How Glenn Robinson III's life was shaped by his parents’ different paths

How Glenn Robinson III's life was shaped by his parents’ different paths

Editor’s note: NBC Sports Bay Area’s second “Dub of the Day” this season is Glenn Robinson III. Stay with our digital and TV coverage all day long to learn everything about the Warriors small forward.

Shantelle Clay was in her childhood home in Gary, Indiana, when she got the sudden urge to use the restroom.

Home from college for Christmas break, Clay was watching her boyfriend -- Glenn Robinson Jr. -- on television dominate as a junior for the Purdue Boilermakers basketball team.

Three years prior, in the final days of Clay's freshman year at Theodore Roosevelt High School, Robinson -- a junior phenom -- insisted on signing her yearbook, along with another request.

"Give me your number," he insisted to no avail.

"He was trying to date me and all of this stuff," Clay remembers. "I thought I was just too cute."

Eventually, Clay relented, and a teenage love affair began to brew, even as Robinson committed to Purdue, where he eventually led the Boilermakers to the Elite Eight in 1994.

Clay had plans to follow Robinson after being accepted into the university. In the months prior to the 18-year-old's urge for a bathroom break, she'd become pregnant by her high school sweetheart. The circumstances came with a plan: Start her freshman year, give birth around April and finish her spring semester finals in May.

Her body had other ideas.

"Once I did, my water broke," Clay remembers. "And I was like, 'OK. I'm like still peeing.' "

An hour later, she delivered Glenn Robinson III at Gary Methodist Hospital. By the time he was delivered, Clay's newborn was so small that his entire body fit in his father's palm. While he could breathe independently, Robinson III's small stature forced him into an incubator for the next two months, as he became nourished enough to go home, while proving what the Golden State Warriors are beginning to know: Robinson III has fought for everything he's gotten.

Big shoes to fill

Robinson III's iPhone lock screen features a picture of him and his father standing alongside each other in an arena, sharing a smile. The visual provides a reminder of his basketball roots while displaying the complicated childhood that comes with being an NBA player's child. 

Shortly after her son's birth, Clay enrolled at nearby Purdue University Calumet, continuing her love affair with Robinson Jr., and giving birth to the couple's second child, Galen, in 1996. However, as Robinson Jr.'s career began to flourish, his relationship with Clay began to deteriorate. 

"That NBA life got to him," Clay remembers. "We both were young, and going through it -- just didn't know him anymore. And when you get the money and the stardom, and I could see how it changes a person, and it definitely changed him."

An NBA player's career comes with an inherent set of difficulties for the family surrounding them. For Robinson Jr., nicknamed "Big Dog," it meant playing around the country for millions, while Clay raised his children. As Robinson Jr.'s 11-year NBA career stretched between four teams, including his current residence in Georgia, his son's primary home remained in Indiana with Clay and her mother.

Nonetheless, the burden of being an NBA namesake followed, providing a complicated relationship with Robinson III's reality. 

"I didn't really like having the same name as him," Robinson III remembered. "Just because people automatically just assume my dad, or people assume what he did, and I had to match that.

"As I started to get older, about high school going into college, I started to love the fact that I have the same name as him. It helped me out. It helped me get more looks from college." 

On the surface, father and son are polar opposites. Robinson III is a gentle soul whose childhood consisted of occasional rides on his father's lap as "Big Dog" raced teammate Ray Allen along the streets of Milwaukee or made trips to Philadelphia to meet Allen Iverson during his father's 76ers tenure.

While his dad finished his high school career as a McDonald's All-American, the kid affectionately known as "Trey" didn't dunk until his sophomore season, only after he bought specialized shoes featuring a jump sole, used to increase a player's vertical, from a magazine.

New chapter with Warriors

Glenn Robinson Jr. was raised in Gary, and in the year before he was born, the city that birthed Michael Jackson to stardom had an unemployment rate of 13.1 percent, more than twice the national average. By 1994, the city's murder rate was the highest in the nation per capita. Robinson Jr.'s father, Glen Sr., was charged with cocaine and heroin possession as his son mulled an NBA future. While Glenn Robinson III passed his college entrance requirements at Michigan, "Big Dog" was forced to sit out his freshman season at Purdue because of low SAT scores.

While the duo's personalities differ, their origin stories are similar. "Big Dog" was born to a teenage mother -- Christine Bridgeman -- who displayed a similar hardened attitude as Clay. Like his son, basketball didn't come easy for Robinson Jr., who refused to go out for the team in seventh grade out of fear of being left off. Even Robinson Jr.'s signature fire is evident in his son, albeit in a unique way.

"I think I've always had the ability to kind of turn it on and off," Robinson III admits. "On a court, I can flip that switch and do what I need to do on the court. And off the court, I'm just real super chill, mellow. Everybody on the team knows that I don't say too much. But they could also tell you that ain't nobody going to mess with me."

At the moment, Robinson is looking to stick in the NBA, as his father did. Through six seasons, the 25-year-old has played for four teams. After joining the Indiana Pacers in 2015, he seemed to gain traction, shooting 39.3 percent from beyond the arc during his three-year tenure and earning a two-year, $8.3 million contract with the Detroit Pistons last season. 

On the surface, the move seemed solid. Detroit's newly hired coach, Dwane Casey, was months removed from winning NBA Coach of the Year with the Toronto Raptors, and he ran a style seemingly fitting Robinson III's skillset. More importantly, Detroit is less than 300 miles from Robinson III's childhood home. However, he struggled, averaging 4.2 points and 1.5 rebounds in just 47 games, and that lack of playing time frustrated the young forward. 

"I took 30-plus DNPs probably last year," Robinson III said. "And I just didn't understand it then, why would you go get me? Or why would I waste my opportunity? I'm 24 years old at the time. So, why would I waste a year of my youth of some of the best basketball that I could potentially be playing like that?" 

One week after the Pistons declined his second-year option, the Warriors offered a two-year contract with a player option for the second year and an opportunity to play alongside All-Stars Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. However, during his first two months in the Bay Area, Robinson III and his family is seeing much more in the organization. 

"It's everything, from weather, to lighting in the gym, to the positive energy that's around every day," Robinson III said. "To the chefs at the practice facility, the way that we eat, the quality of the food. I haven't been on a team where it's just top-notch from head to toe."

Said Clay: "I noticed a difference from how he was on the other teams and this team. He started telling me how he likes Steve Kerr, and he's never talked about liking the culture before."

So far, Robinson has flourished in the new environment, averaging career highs in points (11.8), rebounds (4.6) and assists (1.8) through 24 games.

"He's having a great year for us," Kerr said. "He's a hell of a player, and I'm very happy for him." 

[RELATED: Watch our full interview with Glenn Robinson III]

Robinson's performance comes as the Warriors are in transition. In the last six months, the team has lost Curry and Thompson to injury, which has turned them into one of the league's worst teams. However, with both players expected to be healthy at the start of next season, Golden State is primed to be among the NBA's best teams again, and Robinson III hopes to be part of that future

"One of my goals coming in was to play as good as I can to let them make a decision about next year," Robinson III said last month. "And to be back here would be great."

Robinson's angel

While Robinson's career is trending upward, his biggest summer accomplishment is represented by the "Ari" stitched along the front of his favorite black hoodie. The garment is the official merch of his foundation, Angels are Real Indeed, an acronym named after his 2-year-old daughter. The non-profit aims to assists single fathers, while also giving support to children without dads, being sure not to single out women like Clay and his grandmother.

"I created the foundation to not be a father's rights organization," Robinson III said. "And something that was going to kind of be demeaning to women."

[RELATED: Robinson III picks his favorite tattoos]

As part of its efforts, the foundation is expected to put on speaking panels, podcasts and even instructional videos to help parents.

A new parent, Robinson III now finds himself in the same position "Big Dog" was 23 years ago -- a single father with hopes of a long career ahead of them. With that distinction, Robinson III -- armed with perspective that his father never had -- hopes to eclipse his dad in at least one respect. 

"It's easy to have some resentment growing up. It's easy to get frustrated because you don't understand. You're not there," Robinson III admits. "But I think being in it now, it just makes me want to spend my time with my daughter when I can."

NBA rumors: Steph Curry persuaded by Under Armour to stay with company

NBA rumors: Steph Curry persuaded by Under Armour to stay with company

About a year and a half ago, Warriors superstar Steph Curry nearly ended his relationship with Under Armour.

Julie Creswell and Kevin Draper of The New York Times have the details:

In the summer of 2018, two top Under Armour executives traveled to the West Coast on a critical mission. Kevin Plank, the sports apparel company’s founder and chief executive, and Patrik Frisk, its president and chief operating officer, needed to persuade Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors star and the company’s highest-profile endorser, not to leave the brand.

Mr. Plank was unhappy that Mr. Curry, whose endorsement deal pays him millions of dollars a year, would rarely wear Under Armour clothing to N.B.A. games. Mr. Curry was upset that sales of the signature Curry 3 shoe had been weak.

At the meeting, participants found a solution that would showcase just how much Mr. Curry meant to the company. Mr. Plank and Mr. Frisk agreed to build a separate business around him, one reminiscent of what Nike had done for Michael Jordan two decades before. The company brought on the former executive who had overseen the creation of the Jordan brand at Nike to run the Curry brand and promised Mr. Curry much more involvement in the development of his shoes. Mr. Curry decided to remain, and a crisis was averted.

Of course, what happened in early February 2017 didn't help matters.

After Plank praised Donald Trump by saying, "To have such a pro-business President is something that is a real asset for the country -- people can really grab that opportunity," Curry told The Athletic's Marcus Thompson (who was at The Bay Area News Group at the time): "I agree with that description. If you remove the 'et' from 'asset.' "

Plank issued a clarifying statement the following day, and Curry let it be known: "I spent all day yesterday on the phone with countless people at Under Armour, countless people in Kevin Plank’s camp, my team, trying to understand what was going on and where everybody stood on the issue. Based off the release that KP sent out this morning, and what he told me last night, that’s the Under Armour that I know.

"That’s the brand I know he’s built and one that, as of Wednesday afternoon, is something that I’m standing on.”

The two-time NBA MVP let it be known that he would part ways with Under Armour if he felt like it was the right thing to do.

“If there is a situation where I can look at myself in the mirror and say they don’t have my best intentions, they don’t have the right attitude about taking care of people," he told Thompson. "If I can say the leadership is not in line with my core values, then there is no amount of money, there is no platform I wouldn’t jump off if it wasn’t in line with who I am.

"So that’s a decision I will make every single day when I wake up. If something is not in line with what I’m about, then, yeah, I definitely need to take a stance in that respect.”

It appears the two-time NBA MVP is on good terms with the company, as he helped recruit Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid to the brand in August 2018, and recently helped in the effort to sign Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (who ended up with Nike/Jordan).

Curry's contract with Under Armour runs through 2024 at about $20 million annually.

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Warriors, 76ers prepare for first game in Kobe Bryant's hometown since death

Warriors, 76ers prepare for first game in Kobe Bryant's hometown since death

For the first time since his death on Sunday, the NBA will play in Kobe Bryant’s old neighborhood of Philadelphia. With eyes watering and noses sniffing in parts of Wells Fargo Center, the Warriors and 76ers will pay homage to a legend and then start dribbling.

If ever a game seemed tone-deaf to mood, it is this one. In this town. At this time. Even if Kobe himself would have urged every player to drain every ounce of energy – and he certainly would have – and every fan to soak in every dribble and swish of the net.

And because it’s Philly, a city with a heart of ice, that might be how it plays out in the stands.

“It’s going to be emotional,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters Monday night. “It’ll be difficult to play. We’re already in communication with the Sixers regarding ideas to commemorate Kobe’s life. So, we’ll figure that part out. But It won’t make the game any easier. I’m sure the fans here will be very emotional, given that this is his backyard.”

On the court, among the players, this game will be a test of the characteristics that shaped Kobe, making him one of the greatest athletes in history. Can the Warriors – who haven’t played since Friday – and 76ers play through undeniable pain, as he routinely did? Can they reach a level of hyper-focus, as he consistently did? Can they suppress the grief and play as if their lives were on the line?

For as much as these men want to perform at their best, thoughts of Kobe and his daughter, Gianna, are bound to invade their minds.

That’s how massive his presence was, and how much of an imprint he made on a generation.

“Even if you didn’t know Kobe, you’re grieving,” Draymond Green said.” If you thought you knew Kobe, you’re grieving. If you just watched Kobe and you’re a fan, you’re grieving. If you’re a fan of basketball, you’re grieving. And if you knew him, you’re crushed.”

Draymond is, like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, among dozens of NBA players that knew Kobe. Who had a relationship with him. Those that didn’t felt like they did. Some actually worshipped him. That’s why there have been tears before every NBA game since his death was confirmed.

Kerr plumbed the recesses of his mind searching for a comparison to what the league is feeling. He cited Magic Johnson’s November 1991 announcement that he was HIV positive, which many at the time presumed was a death sentence. Kerr then landed upon Drazen Petrovic, the electrifying Croatian guard who in July 1993 died in an auto accident at age 28.

A “shock to the league," Kerr said.

“But these things are so rare. Petrovic was an All-Star and a Hall of Fame player. Kobe was one of THE all-time greats and in the prime of his life. So, the shock is ten-fold.”

Which explains why the impact ranges well beyond the confines of basketball. Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios took the court Sunday at the Australian Open wearing Kobe’s No. 8 Lakers jersey. Soccer superstar Neymar, upon scoring a goal Sunday, held up two fingers on his right hand and four on his left to signify No. 24, Kobe’s other jersey.

As thousands gather to mourn near Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, Kobe’s presence is even looming over Super Bowl week, 2,700 miles east in Miami.

But the legend of Kobe began in Philly. It’s where he was born, the youngest of three children by Joe and Pamela Bryant. Joe is a Philadelphia native who spent the first four seasons of his eight-year NBA career playing for the 76ers. Kobe began attracting international attention for his hoops at Lower Merion High School in affluent Ardmore, 20 miles northwest of downtown Philly.

Over his final three seasons, with Kobe playing all five positions at various times, the Aces went 77-13. When he was named to the Parade All-America fourth team as a junior, Kobe came back as a senior and tore through every prep until he reached the top. Naismith High School Player of the Year and Gatorade Men’s national player of the year. He graduated at 17 and one month later he was drafted into the NBA.

Kobe was a Philly guy before he was an LA dude. He simply remained ruthless in pursuit of whatever exceeds perfection.

[RELATED: Sherman explains how Kobe's 'Mamba mentality' lives on]

So, it is in Philly that the longest weekend of this Warriors season, chronologically and emotionally, will end with a sob. They’ll play basketball, even if their minds wander elsewhere.

“It sucks,’ Green said. “I just keep catching myself sitting around and like . . . damn! It’s not real. But it is.”