NBA All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love paved the way this season for colleagues to open up about mental health issues, revealing their experiences with depression and anxiety from early ages, and now Nate Robinson is sharing his, telling Bleacher Report the league itself sent him to therapy.
“The NBA gave me my depression,” he said. “I’ve never been a depressed person in my life.”
Admittedly “immature” during his 11-year NBA career, Robinson described to Bleacher Report’s Mirin Fader a duality within himself: the guy who felt like a kid in a candy store when he shared the court with Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson, the same one who mocked coaches behind their backs, and the guy who wanted to fit the mold of a man the league required him to be — a professional teammate.
“I was trying to change,” added Robinson. “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.”
The very worst of that experience, Robinson told Bleacher Report, was when he confronted Larry Brown in tears, pleading with the former New York Knicks coach to quit calling him “the little s***” in front of the team, and Brown allegedly did it again, this time telling his teammates that he cried.
Brown did not deny Robinson’s allegations.
A late first-round pick out of the University of Washington in 2005, the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Robinson played his first four NBA seasons for the Knicks before being traded midseason to a Boston Celtics squad that reached the 2010 Finals with him in the rotation. From February 2010 to October 2015, when he was waived by the New Orleans Pelicans two games into the season, he played for eight teams.
In between, Robinson revealed to Fader, he sought the professional advice of Celtics teammate Ray Allen, kept a journal and then entered therapy during a 2012-13 season on the Chicago Bulls filled with alleged clashes with coach Tom Thibodeau. As he climbed the mountain of coming to grips with his own mental health, his basketball career took a tumble — to Denver, Los Angeles and New Orleans, overseas to Israel, back to the G League, down to Venezuela and now home to Seattle, where the 34-year-old is preparing for summer tours with the BIG3 and Drew leagues in hopes of an NBA comeback.
“There’s not one person in the NBA right now that can come off the bench and do what I do,” he told Bleacher Report. “Everybody else that can do that are starters: Kemba Walker, John Wall, and I gave all them work. Chris Paul, him too. Steph Curry, you too. Kyrie Irving, you too. Isaiah Thomas, you too.”
Robinson averaged 11 points on 42.3 percent shooting and three assists against 1.4 turnovers in his 11 NBA seasons. It was a rollercoaster of a career, riding the highs of uber-athletic scoring explosions off the bench and the lows of ill-advised playmaking decisions on the court. From the sound of it, though the real rollercoaster was what was riding inside Robinson, and here’s hoping he’s sorted that out.
Thanks to DeRozan and Love starting the conversation, the National Basketball Players Association launched a mental health and wellness program, so the league might be better prepared for him, too.
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