By now, Thomas Robinson knows that personal tragedy has come to define him. No matter how many dunks or rebounds or blocked shots he tallies, he is that rare star for whom “basketball player” is only part of his identity. He knows this won’t change, even if he’s no longer interested in telling the world about his three loved ones dying in an unthinkable three weeks last year.
This is a wonderful, terrible, promising and completely unfair position for a guy who turned 21 only last week.
His should be a story only about basketball. Robinson is the scowling muscle behind Kansas’ push toward another Final Four, the strutting hulk treating each court as his own, the most valuable player in the country and a certain millionaire if he makes this his last college season.
Based on basketball alone, his is the kind of story that makes a lot of us love major-college sports. He is a second-tier recruit turned first-team All-American, a skinny kid turned LeBron James’ body double, an energy guy off the bench turned raw force that opponents double-team even when he doesn’t have the ball.
And yet, this awful thing that happened to him 14 months ago remains his identity to so many.
He’s the guy whose grandmother died, then his grandfather, then his mother, all within 25 head-turning days, leaving his little sister to live with her ex-con father back in D.C. and Robinson to change his entire worldview.