It’s not a stretch to call Nate Robinson a polarizing player. It’s not a stretch to call him the most polarizing player on the Chicago Bulls. Hell, it’s probably not a stretch to call him one of the most polarizing players in the league. But on a Saturday afternoon, with the Bulls staring defeat squarely in the face, Nate delivered.
Nate is many things. He has an undeniable talent, but his decision-making makes you want to put your fist through the wall most nights. He’s won three dunk contests and is an excellent long-range shooter despite being 5’9″ in a sport where being 6’2″ brings the word “undersized” into discussion every time you struggle defensively. His defense is undeniably awful 99 percent of the time, and his constant yapping and celebrating that stops just short of active taunting drives opponents and fans crazy.
Bad Nate makes you want to put your foot through your TV and swear off the NBA forever, like when Nate decided to fight former Bull CJ Watson for reasons known only to himself.. Good Nate … well, you saw what happened in the fourth quarter.
Down 14 with four minutes left, the Bulls were done. By any reasonable standard, that game was over. I myself tweeted that very thing, and I won’t even bother denying it.
Nate wouldn’t have that, though. He hit a three. Then he got a layup. Then the Brooklyn Nets took a timeout, because the theme of yesterday was that both coaches refused to let either team build up anything remotely like momentum without taking a timeout. Nate came back and hit a jumper after the timeout. Then he got fouled shooting a three and drained all three free throws. Then he hit another jumper.
12-0 run. All Nate Robinson. Not one single other Bulls player scored from the 4:48 mark of the fourth quarter to the 55 second mark. With Derrick Rose still out for the foreseeable future, Nate was the only player who could have done what he did. Love him or hate him, but give him his due for that.
I am a journalism student, and one of my least favorite things in sports journalism is the assigning of overarching narrative to relatively simple events. Nate got hotter than the center of the sun yesterday, and it was glorious. I don’t think there needs to be anything more to it than that.
Of course, by crediting Nate for the comeback, I’m indulging in a bit of that myself. Nate wouldn’t have been in the position to bring the team back if not for the defensive work of Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng. Without the screens set by Noah and Carlos Boozer, he wouldn’t have been open for some of his jumpers. Basketball is a team game, but sometimes the best stories are the guy who seems to win the game himself.
Nobody would ever compare Nate Robinson to His Airness, Michael Jordan. But let the record show that Nate finished but one point short of MJ’s franchise playoff record for points in a quarter. And the Bulls won to take a 3-1 series lead.
That’s enough for me.