COMMENTARY | Nathaniel Cornelius Robinson, current back-up and sometimes starting point guard for the Chicago Bulls, is generously listed at 5 feet 9 inches tall. Even if there had not been an inch or two added to his dimensions, this would still be a far cry from the stature of your typical professional basketball player. We see athletes with not much height excel regularly in other pro leagues, such as the NFL-- think Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice and Wes Welker; rarely does one with Nate's build make it to the NBA.
Not only did Robinson make it to the league, but now in his eighth season, he has managed to stay there. Beginning his career with the New York Knicks, Robinson showed that he can play above the rim with the tallest of them. Further solidifying this fact, he went on to become the NBA's first three-time slam dunk champion. There is probably nothing your average guard over six feet can do, that Robinson cannot.
So, why after leaving the Knicks has Robinson become a bit of a journeyman, now playing for his fifth team in four seasons? There are a couple of speculative reasons. Nate can get hot on any given night and help lead a team to victory. He can be very, very good. But when he gets good, he sometimes gets bad. He starts "feeling it" and may proceed to jack up poor shots and unnecessarily turn the ball over. The point guard is actually probably best suited to be a shooting guard. However, the former position is more conducive to his height.
Robinson is also very demonstrative. Whether on the floor or on the bench, watching him, you would think that every nice play is a game winner. He talks; he pokes his chest out, and over celebrates. This is an act that can easily get old. Perhaps it causes him to eventually wear out his welcomes.
Nonetheless, Robinson has been a crucial member of the Bulls this season. If not for him, the team would probably not be where it is now. Which is tied 1-1 in a playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets. With the absence of Derrick Rose and the injuries to Kirk Hinrich, the PG position as well as the season itself could have been in shambles. No one can replace Rose, but Robinson has helped to fill-in admirably. He has saved the day on many occasions.
Maybe he will stick with the Bulls. Tom Thibodeau is a very good coach. Perhaps he has mastered the art of giving Robinson some rope, but also knowing when to reel him in. You can't completely take away his fire, it's part of what makes him the player that he is. He showboats and chucks up shots because he has supreme confidence in his ability. Some have called it a "little-man" complex. Whatever it is, it works for him. So, while you can't just turn Robinson loose, to stifle him would be a mistake.
He is not the first to do it. There have been other impact NBA players that were even shorter, Spud Webb and Muggsy Bogues, to name a couple. But Robinson may be the most unique. He has earned his place among great athletes who did not allow size to determine their success. He is not going to lay down for any opponent, you must beat him. And while there is arguably "good Nate" and "bad Nate," when on the basketball court, both carry themselves as though they were seven feet tall.
Acamea Deadwiler is a Chicago-area native with several years experience covering the NBA, including the Chicago Bulls, for Examiner.com. She has also been featured in Bounce magazine, SLAM Online, and various other publications. Follow Acamea on Twitter @AcameaLD.
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