Nate Robinson isn’t a big believer in using data and analytics to drive decision-making in sports — which, given how the 5-foot-9 freak athlete has defied statistical odds throughout his career, should not come as a big surprise.
GeekWire this week caught up with Robinson, who is nearly 7,000 miles away from his hometown of Seattle playing professional basketball in Tel Aviv, Israel.
The former University of Washington star and NBA point guard is not only venturing outside his comfort zone in the basketball world, but also flexing his creative and entrepreneurial muscles via a new partnership with Strideline, the Seattle-based startup that sells popular socks.
Robinson helped Strideline design its new “Pocket Sock,” which has an adhered compression pocket on the outside of the sock meant to add convenience for people that don’t want to carry items like cards, keys, cash, and more in their pocket.
Robinson originally connected with Strideline a few years ago after his brother, who attended the University of Washington at the same time as the company’s founders. He said the socks “just make me feel comfortable and cool,” and when the company pitched him on the idea for “Pocket Sock,” he was in.
Strideline will launch a Kickstarter campaign on Saturday for the new socks. The 7-year-old company, started by two fraternity brothers at the UW, now employs 28 people and posted $3.8 million in sales last year.
As far as life in Tel Aviv, Robinson said he’s enjoying himself with good food, great people, supportive fans, and a city that “looks like Miami and LA,” he noted.
Robinson arrived in Israel after 10 years in the NBA, where the guard played for eight different teams. He’s perhaps most well-known for his insane leaping ability that helped him become the first player to win three NBA Slam Dunk Contests — an accomplishment that is even more impressive given that Robinson stands just 5-foot-9.
Asked about using data and analytics to improve performance and make basketball-related decisions, Robinson said he stays away from that.
“I don’t do numbers because numbers can always change,” he said. “I just go along with it and with how I feel. Someone who can shoot really well can have one down year, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still score and shoot. Once you can play, you can play.”
Even though the Golden State Warriors, a pioneer in the NBA with using analytics, set a new record for regular season wins a few weeks ago, Robinson noted that the 1995 Chicago Bulls team won nearly just as much (72 wins, versus Golden State’s 73 this year).
“I don’t think the Bulls did the whole analytics thing when they had Jordan and Pippen,” he said.
Robinson, who says he hopes to play in the NFL after his hoops career in Israel — he played both sports while at the UW — said “he’s not necessarily a geek.”
“But I love technology in general,” he said.
He noted that the technology in Tel Aviv is a bit different than back home, particularly with how people read words right-to-left on their smartphones.
A video posted by Nate Robinson (@naterobinson) on
Robinson, who has a combined four million followers across his social platforms, didn’t bring his video games with him to Israel but said he’s a big gamer back home, noting Madden, Call of Duty, and Assassin’s Creed as favorite games.
“I left it back home because I didn’t want to have to deal with hooking it up here,” he said of the Xbox One, which he prefers over the Playstation 4. “I came here to hoop and chill with my guy (teammate and long-time friend Tre Simmons).”
Robinson added that he’s an iPhone guy — “I tried two other phones, but the iPhone is just so simple to use,” he noted — and had a surprising answer for his favorite app.
“FunRun2,” he said. “Go download it. I’ll give you my name on there. It’s the best game ever. If you are a gamer and you love old school Mario Kart-like games, you will love this.”