Kings.com’s fan correspondent caught up with Thomas Robinson on Draft Night to gain more insight into the team’s newest addition, including No. 0’s relentless work ethic, love for the game, favorite food, music and more.
On an emotional and overwhelming Draft Night at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., Kings draftee Thomas Robinson, smiling and finally at ease, lovingly hugs his nine-year-old sister, Jayla, and excitedly bounces a basketball backstage, sharing one of his life’s biggest moments with his family members and closest friends.
His young sister, wearing a matching brand-new Kings hat, beams from ear to ear as she shares purple is her favorite color.
“My whole family’s here,” says Robinson about his plans for what’s left of the evening. “I’m just going to celebrate with my family.”
The Washington, D.C. native rarely talks about the heart-breaking tragedies he has endured, which help define him as a person and serve as his motivation to become a budding NBA star.
Within an inconceivable month stretch during his sophomore year in college, he lost his grandfather, grandmother and mother, but somehow gathered the strength and perseverance to not only continue to play basketball and blossom into one of the nation’s top-ranked players, but take care of his younger sister.
It’s why Robinson couldn’t fight off the tears after finally hearing NBA Commissioner David Stern announce his name at the podium on Draft Night. The KU product fulfilled his promise, making sure Jayla would have future stability and sticking to the motto he had tattooed on his arm, “F.O.E.” – Family Over Everything.
“Thomas Robinson, I love the kid – what he’s been through, how he’s been able to hold himself together and keep that family together, keep his focus not only on school but on the basketball court and on family life,” says TNT analyst Craig Sager. “He’s one of the most wonderful kids I’ve ever met in all the years I’ve been covering the Draft.”
Not surprisingly, Robinson says he wouldn’t be a top-five pick without the guidance of his idol, his mother, who first instilled in him a love for basketball and his winning mentality.
“I was eight or nine years old,” he recalls. “My mom used to take me to the park all the time.”
After relentlessly working on improving his all-around game, Robinson increased his scoring and rebounding averages in each season at Kansas, from 2.5 points and 2.7 rebounds per game as a freshman, to 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds as a junior en route to earning Big 12 Player of the Year honors and a unanimous First Team AP All-American selection.
Along with reaching the National Championship Game last season, Robinson willed the Jayhawks to an 87-86 comeback win over Missouri in front of the home fans, recording 28 points, 12 rebounds and the game-saving block, which he calls one of the highlights of his basketball career to date.
In Sacramento, Robinson – who says he modeled his game after All-Stars Kevin Garnett, Amar’e Stoudemire and LaMarcus Aldridge, as well as Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler – plans to continue to play an integral leadership role and hopes to achieve both personal and team success.
“(I will) come in and contribute as much as I can, and if things go well, be up (in the running) for Rookie of the Year,” he says.
“I’m trying to win. (I bring) rebounding, I play with energy and (am) tough on the court.”
While Robinsons’ tenacity and energy on the hardwood are unmatched, the 6-foot-9 big man’s closest friends describe him as equally kind-hearted and gentle away from the cameras, exuding an inspirational maturity that is rarely found in a 21-year-old.
“He’s a loving guy. He’s a great guy,” says Houston Rockets forward Marcus Morris, Robinson’s former teammate at Kansas, who was in attendance to support him at the Draft. “He’s growing up, figuring it all out and he’s getting better.”
Although the Morris twins – Marcus and Markieff – as well as most of Robinson’s other teammates and friends refer to him as “T-Rob” or simply call him by his first name, a select few still know him by a childhood nickname.
“Some people back in my neighborhood call me ‘Head,’” he says with a chuckle. “My head was kind of big when I was younger.”
Ironically, while being strong and confident, Robinson couldn’t be further from getting a big head, even after collecting some of the biggest collegiate accolades.
A self-proclaimed “cool and laid-back” person, the newest Kings player spends his seldom free-time watching movies – mainly comedies – and TV shows, including “Family Guy” and “Everybody Hates Chris.”
“I’ll go (out), as long as it’s not anything too crazy,” he says.
More often than not, however, Robinson is on the lookout for another pair of sneakers to add to his collection of several hundred, having a quiet meal – typically steak and corn – or relaxing with some of his favorite songs playing in his headphones.
“I like music – I don’t mean, like actually singing – but I like to download and listen to music,” he says. “A lot of old R&B and rap –Wale, Meek Mill, Jadakiss.”
With Robinson achieving his dream of making it to the NBA and preparing to team up with DeMarcus Cousins and Co. to form one of the League’s most exciting young frontcourts, it would only seem fitting if Jadakiss’ “Can’t Stop Me” would pop up on No. 0’s playlist.