Nate Robinson remains 5'9" on the basketball court, but his stature is growing by leaps and bounds. An 80-foot high billboard of him wearing his green Krypto-Nate costume was unveiled on the corner of 34th Street and Seventh Avenue on Monday, the latest sign that he's become one of the more recognizable players in the NBA.
Robinson's jersey is among the top five sellers at New York's NBA store, he's a two-time Slam Dunk champ and he was the subject of a profile in last week's Sports Illustrated. Those green shoes go on sale Tuesday, a fitting St. Patrick's Day promotion, which explains the billboard. He may not be a starter, but he's certainly a star.
“I always told my mom, that’s what I want, people wearing Nate Robinson jerseys,” he said. “It’s cool to know there are kids on the playground wanting to be me.”
All of those kids wanting to be him may help Robinson get even richer than expected come the offseason.
The NBA is having a rough time financially, with the league taking out loans and teams talking about relocating, and the need to keep generating revenue is a chief concern of many teams. Adding Robinson to the roster may not make a huge difference in the standings for teams like Memphis or Sacramento, but he could guarantee them a few more butts in seats and a few more pieces of merchandise coming off the shelves. The fact that he's shown a lot of improvement this season only makes it easier to justify paying him big money.
It's a real Catch-22 for the team, because without Nate's contributions this season they'd be nowhere near the playoff race. Keeping him, though, may mean forgoing further roster improvements. Figuring out the tipping point, salary-wise, will keep Donnie Walsh busy once the offseason rolls around. It wouldn't be the easiest PR sell, but if someone offers $8 million, say, it might be hard for the Knicks to match while still keeping enough cap space for their planned 2010 shopping spree.