SlamBall, the high-flying 4-on-4 version of basketball played on trampolines, returned Friday, July 21, for its debut on ESPN.
High-flying former NBA star Nate Robinson is a part of the broadcast crew, which also features ESPN play-by-play voice John Schriffen and actor and former SlamBall player Lamonica Garrett among others for a season that runs through mid-August. A three-time NBA Slam Dunk Champion, Robinson seems a perfect fit to call a sport with so much bounce.
Robinson starred in football (as a defensive back) and basketball at the University of Washington before becoming an NBA first-round draft pick in 2005. He played 11 NBA seasons, most notably with the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics, for whom he starred in the 2010 NBA Finals.
Front Row asked Robinson, who even at 5 feet, 9 inches counts 7-6 Yao Ming among his shot-block victims, for insights on how to be successful at SlamBall, who he thinks would be good “SlamBallers,” and more.
You played football and basketball. Which of your skills transfer best to SlamBall?
I think both. The physicality of football, and then basketball, knowing how to finesse, being patient, and finding different ways to score. Those were advantages that I’d have.
Which NBA or NFL players you follow would make good SlamBallers?
A lot of NBA players, for sure. For the NFL guys, [Miami Dolphins defensive back] Jalen Ramsey, guys that like to be physical, and [Ramsey] specifically can hoop on top of that.
I’d also say [Dallas Cowboys cornerback] Trevon Diggs. I’ve seen him hoop, and he’s physical on receivers. [Cleveland Browns defensive lineman] Myles Garrett is another. He’s a beast who I’d love to see play SlamBall [Note: Schriffen and the NFL’s Garrett each have played in an NBA Celebrity All-Star Game on ESPN].
What are your thoughts on watching the game and knowing the athletes better now?
For one, it’s more exciting, with more points scored, and on top of that, it’s different. There are different shapes and sizes of guys out there. It’s fun to watch, and I think more kids will want to be involved in this, which will only improve the game.
After retiring from the NBA in 2016, you tried out for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. Do you have thoughts on trying SlamBall as a player in 2024?
On the court in 2024, I’ll be 40! Honestly, I don’t know if I can last with these young guys because they’re physical. And me getting hit at 40 is different from getting hit at 20.
If I was a young guy coming up and I wanted to play in the NBA but didn’t get that opportunity, playing SlamBall would be the perfect game for me to come and play. And, I think in my 20s, I’d have been one hell of a player.