health situation.
These days, though, the NBA is more proactive about mental health.
Nate Robinson used his elite athleticism to compensate for his 5ft9 frame against opponents like 7ft6 Yao Ming
Last season, Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan opened up about his bouts with depression and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love wrote about his experience with panic attacks and anxiety. Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue discussed before the start of the NBA Finals his absence from the bench, which was caused in part by anxiety.
In part to address the issue, the National Basketball Players Association appointed its first director of mental health and wellness in May.
Robinson, who first attended the University of Washington on a football scholarship before focusing on basketball, has bounced around since leaving the NBA. He's campaigned to be signed by an NFL team while playing basketball in the NBA's G League as well as overseas in Israel and Venezuela. He'll even play in the Big3 league this summer.
Still, the three-time NBA Dunk Contest champion who famously blocked 7ft6 Yao Ming in 2006 wants to return to the NBA more than anything.
'I just need a chance,' he said.
At least one NBA coach thinks Robinson could return to the NBA.
'I don't think [the NBA] is out of the question,' New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. 'He's such a unique player in what he brings to the table that I don't think the doors are closed for him at all.'
Nate Robinson won three dunk contests, but never established himself as a reliable starter
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