An early-season practice was over, but Nate Robinson wasn’t yet finished with teammate Evan Fourier. He had points to make. Many more points to make. And he was making them in megaphone style. If you were in the gym, you were in earshot. If you were not Fournier, you were cracking up. If you were Fournier, eh, it wasn’t as funny.
But it was all Nate.
Being Nate Robinson means being in perpetual motion. The jokes come at rapid-fire speed. The angst does too. It all leads to one of the unique experiences in the league — being a teammate, or coach, of Nate Robinson.
What’s it like having Nate Robinson on the basketball team?
“Ah, I can’t even answer that without laughing,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said.
Having Robinson around is a lot of things, a lot of very different things. A lot of very expected and unexpected things. A lot of very frustrating and funny things. In 2½ months, Nuggets players and coaches are getting the full, uncut version of the whirlwind of everything that is being in the same space as Nate Robinson.
And they’ve loved nearly every minute of it.
“It’s never a dull moment,” Nuggets guard Ty Lawson said. “On and off the court.”
In practice it’s a constant stream of basketball-centric language, G-rated and not so G-rated. On the team bus or the charter plane (or train), it’s a constant stream of anything.
“He’s a comedian, a funny guy,” guard Randy Foye said. “A ball of energy. Always talking.”
Foye insists “every team has a Nate Robinson.”
But only the Nuggets have THE Nate Robinson.
“He’s a hilarious guy,” Foye said. “He’s always doing something to keep the team going. He’ll set guys up to do practical jokes that way. He’ll say stuff to everybody, coaches, everybody.”
Shaw has already gotten the full monty from Robinson. So, again, what’s it like having Robinson on the team?
“It’s fun. It’s challenging,” Shaw said, smiling. “But it’s nice to know that you have a weapon that can come in with energy — and it’s not always good energy — but with energy and be a threat out there on the floor. And a threat can be a good thing, and it can be a bad thing too. You have to live with what comes with the package. So that means he’s going to get into it with the referees, he’s going to get into it with his own teammates, he’s going to get into it with the coaching staff. But it all comes from a good place — he’s competitive and he wants to win. That’s what I love about him.”
First-round NBA draft pick. Three-time dunk champion. One point every two minutes. New Denver Nugget. Latest addition to Pepsi’s awesome Uncle Drew series. Short man.
As told to Nate Hopper:
I am five-nine even. With no shoes. Five-nine-and-a-half with shoes.
I’ve got a brother that’s six-one; I’ve got another brother who’s five-eleven/six-feet. I got a little brother that I’m taller than, thank god. My little sister, too. My dad’s, like, six-one-and-a-half, six-two almost. My mom is the short one; she’s the little Smurf.
We’re a competitive family—we compete in everything we do: playing cards; if we’re walking down the street, we want to be the first one down the block.
When I was younger, I was a bit of a feisty fighter type of guy. That’s something my father told me as I was becoming a man: You don’t go picking fights, but you don’t run from any of them. And I was more afraid of my father than anybody else I had to fight.
I don’t condone myself being like that—I just love to be a happy, positive person—but if I feel like they’re disrespecting me, I’ma let them know, and I’m not the type to argue.
I’ve blocked some of the greats, some of the Hall of Famers. But Yao Ming—I was just in the right place at the right time. I was in help defense, and I went to go jump and block it, and I was like, Either he’s going to get blocked, or I’m going to get dunked on. So I rolled the dice, and I ended up winning.
It’s been a while since we saw Uncle Drew hit the courts to school hordes of unsuspecting streetballers, but it was worth the wait. With a new (or should we say, “old”) acquaintance in tow, Uncle Drew is ready to wreak havoc all over again. We spoke with “Lights Out” aka Nate Robinson, on how Part III came down and how he may take his next battle into the virtual world of videogames.
When were you first approached about participating in the Uncle Drew spots?
This summer when I got back from Portugal. My agent called me and asked me if I wanted to hear the good news or the great news. I was like, “I want to hear the great news first.” So he told me about that and I was stoked, I was excited. I couldn’t wait. I kept asking, “When is it?” I kept bugging him.
I’ve been bugging Kyrie for like the last year and a half. It finally came true.
What was the good news part of the conversation?
He said that he lowered his car insurance by switching to Geico. I was like, “Yeah, I knew that was coming.” [laughs]
Did this announcement happen before you and Kyrie went at it in the summer in New York?
Actually it happened after New York. After we played against each other the Uncle Drew thing came up.
You think that had any influence?
I don’t think so. I’ve just been bugging him. Kyrie was probably like, “We gotta give it to Nate. He’s probably the best character for Uncle Drew III.” It was just a perfect relationship, a perfect bond. This is just the beginning of a great relationship with the brand. I’m really looking forward to collaborating in the future with Pepsi Max and with Kyrie with Uncle Drew.
What’s your character’s name and did you come up with it?
Robinson: They had me as another name and I was like, “Nah, I wanna pick my own name.” I picked “Lights” and it was for my uncle, his name was Orlon Robinson. He died of diabetes and his nickname was “Lights”–we called him “Uncle Lights.” It was something I wanted to give as a tribute to my uncle, because my father and my grandmother on my dad’s side, all think I look like him a lot. I have his personality. I love my uncle, he taught me so much. He didn’t get a chance to really see me blossom in the NBA, so I got the chance to show him how much I really love him and appreciate him when they let me change the name. When I told them the story about it they were like, “That’s cool, that’s the perfect name.” So my name is “Lights Out” Jenkins. [Ed note: Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore will play Light's sister, "Betty Lou Jenkins."]
Nate Robinson and film maker TJ Regan are back with the first episode of season 3. Episode 1 documents Nate’s transition from playing for the Chicago Bulls to being signed by the Denver Nuggets this summer.
Check out Nate Robinson in the latest episode of Pepsi MAX’s Uncle Drew. Nate stars as Uncle Drew’s old point guard “Lights.” Uncle Drew visits an underground jazz club in downtown Chicago to convince “Lights” to re-live their glory days on the court. As usual, players and spectators at the basketball court were told only that they would be filmed for a “basketball documentary” — what they really got were front row seats for some serious OLD MAN MAGIC.