Nate Robinson: ‘I’m still looking for a kidney to this day’

The diminutive Nate Robinson enjoyed an 11-year NBA career that spanned through eight different teams. However, he will forever be remembered for winning the Slam Dunk contest three times in his career.

Robinson was candid and talked with HoopsHype about why the Dunk Contest has lost its luster over the years, his roller-coaster journey dealing with kidney failure, his favorite moment with the Knicks, and more.

With retired NBA players, some of them seem to be thriving having success in the podcast space. Some guys like Jeff Teague, Gilbert Arenas to name a few. Why do you think this is the case?

Nate Robinson: As players, and I could probably speak for every player that’s ever played, we just got tired of the media saying stuff about us and saying stuff about our craft and what we do, and they’ve never done it. So now that we can be our own media source, it’s way better. Because we actually did it, we actually put in the work, we actually have done the things that we’re talking about and it’s not some things where you’re doing some studying and crunching some numbers and you’re just talking out of your ass because you’re crunching numbers. No, I actually done it and I’m a student of the game and I know what’s up and I encourage more players to do it because then that’s more opportunities and more jobs and more knowledge for us to have and listen to more stories from what the players are telling us, and not hearing it from you guys, the media. They always want to change your words. They always want to make you sound like you said something that you really didn’t. Now we can be our own source, we are the source, and I love that. Straight from the source, it’s the best thing out right now. I don’t even watch the news, watch Sportscenter anymore. I just go watch all my buddies talk basketball stories and watching all their podcasts. I rather go on their shows than go on ESPN and all the other crap.

Last year, you came out to talk about the kidney failure you have been dealing with. How are you going about your journey?

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

NR: My journey, man, every day, one day at a time. It’s difficult, but at the same time, I love a challenge. So every day is a new day for me. I just try to walk right with God. I just try to ask Him to give me the strength to be able to get through what I’m going through. I’m still looking for a kidney to this day. I go through dialysis three times a week for four hours. They clean my blood, they clean all my toxins out of my body, and I’m feeling better and better every day. Some days are worse than others, but I’m just blessed and I’m just happy that I can still be here to see my children and do the things that I love to do. So, it’s been rough but it’s been a great journey, great roller coaster.

What can you tell younger players who are going through something similar with health issues, but still want to reach the goal of getting to the NBA and excelling?

NR: Just do what you can, when you’re feeling right and you’re not feeling as sick or as down, when your body is not as weak, just try to do what you can to make sure your body can withstand and stay as healthy as you possibly can, and still do the things that you love to do. Because it’s easy to get caught up in that dark place where you feel kinda sorry for yourself or you’re a little bit depressed, why is this happening to me. I went through that whole stage, and I went through them all and I had to get myself out of that sunken place because I wanna be happy. I chose to be happy. Happiness is a choice no matter what you’re going through. I appreciate the things that God has done for me when things were good. I’m happy, I love Him, and when things are bad, I love Him the same, there’s no difference.

So for me, I encourage kids to keep your faith, talk to people. I met three or four different people that been through what I been through already that got a kidney transplant. I’ve been friends, we get coffee, we talk on the phone and we talk about things, man. That’s what you need, you need somebody to talk to when you’re going through something like this. And if that’s me being that bridge or whoever, I’m willing to be here for whoever needs it, because it’s hard. You can’t do it by yourself.

What was your favorite moment when you played at Madison Square Garden for the Knicks?

NR: Probably the fans, man. My favorite moment probably hitting a game-winning shot over Allen Iverson, and being able to shake and bake with Will Ferrell, one of the games that I had like 40 points off the bench. What a great night, and then to be able to shake and bake with Ricky Bobby was pretty f*cking awesome. It was one of my highlights of my life, man. Will Ferrell is one of my favorite actors and for him to sit courtside and every time I scored, I always say shake and bake, and he came to the game and I got a dope picture with him. Me and him shaking and baking after I got an and-one, four-point play, man. It was a dream come true. But just being in New York in the Garden was probably my favorite moment. The fans made it so memorable and I appreciate every second of it.

What are you doing with AT&T?

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images

NR: I’m working with AT&T as a newly appointed AT&T Chief Dunk Officer for 2024 NBA All-Star Weekend. Our goal is to create momentum for fans to get a deeper connection with everything to do with the NBA. From the Dunk Contest to fan engagement, just having a lot of fun. I’m really excited and that starts with bringing them behind the scenes with the AT&T Slam Dunk, with myself, and being a part of it, I think it will be pretty awesome for the fans to really get a real glimpse of what it’s like to be a part of something so special.

You won the Dunk Contest three times, and over the years, the contest has lost a lot of its luster and appeal. How would you go about it to get viewers back into the Dunk Contest?

NR: I’m just trying to use my firsthand experience to bring the fans closer to the game. Through the insights, just of everything with tips, what to expect in the Dunk Contest, what fans really wanna see, especially from dunkers like myself. We want that creativity back. We want that swag. They need to make sure the kids can pick the music that they want to dunk to. I remember as a kid I used to always wanna come out to a certain kind of song to get me hyped, so I can go in there and jump through the roof. So hopefully that’s the opportunity, and they get that.

Jaylen Brown will participate, and he is the first All-Star since 2017 to be a part of it. Why do you think a lot of good players don’t want to participate anymore?

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

NR: ‘Cause they don’t want to look bad. They don’t wanna mess up their [sigh], I hate to say it, they don’t want to look silly, man. It’s about the reputation more than going out and just showing people that you’re human. It’s okay to mess up and fail at something. It’s more about having fun like you’re in the gym just dunking after you get done working out or you get done training, and you just throwing the ball up dunking in front of millions of people. That’s the difference.

They just don’t wanna look silly and I think that it’s kinda crazy that they don’t give the fans the opportunity to fall in love with their athleticism kinda like LeBron [James]. Somebody like LeBron doing it would make it so much more fun just because he’s in it. It don’t really matter if LeBron went and just laid it up, people would still be happy just because he’s in it. Kids will go back loving the Dunk Contest again just because he was in it.

So, we encourage guys like the Ja Morants, the Zion Williamsons, the guys that we really wanna see in the Dunk Contest. Shaedon Sharpe, he should be in it. Like guys that really have dunks, that really do dunks in the game. I don’t know if this Dunk Contest is gonna live up to what they expect because of the guys that are in it. I mean I’ve never seen [Jaime] Jaquez do any kinda cool dunks and to see that he’s in it, it’s questionable. I don’t know, I wanna see what he got. Never seen him dunk like crazy dunks before. It’s gonna be interesting to see what he brings to the table. He could probably be a jack of all trades, we don’t know, we never seen him do any crazy dunks yet.

I wanna see what Jaylen Brown got. I know he can dunk in games but does he have Slam Dunk Contest dunks? We already know what [Mac] McClung’s bringing. He’s been fantastic over the years, in-game and the Dunk Contest. And then [Obi] Toppin doing his famous between-the-leg dunk in the game. What more can you do, so we wanna see what you can do, and hopefully he don’t go stink it up.

We just hope for more creativity, we want more flash, and we want more fan engagement in the Dunk Contest. Get these fans involved.

Do you think a lot of higher caliber players not wanting to be involved has to do with not wanting to be embarrassed online?

NR: Yeah, man, ‘cause that’s what the world is now. It’s a social media era where the Internet runs the world. It’s like the Internet is the bully now. You’ll find clips and clips and clips of stuff where you look silly or you do something, and it’s gonna be on the Internet and the cyber world forever, and people just don’t want that. They rather do something because they don’t look silly or they don’t want the Internet to make a fool out of them. And I don’t blame them, I really don’t blame them, but it just sucks that this is the world we live in. Social media world is taking over, back in the day we didn’t have social media. So things weren’t highlighted so much, and we didn’t see certain things and now the whole world is under a microscope, it just kinda sucks that it hinders guys from wanting to do some cool things and make history.

Story originally appeared on HoopsHype