'Know your why': Glenn Robinson III focuses internally, works on ARI Foundation at NBA bubble
There has been a lot of time for team bonding at the restricted NBA bubble, which has given Gary native Glenn Robinson III time to get to know his new Philadelphia 76ers teammates.
It’s also given him an opportunity to ask them why they’re playing basketball.
“We all want to win a championship together, and that’s why we’re here, but why do you really play this game at the end of the day,” Robinson asked. “For me, that question is my family, my daughter and where I come from — Northwest Indiana.”
The returns echoed his sentiment. He is playing for his 2-year-old daughter, Ariana. Similarly, Robinson understands the difficult decision to play in the bubble or not.
Willie Cauley-Stein, his teammate at the beginning of the year in Golden State, opted out of the bubble to be with his newborn child, Robinson said in a recent interview with The Times.
“It’s crazy to see how important family is, and that’s one thing I can appreciate about the coronavirus and everything that’s happened that has made the world realize what truly matters at the end of the day,” said Robinson, who won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 2017.
Going back two years ago, it was a life-changing experience for Robinson to become a father.
“I thought my life was going to be one child, a son and he was going to play basketball, and then Ariana comes and she’s a girl and she really changed my life. She changed the way I look at women, changed my dedication to my game, my craft,” he said.
The Lake Central product is in his sixth NBA season and initially signed a one-year deal with the Warriors. He gave himself a leadership opportunity on and off the court with star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson injured for most of the season, and Robinson got off to a career-best start. He averaged 12.9 points and 4.7 rebounds in 31.6 minutes per game starting 48 contests.
But it was a tough decision to leave the familiarity of the Midwest and go to the West coast, having played with the Pacers, Detroit Pistons and brief stints as a rookie with the Minnesota Timberwolves and 76ers.
“I sacrificed everything I ever had. I had never been across the country. I’ve always been a Midwest guy. Not only was I moving to the other side of the country but I bet on myself and my game, I bet on myself for my daughter and going through co-parenting,” he said. “I felt like this was what’s best for my career and I bet on that, and it worked.”
He even woke up at 6 a.m. local time just to speak with Ariana over the phone. That dedication has extended into the bubble where he’s grown the ARI Foundation, which he founded in June. ARI stands for Angels are Real Indeed.
Robinson was traded to the 76ers before the February trade deadline. When the league shut down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Robinson returned to his Indianapolis home and took two weeks off before ramping up his training regimen, knowing the 76ers had clinched a playoff spot while talks of a restart grew.
The league is underway with eight seeding games before the playoffs begin in the Orlando bubble on the Disney World campus. Robinson said upon arrival, he had to quarantine for 36 hours and is getting tested daily for COVID-19.
There are opportunities for the players to leave their hotel rooms, whether to play golf, fish or visit the other hotels’ restaurants, but Robinson has spent a lot of time to himself in-between practices and games.
“I think the bubble really allows us ... at the end of the day it’s like, who are you as a person? At the end of the day, you’re surrounded by these four walls so what do you stand for? I think it’s a good moment to encourage yourself and grow as a person,” Robinson said.
He wants to take care of home. The Region. He typically puts on a free basketball camp for kids in Gary but he’s going deeper with the ARI Foundation.
“I have a massive amount of time to work on my passions and what makes me happy,” he said. “Our mission is to empower fathers and provide resources for fatherless families.”
He wants to “make sure we take care of home” by giving back to the Sojourner Truth House in Gary, which is a non-profit that serves the homeless, at-risk women and their children and underserved members of the community. They've also partnered with Brother's Keeper, a homeless shelter, and Geminus, which helps those with health care, in Gary.
Robinson missed Ariana’s first steps and first words because of his career, but he values the time they get to spend talking. The son of former Roosevelt star Glenn Robinson Jr. also wants his NBA colleagues to know they can be just as involved in their families’ lives.
“It’s an easy route to have a child with a professional athlete,” he said. “I grew up in the life of my dad (who) was the No. 1 pick. I was the son of a professional athlete. I see the potential as fathers that we do have in this league and the negative things that come with fathers in the everyday world. I wanted to find a way to empower fathers to let them know it’s okay to be involved in your child’s life.”
Robinson is donating $22 for every point he scores this season to the ARI Foundation, and the NBA is going to match his donation. He settled on $22 because he was wearing No. 22 playing for the Pistons when Ariana was born on March 22. To date, he’s scored 712 points.
He returned to the court Sunday after missing the first four seeding games with a bone bruise, he said. Robinson suffered the injury during a scrimmage at the bubble. He scored four points and grabbed three rebounds while playing 17 minutes in a 124-121 loss to Portland.
As for who Robinson is, and what is his why?
“I know that I’m a giver. I’m a person that’s going to take my gift — my God-given ability to be a professional athlete — and use it to help my community and where I come from,” he concluded.
And he plans to keep giving back to the Region.
“I haven’t found a place anywhere in the world that’s like where we come from, Northwest Indiana, and what we stand for,” he said. “I think that Gary, Indiana is a very strong city, it’s a city that is counted out (and) underrated much like me. It’s a city that just needs confidence and needs to be encouraged.”
(Editor's note: This story originally appeared in The Times of Northwest Indiana)