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Nate Robinson, NBA Star, Opens Up About His Battle with Kidney Disease

December 05, 2022, 11:37am EST

Nate Robinson holding up basketball

Nate Robinson, an NBA champion who set a league record with three NBA Slam Dunk titles, just revealed his 16-year-long battle with kidney disease that ended in kidney failure. Having made history on the basketball court, Robinson is now on a mission to help all affected by kidney disease.

“I wouldn’t trade it [kidney disease] for the world. This is my story, and this is my journey,” Robinson said in an interview with Playmaker. “I’m going to be a living testimony to other kids and people around the world–they can get through something like this, and they’re not alone.”

A surprising kidney disease diagnosis

While playing for the New York Knicks in 2006, Robinson learned that high blood pressure, the second leading cause of kidney failure in the U.S., damaged his kidneys.

“They used to tell me that we’re going to have to check your blood pressure and if your blood pressure is too high, you can’t play in the game. I used to tell them, ‘don’t check my blood pressure because I am playing regardless of what you say’,” said Robinson. “I thought I was young and invincible. I didn’t know it was going to catch up to me.” 

Robinson’s healthcare team explained his kidney function was slowly declining and would likely fail in his thirties. He did his best to put that out of his mind and focus on the game.

“It was shocking to hear that at some point, some time, my kidneys were going to go,” Robinson said. “I wanted to enjoy my time in the league and play for as long as I could. I tried to keep it [the diagnosis] deep down, live my life, and enjoy the time I had in the NBA. I was not going to let that stop me from playing and doing what I do.”

Learn more about high blood pressure and kidney disease.

Playing through the pain

Robinson pushed forward, determined not to let the bleak diagnosis get in the way of his athletic dreams. He played in 11 NBA seasons and retired with an awe-inspiring list of accomplishments, including scoring over 7,000 points, 1,900 assists, and 1,500 rebounds. Fans would have never known that Robinson was hospitalized several times in between his amazing feats. 

“There were times when I got sick. I was throwing up and couldn’t control what was going on. They had to put me in the hospital for a couple of days,” said Robinson. “I’d come out feeling better than I’ve ever felt before so I just kept dealing with the routine over the years.” 

Sadly, Robinson’s kidneys would ultimately fail in 2018, ending his basketball career, but he’s taken his health decline in stride, refusing to let it bring him down. 

“I choose happiness. We only get one life to live. People thought I didn’t take the game seriously because I played around and had a good time. I think the truth is that my gift to the world and myself was keeping my inner child and staying young.” said Robinson. “My whole life has been overcoming obstacles. This is something else that I’m going to overcome. I can’t wait for the results to come as I beat this, hopefully extending my life a little longer than it was supposed to be.”

No matter where you are on your kidney disease journey, we can help. Find interactive kidney education at the Kidney Learning Center or get matched with a trained peer mentor who knows what it’s like to live with kidney disease.

Teaming up with National Kidney Foundation

“I’ve teamed up with Playmaker and the National Kidney Foundation to create a special edition of Nate Robinson’s “Kryptonate” line. With every order, we are donating a percentage to kidney research,” said Robinson. “Show your support and love. Let’s figure out how we can get a cure for kidney disease."

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