Carlos Boozer and Nate Robinson welcome HOLDAT Nation to the second episode of their Sports Illustrated podcast. Former college athletes at Duke and Washington, respectively, Boozer and Robinson weigh in on the college basketball crisis, starting with Sean Miller at Arizona and expanding to their personal experiences.
Boozer explains why he turned down gifts and money offered to him on the recruiting trail and instead decided to join the Blue Devils, while Robinson recounts the hardships he incurred as a two-sport athlete and young father who decided to steer clear of football and potential monetary gain.
"I’m going to be honest, I was a kid that turned it down. I was raised by my mom and dad—shout out Renee and Carlos Sr.—when I was getting recruited, and you probably went through this too Nate. I was one of the top players in my class and had a lot of schools coming after me. Obviously I’m not going to out anybody on this show, but I had a lot of schools coming out for me. I had schools telling me that if you come to my school you’ll start right away, we’ll give you a Jeep Cherokee, which at that time was one of the hottest whips out, we’ll give you $1,000 a month, you don’t have to go to class, you just gotta come play ball for us.
"And that turned me off because I wasn’t used to getting handouts. I was used to working for everything I ever got. That’s how my mom and dad worked; my mom and dad had two jobs each. They were busting their chops making sure they could feed all five mouths they had, they had five kids so they were trying to make sure that we could all eat. And so I’m used to seeing my parents as an example—don’t take no handouts, you gotta work for everything you get. So I told these universities no and I ended up going to Duke. They didn’t offer me nothing. Coach K sat in my living room in Alaska and was like, ‘You’re the top player in your class, but I can’t even promise you you’re going to start at this school. You’re going to have to earn it. We’ve got seven All-Americans coming in, you’re one of them if you decide to come here.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, you’re challenging me. I like that. I need a challenge.'
"So for me, that turned me on. That made me excited to have to go work for what I wanted, where I had other schools—again, they’ll remain nameless—telling me you don’t have to worry about class, you can be a dumb jock, we’ll pay you to come to our school $1,000 a month, which to me is a lot of bread. I wasn’t used to getting no money a month. So that was a big deal for me. But I didn’t want to owe nobody nothing, I wanted to be able to work for everything I got and be able to look back and be like, ‘I did it the right way and I don’t owe nobody nothing but my mom and my dad and the people that supported me—my sisters, my brothers’. I’ve been blessed with great siblings to be my support system. I didn’t want to owe nobody nothing so I turned that stuff down, went to Duke and worked my butt off and became a starter as a freshman. That was challenge enough for me."
"When they fired Rick Neuheisel my freshman year that made it easy for me to make my decision to quit and go play basketball, which I wanted to do anyway. For my three years at UW, I had a booster offer me $100,000 per year to come back and play football because they needed Nate Robinson back on the football field because we weren’t winning any games, it wasn’t exciting. It was crazy, we went through a dark age at the University of Washington. When Tyrone Willingham was the coach years later, we didn’t win not one game. It was just crazy.
"But a booster came to me, my mom sat down and my mom was like, 'That’s a lot of money.’ And she was looking at me like, ‘What you want to do?’ And I was like, ‘I want to hoop, I don’t want to take money from a booster and not knowing if this handshake is for us to keep this money, because people don’t do nothing for free.’ And that’s what my mom taught me. What do I owe you after this? My mom was just like, ‘What do you want to do? It’s up you. This is your life, not mine.’ I told my mom I going to have to kindly say no thank you, but my dream is to play basketball and earn everything that I got.
"The grind of putting in the passion and showing how great I can be, because I was never a money guy. I didn’t care. I’ll play for free. I just want to hoop, I don’t care. For me, it was like I want to see where my path will go from doing the right thing instead of just taking what’s convenient now when I know in the long run I don’t want to owe anybody anything."