In an excerpt from A Game of Character, Craig Robinson shares his influences, including his relationships with his sister, Michelle Obama, and President Barack Obama.
The idea to write this book—as a way of paying tribute to a handful of very important individuals who have shaped my understanding of basketball and of life, and who have contributed to my ongoing search for what it truly means to have character—has been percolating in the back of my mind for years.
But it wasn't until the waning minutes before my appearance at the Democratic National Convention in Denver on Monday night, August 25, 2008, that I made the conscious decision to put pen to paper. Of course, writing a book was the last thing that I needed to be thinking about at that particular time for me and my family, not to mention in those very moments while standing backstage—where I was attempting to go through the equivalent of my pregame ritual that allows me, as a coach, to remove myself from the hubbub and become the calm within the storm for my players. But this night, for lack of a better description, was a whole other ball game!
Not that I was nervous about stepping out into the glare of history's spotlight. On the contrary, nothing could have been more gratifying than the opportunity to speak from my heart in introducing my sister, Michelle Robinson Obama, to the thousands of incredibly energized delegates at the Convention Center and to the millions of Americans watching. The weight of the moment, rather, had everything to do with the unbelievable responsibility that had fallen to Michelle. As the headliner of the convention's first night, my little sister, Miche, twenty months my junior, my only sibling, now wife of Senator Barack Obama—who was about to become the party's nominee for president of the United States of America—had to deliver the speech of her life. Intended not only to welcome the delegates and help reunite the party after what everyone agreed had been the most bruising primary season in modern times, the speech also had to deliver the most important character reference for the candidate that would be given throughout the general election season to come.
In basketball terms, at least in my thinking, Michelle was being asked to sink a three-pointer at the buzzer in a do-or die game at the start of the championship. Everything to come, victory or disappointment, would hinge on this one shot. And all I could do to help was simply pass her the ball. And believe.
As if reading my mind, just as I turned to follow a production assistant to the spot from which I would enter onto the stage for my speech, a glowingly confident Michelle popped her head out of the green room and hurried over for a last-minute hug.
"Craig," she said, with a look in her eyes that spoke volumes, letting me know that she was ready to cross the threshold into the public eye and to become, potentially, the most influential woman in the world, "thank you."
"Thank you." I grinned in response, thrilled to be along for the ride, as surreal as it all seemed. Both of us were probably thinking the same thing—how grateful we were to have our mother, Marian Robinson, on hand for this occasion and to take part in this most unlikely of journeys. And I was sure that on this night, of all times, Michelle and I both missed our dad, the late Fraser Robinson III, more than ever. Then again, I was just as sure that he was very much present, smiling down on us, reveling in the possibilities.