AUERBACH: Robinson Exemplifies Multi-Sport Athleticism
Any Given Friday

Over time, we tend to take for granted the sheer athletic prowess of professional athletes, and the full extent of their abilities flies under the radar throughout their careers. One such athlete is former NBA player Nate Robinson.

During his 11-year career, the former point guard spent time on eight different rosters. In spite of how many times Robinson moved across the country in his pursuits within the NBA, apparently there is one more city he’s trying to compete for: Seattle.

This past Monday, Robinson tried out for the Seattle Seahawks in the cornerback position. Robinson was born in Seattle and attended the University of Washington, entering his college athletic career on a football scholarship. Ultimately, he chose to instead pursue basketball.

During his freshman year, he played the two sports simultaneously, competing in 13 college football games while also earning All-Pac-10 freshman team honors as a point guard for the Huskies. Robinson made 34 tackles that year while also averaging 13 points per game.

Robinson finally bid farewell to football when he declared for the NBA draft in April of 2005, foregoing his last year of eligibility as a football player for the Huskies.

With his 5-foot-9 frame, Robinson’s success as a professional basketball player was surprising, but more importantly, incredibly impressive. While in the NBA, Robinson proved that height was a non-factor. He averaged 11 points per game and won the NBA slam dunk contest not once, not twice, but a record-breaking three times during an 11-year NBA career. Robinson hit the peak of his career during the 2008-09 season with the New York Knicks, when he averaged 17.2 points per game.

Robinson’s history with both football and basketball is impressive, but his dual-sport athleticism is absolutely not the first instance of a professional athlete pursuing, or excelling at, multiple sports.

Quarterback Russell Wilson, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., quarterback Colin Kaepernick, guard Pat Connaughton, forward LeBron James, Bo Jackson, hell, even Michael Jordan, have all crossed over — or had the opportunity to cross over — at the highest level of multiple sports. The list does go on and on.

Odell Beckham Jr. excelled in track and field in high school and said, in an interview with Soccer Talk AM, that he thinks he would have made it as a professional soccer player.

Russell Wilson played for two minor-league baseball teams before he entered the NFL.

Tom Brady was drafted in the 18th round of the 1995 MLB draft by the Montreal Expos.

In the 2009 MLB draft, the Chicago Cubs selected Colin Kaepernick in the 43rd round.

James was recruited for football by Ohio State University and has often been touted as one of the best potential tight ends in the NFL.

These players eventually chose a single sport to focus on professionally, and all have excelled in their athletic careers. However, some athletes — similar to Robinson — have chosen much more unique paths.Pat

Connaughton, for instance, is currently occupying spots on both the Portland Trailblazers and the Baltimore Orioles rosters. Connaughton was selected by the Orioles in the fourth round of the MLB draft in 2014, but then was selected in the second round of the NBA draft in 2015.

Now, Connaghton has a three-year deal with the Trailblazers, a timespan in which he is not allowed to play baseball. Meanwhile, Connaughton is still enjoying the perks of playing with the Orioles — they never took back his $428,000 signing bonus even though he will not play for them for another three years. However, the Orioles control his baseball contract through 2020.

The legendary Bo Jackson is another perfect example of an athlete who succeeded in several professional sports. Jackson, called one of the most versatile athletes in history, won the Heisman Trophy as a running back at Auburn University. Even though Jackson was selected with the first overall pick in the 1986 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he gave up his spot and instead chose to play for the Kansas City Royals who had drafted him in the fourth round of the 1986 amateur draft.

Jackson cut ties with the Buccaneers, but that wasn’t the end of his football career. The Los Angeles Raiders brought Jackson onto their roster, and he began playing football and baseball simultaneously. In his rookie season he totaled 554 on 81 careers and recorded six touchdowns. In 1991, Jackson suffered a career-ending injury in a gain against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Connaughton and Jackson, along with a series of other athletes, presently and previously have proved that professional athletes have the ability to, and, in fact, do, simultaneously compete in an array of professional sports. It’s not exactly easy, but it’s entirely possible.

It’s one thing to play multiple sports in high school; any talented athlete can do that. However, it’s another to carry over those skills to find success in the professional sphere. Even though a player like Connaughton isn’t necessarily an NBA All-Star, he boasts something equally impressive: he competes and is wanted as a player on different professional teams in completely different leagues. These accomplishments should be addressed and praised, regardless of how common it is for professional athletes to possess skillsets equally applicable across leagues.

Even though Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll said that it’s “all but impossible” for Robinson to play in the NFL, — the fact that he’s 32 and hasn’t played football since 2002 aren’t exactly the ideal qualifications — the fact that he even worked out with the team is quite the feat. He has a chance, however remote, at succeeding in not one, but two professional leagues. His narrative, like many others, proves an undeniable fact: these professional athletes are indeed elite, and their statuses as top-tier players is about much more than awards and numbers.

headshotMadeline Auerbach is a senior in the College. Any Given Friday appears every Friday.

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