Hoops wanderer and inventor, Nate Robinson has NFL goal

Nate Robinson played for eight NBA teams and is the first three-time winner of the NBA's slam dunk competition. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Nate Robinson stays busy. A hyperactive 5-foot-9 point guard, he played 11 seasons in the NBA, most recently for the New Orleans Pelicans this season, and he now plays in Israel for Hapoel Tel Aviv.

But Robinson has bigger plans in mind. In March, he announced plans to try to play in the NFL, returning to the sport in which he starred at Seattle's Rainier Beach High School and started seven games at cornerback as a freshman at the University of Washington before quitting football to focus on basketball.

If successful, Robinson would join legendary former Minnesota Vikings head coach Bud Grant as the second player known to have played in both the NBA and the NFL, and the first since the 1950s. (Pro Football Hall of Famer Otto Graham also played briefly in the NBL, one of the leagues that subsequently merged to form the NBA.)

Robinson also is an entrepreneur, having opened Nate's Wings & Waffles in his native Seattle. Now, he has partnered with Seattle-based sock makers Strideline to create the "Strideline x Nate Robinson Pocket Sock," which has a small pocket sewn into the side for storage. Strideline will begin a Kickstarter drive to fund the pocket sock on Saturday.

From Israel, Robinson spoke with ESPN.com about why he's always wanted a sock with a pocket, playing overseas and his NFL aspirations.

ESPN.com: How did you first get connected with Strideline?

Robinson: My brother went to school with one of the guys, and they went to UW, and they've just been a fan of basketball, fans of Seattle basketball, fans of sports in general. They're cool guys, and they work hard, and they put together a great idea with this whole pocket sock. They had this idea, and they brought it to me and asked me what I thought about it, and I said, "It's genius." How many people did you know growing up as kids -- probably you yourself -- who had money your mom gave you and you put it in your sock? Guys back in the day, we didn't have wallets. I never kept my money in my pocket, my money always went in my sock. My key my mom gave me, I put it in my sock -- whatever it was. So it was a great idea, and when they wanted to run it by me, I said, "It's cool," and we ran with it. We haven't looked back ever since. It's been pretty awesome.

ESPN.com: How much feedback did you provide during the process of designing the pocket sock?

Robinson: Great feedback. We were at their headquarters, and we were going over the designs on their computer, coming up with ideas, brainstorming. Every time I saw a different kind of material or different kind of style, I'd send it to them, and they'd get back to me ASAP. They'd run something else by me that they liked -- "What are your thoughts on this?" So I'm pretty much hands-on with the whole thing. It was pretty fun, too, just to see what kind of ideas they have and come up with styles of socks. It's been fun.

ESPN.com: As a basketball player, how important are your socks?

Robinson: Oh, man, it's big-time. Trust me. I've been around where you have uncomfortable socks, and they just don't feel right. It's like, 'Ugh,' it's like a drag. This is a game-changer. Say you're in the hotel and you don't want to run out of the room with your wallet. You can put your hotel room key in your sock or your money and run downstairs right quick. It's not deactivating because you put your key by your phone. There are different perks to the whole pocket sock. I think it's pretty cool. We're dropping it on April 23, and it's kind of a big deal for us.

ESPN.com: So fans can get involved by supporting the Kickstarter?

Robinson: Yeah, pretty much. Trying to push that and get that going and get fans excited. We'll get the socks to you early. It's going to be pretty fun to see how it turns out.

Playing ball in Israel

ESPN.com: What made you decide to go play in Israel?

Robinson: Just to stay in shape, to play alongside my guy Tre Simmons, who went to college with me at UW. I get to play on his team. To get away from home a little bit and just play, have fun and stay in shape. You never know when your name is going to be called.

ESPN.com: We saw video of fans celebrating your arrival at the airport. How has their support been?

Robinson: It's pretty crazy. The fans are big-time fans, man. I love how excited they are about the players. They love it here. They love the American players, what you bring to the table. Me being the player that I am, those fans are just the same. They're just like me.

ESPN.com: Hapoel has gone 4-2 since your arrival to move into a playoff spot. Do you think you've helped?

Robinson: I think I have. Just bringing a different culture of basketball to them. The coach, he loves how intense I am in practice because it pushes the guys. A little bit of trash-talking can get guys excited about playing in practice. He's letting me bring new plays in, what I think can help the team. It's been pretty fun.

ESPN.com: How does the game on the court compare to your NBA experience?

Robinson: The level of play's high. It's high-level. They don't call the touch fouls like when James Harden gets touched and he gets an and-one every time. You've got to get fouled over here.

ESPN.com: Had you been to Israel?

Robinson: No, this is my first time.

ESPN.com: What's the adjustment been like off the court?

Robinson: Off the court ... not really too much of an adjustment. The weather is nice. The food is great. It's Americanized. They've got great food, great culture here. The people here are cool. The food is awesome, though. I love the food. Eating has been my favorite thing to do out here.

ESPN.com: What do you miss most being overseas?

Robinson: My family. I miss my family the most, being home. I miss the Seattle rain. I miss the time difference. Right now it's nighttime [here], and it's daytime where you guys are at. Time to wind down now to get some rest, but I haven't been getting that much sleep. The NBA games are on late at night for us -- 3, 4 in the morning. [I'm] trying to stay up and watch them. I fell asleep watching a couple of games.

ESPN.com: How serious are you about pursuing the NFL?

Robinson: Serious as a heart attack. Totally serious. As soon as I get the opportunity, if it comes my way, I'll take full advantage of it.

"The biggest challenge is probably all the haters, everybody counting me out, somebody not really giving me the opportunity." Nate Robinson, on hopes of joining NFL

ESPN.com: Is playing in the NFL a dream of yours?

Robinson: It's a big-time dream. Something I've always wanted to do, play both sports at the highest level. We'll see if I can be the first one to really do it.

ESPN.com: Was it difficult to give up football after your freshman year at University of Washington?

Robinson: Kind of. It was kind of tough. For me, it would have been harder to make my decision if Coach [Rick] Neuheisel would've stayed coaching at UW and they would've never fired him. If he had stayed the coach, I would've been probably playing both football and basketball the entire time I was there and picked one later on. I probably would've tried the NFL first, and then, if that didn't work, then go back and play basketball -- if I could do it all over again.

ESPN.com: Do you think giving up football helped your basketball career?

Robinson: I think I could've still made it to the NBA even if I would have played football still, just because I know I'm a competitor. But it definitely helped me understanding the game, giving my all to basketball.

ESPN.com: Had you started training for football before going to Israel?

Robinson: I was preparing for basketball. I haven't done any football training yet, but I'm going to do that as soon as I get back home in June.

ESPN.com: How is the training different?

Robinson: I need to get a little stronger, a little faster. Lifting weights and watching a lot of film. Work on my feet and my hands and how to press [as a cornerback]. Basic stuff. I catch on pretty fast. Just learn some of the drills they'd have me do and start practicing and get ready for it.

ESPN.com: You mentioned pressing. Do you envision yourself playing defense in the NFL? I know at UW you were disappointed at not having the opportunity to play offense.

Robinson: I would play whatever position whatever team needs me to play. I can do either/or. Offense comes naturally. Me getting the ball and people are trying to chase me and tackle me, the moves, that's instincts kicking in. I've been doing that all my life, so nothing else is new.

ESPN.com: You've got basketball representation (Goodwin Sports Management). Do you get a new agent for football?

Robinson: I will be looking for an NFL agent, somebody whose strong suit is that. I would just be talking with them, trying to see who's the best fit for me, what works the best, what puts me in the best situation.

ESPN.com: Have you heard from any NFL teams yet?

Robinson: I've heard from a couple of scouts. I talked to a scout from the Seahawks about the possibility of working out. Calls from a couple of other teams -- the Patriots, I know a guy from the Cardinals. So just trying to get my name out to see if I can get a workout. We're definitely going to try to do that once I get back home.

ESPN.com: Have you asked any friends who have played in the NFL to help?

Robinson: No, not yet. Not until I get back. We'll see how that goes. We'll see if they'll be willing to help a brother out.

ESPN.com: What's the biggest challenge for you playing football?

Robinson: The biggest challenge is probably all the haters, everybody counting me out, somebody not really giving me the opportunity. That's what I think the biggest challenge will be, getting somebody to give me that chance. If somebody gives me that chance, I know they'll fall in love with the fierce competitor that I am because I catch on quick. Once I do that, then the sky's the limit. I don't know. It seems like they wouldn't want me to be the first one to do something like this. That's a huge challenge.

ESPN.com: Do you draw on your experience disproving skeptics who thought you were too short to play in the NBA?

Robinson: Yeah, and look what happened. I ended up making it and still going. Eleven years.