Former NBA Dunk Champion Glenn Robinson III Seeks New Opportunity in the League

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That heated December night in Milwaukee, when Giannis Antetokounmpo stormed the tunnel pursuing a particular 29.5 inches of leather, the Bucks’ and Pacers’ G League affiliates were also battling back in Indianapolis.

The postgame commotion swept both locker rooms, as spirited debate raged across the basketball world. Should the game ball in Milwaukee have gone to Antetokounmpo, who broke the Bucks’ single-game franchise record of 64 points? Or should it have been awarded to Pacers rookie Oscar Tshiebwe, who scored the first counting points of his NBA career? They’re two benchmarks at polar ends of the spectrum.

The Wisconsin Herd’s roster examined one level further. Among a group of men, many of whom are still hunting their own first roster spot, let alone finding their way onto an NBA scoreboard, they wondered if a free throw should really count as someone’s first point in the league? Or should it truly only matter coming from live game action?

Glenn Robinson III had his answer ready. The mind of a seven-year pro flashed through personal highlights and lowlights, then landed back to November 2014, with five minutes left in a blowout loss to New Orleans. It was Minnesota’s eighth game of the season after the rebuilding Timberwolves picked Robinson III at No. 40 in that June’s draft. And when Robinson curled around a screen, his defender grunted something surprising. Darius Miller was a three-year veteran on the fringe of the league himself, who would go on to play two seasons in Germany before returning to the NBA. So with the game under wraps, Miller declared he would help with the whistle to give Robinson III a ceremonial trip to the charity stripe — where he sank one attempt just like Tshiebwe almost a decade later.

Robinson III would score 1,803 points over his NBA career, spending time in Philadelphia, Indiana and Detroit before a career-best stint in Golden State, where he averaged 12.9 points on 40% shooting from distance over 48 games with the Warriors. Then he was dealt back to the Sixers, before spending the 2020-21 campaign in Sacramento. Robinson III returned to the G League this winter after two years away from basketball, signing with Milwaukee on an Exhibit 10 contract this past October, before joining the Herd for the affiliate club’s 2023-24 season.

He’s wearing No. 13, the same number his father, Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson, sported for the organization after the Bucks selected him first overall in 1994. Robinson III sat down in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency attached to the Orange County Convention Center in late December in Orlando, Florida, where the G League held its Winter Showcase for NBA scouts to evaluate players like Robinson III for one of the precious few openings around the league.

“To come back and still be able to step back into this, I feel like I’m still playing good basketball,” he told Yahoo Sports. “I think that it would be hard to really make a G League team after two years for a lot of guys who stepped out.”

That’s partially due to the increased talent level of the NBA’s minor league, a direct result G League personnel credit to updates in the recent collective bargaining agreement. In addition to opening a third two-way spot for every NBA roster, contracts that allow for hybrid players to dress for both the big club and its affiliate, the heightened value of an Exhibit 10 deal — like the agreement Robinson III signed with Milwaukee — makes the G League far more viable for players considering taking their talents overseas.

The full Exhibit 10 is now worth $75,000, up from $50,000 under the 2017 CBA, and the total will also rise in proportion with the NBA salary cap moving forward. That’s perhaps the most important detail, where the guaranteed figure projects to eclipse the $100,000 mark in just three years. Add that amount to the standard G League salary of $40,500 for a six-month season, with the chance of signing lucrative 10-day deals that begin with NBA teams on Friday, and many G League players can quickly tally a quarter-million dollars by staying stateside.

“It’s still a blessing to be playing for a living,” Robinson III told Yahoo Sports.

“That’s the mindset I try to stay in. This is where everyone who wants to be in the NBA is grinding for their dream.”

After years of private charters, the 6-foot-6 swingman is flying coach for the first time in a decade, albeit with an earnest grin stretching his face. Robinson III is soft spoken in conversation, noticeably comfortable in the frame that he believes can still guard NBA wings. Herd teammates listen to his counsel on the bench and follow his orders when he yells out defensive assignments on the floor.

He sees this G League experience as a chance to develop into more of a vocal leader, echoing the wisdom of veterans like Al Jefferson in Minnesota, or Steph Curry and Klay Thomspon in Golden State, and imparting the lessons he learned from his own missteps.

Robinson III’s path brought him aboard a rocket ship in February 2017, when he secured overnight celebrity with an upset victory in the dunk contest at All-Star Weekend, defeating champion Aaron Gordon, among others. He made all of his dunks, including two over Pacers All-Star wing Paul George, on the first leap. “I kinda got a hot head. I was feeling myself. Just dating Instagram models, doing things that aren’t me,” Robinson III told Yahoo Sports. “I’m very lowkey. I’m chill. I’m like this 24/7. I also know right from wrong. But after winning the dunk contest and seeing the influx of everything, I think my story resonates with a lot of players, and I try to help a lot of the young guys.”

He returned to his phone that evening and found his followers jumped by a hundred thousand. The contest brought a whirlwind press tour full of appearances and brand events. Strangers began to recognize him on the street for his niche moment in NBA history. “That also comes with a target on your back,” he said. “If you’re not ready to handle it, God won’t always continue to present you with some of those things. Might be some challenges in there.”

The past two years away from basketball provided what Robinson III described as a mental break from the game he and his father both love. He joined the NBA’s program at Harvard Business School and finished first in the program, receiving a ring that means as much as his dunk contest trophy. Combining that experience with his passion for rocking rims, Robinson III then launched a company at GR3.biz, which offers detailed programs on how to dunk.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 18:  (EDITORS NOTE: Retransmission with alternate crop.) Glenn Robinson III #40 of the Indiana Pacers competes in the 2017 Verizon Slam Dunk Contest with Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers at Smoothie King Center on February 18, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 18:  (EDITORS NOTE: Retransmission with alternate crop.) Glenn Robinson III #40 of the Indiana Pacers competes in the 2017 Verizon Slam Dunk Contest with Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers at Smoothie King Center on February 18, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Glenn Robinson III, then of the Indiana Pacers, completes a dunk over Paul George in the 2017 Verizon Slam Dunk Contest at the Smoothie King Center on Feb. 18, 2017, in New Orleans. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

He launched real estate endeavors and explored other investment opportunities, strategies he’s helping instill among his Wisconsin teammates, some of whom stand a decade his junior. Robinson III’s biggest salary was $4 million with Detroit, and he now better understands that was his best season to plan for the future as opposed to relishing his present.

“Most guys know they don’t need to go buy this new Rolex or Rolls Royce,” Robinson III said. “But I’m teaching guys how to write checks and how to work with CPAs for your taxes and write-offs and, ‘What does that even mean?’”

Bucks staffers have sung his praises for his locker-room presence. They’ve remarked how strong and fluid his body looks at 28 after so much time removed from the sport. He was still a bothersome, switchable defender during the Showcase.

He knows the rest might not be in his hands, that the reasoning behind a call-up is something, sometimes, you cannot compute. His girlfriend has taught him the value of crystals, and Robinson III has tried to harness their greater power. He wore a bracelet of purple amethyst beads to channel tranquility during the Showcase. He wears a copper ring on game days, just like the copper stakes he planted on his farm in Indiana, which are supposed to help vegetables flourish. “It has to hold some property, it has to hold some energy, it has to hold some knowledge,” Robinson III said. “And I think that you can work with them.”

After offseason visits with the Celtics and Warriors, maybe he can work with an NBA club once again. Milwaukee held a veteran workout Monday, league sources told Yahoo Sports, for what seems like potential two-way candidates. Robinson III is ineligible for a two-way with his years of NBA service, but there are plenty of league figures pulling for one of the good ones, who’s been there before, to make it back to the mountaintop.

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