Ball Don't Lie

Nate Robinson will wear No. 10 with the Denver Nuggets to honor Lionel Messi

Eric Freeman
Ball Don't Lie

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Nate Robinson wants Lionel Messi to look at a cool bird (Isaac Baldizon/ Getty and Stuart Franklin/ Bongarts).

Despite his diminutive stature, veteran guard Nate Robinson has lasted eight NBA seasons and counting. After turning into an unlikely scoring star for the Chicago Bulls last season, Robinson has signed on with the Denver Nuggets, his sixth team. He'll be counted on to provide scoring punch off the bench for a team in need of reinforcements after a tumultuous offseason.

Yet, while the challenge of integrating into a new team stands paramount for any offseason addition, Robinson is also faced with picking a new number. Throughout his career, he has opted for single digits, using Nos. 2, 3, and 4 at his various stops. With his preferred No. 2 retired for Alex English, Robinson has decided to go in a different direction. He will wear No. 10, in honor of one of the best athletes in the world. From an interview with Nate Simmons of Denver Stiffs (via Beyond the Buzzer):

I usually dig the single digit numbers, but No. 2 is retired. Alex English, great player. He was my coach at predraft camp when I played in Chicago. He was my coach and I averaged like 22 points and 8 assists, something like that, and he was just letting me go. I was like, "Man, it's a pleasure. You rocked my favorite number." I knew exactly who he was and I was like, "Man that No. 2, there is something special about it." I'm going to change it up and wear No. 10. I'm going to wear it for [Lionel] Messi, that's my favorite soccer player. I've been playing a lot of FIFA lately and watching the games. He's the best little guy to do it and I've got to be the best little guy to do it at No. 10 in the NBA. That's my goal.

Robinson also posted a photoshopped image of himself in his new uniform to his Instagram account.

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Nate Robinson beats his chest after beating the keeper on a penalty shot (via Instagram).

Oh, and the caption features a reference to both Messi and MTV Movie Award-winning film "Varsity Blues":

New look new # hope y'all like this #10 more than me cuz I love it ... I'm #10 like my guy messi #holdat#dimetime10 #teamrobinson #stateofnate billy bob said it best - 10 a F'n 10

Listed at 5-7, Messi is actually two inches shorter than Robinson's official height of 5-9, although pro sports teams have been known to fudge these numbers with regularity. It's a bold move from Robinson, if only because Messi is so clearly the greatest player in his sport that any comparison might do a capable NBA role player no favors.

It bears mention that Messi's number is not entirely a personal choice, but a standard of soccer culture: No. 10 is typically given to a team's primary creative force. When Steve Nash chose No. 10 after joining the Los Angeles Lakers last summer, it seemed to be a nod to his soccer background, as well as his great skill in setting up his teammates for scoring opportunities.

For that matter, Messi is part of a grand tradition of short soccer stars: his countryman and one-time national-team coach Diego Maradona is listed at 5-5, his Barcelona teammate Xavi is 5-7, etc. Even if inadvertently, Robinson's choice of jersey number serves as a reminder that short athletes have dominated the top levels of world sport for decades. Perhaps he can carve out more of a place for sub-6-foot basketball players, too.

Here's hoping Messi hears about Robinson's gesture. Maybe the two of them can even meet up to play with LEGOs together.

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