Former NBA shooting guard and three-time dunk contest champ Nate Robinson joined Hapoel Tel Aviv for the remainder of the Israeli basketball league season this week, putting off plans for joining the NFL for the time being.
The former Knicks star landed in Tel Aviv last week to join elated teammates from the flagging Premier League team. He had his debut Sunday with 25 points, four rebounds and three assists, helping propel Hapoel to a 103-94 comeback win.
It seemed only one thing was missing for the 31-year-old hoopster: a genuine “only in Israel” moment. But that, too, came soon enough, during an interview with Sport5 aired on Monday.
“Sup, Nate?” said a shirtless Israeli man who rode his bike into the frame, interrupting the interview. “I want to play with you one-on-one.”
“When?” asked a visibly surprised Robinson.
“When do you want? If you’ve got money let’s play one-on-one,” the challenger, who later introduced himself as Raz Nisim Cohen, said.
The 6″2 Cohen, it turns out, played a single season of professional basketball in 2012-13, scoring a total of five points in six games as a guard with Second League team Ironi Ashkelon.
Despite his lackluster career, he made headlines last year for challenging a battery of professional Israeli basketball players to face off against him. Notable among them was Hapoel Jerusalem’s Donta Smith, whom he challenged to a game of one-on-one for $5,000 in a vulgarity-laced video.
Robinson is a veteran of 618 NBA games over 10 seasons, during which he posted a total of 6,807 points.
“I beat [NBA alum Jordan] Farmar, [Yogev] Ohayon, I beat everyone on Maccabi [Tel Aviv],” Cohen boasted to Robinson, naming some top stars who have played in the local league.
“That’s Farmar, that’s not me,” Robinson retorted.
“Ask Raviv Limonad who is Raz Nisim Cohen,” he said, naming one of Robinson’s Hapoel Tel Aviv teammates.
“Now that’s an interview,” Robinson told the camera after Cohen zipped off on his electric bike. “That’s the first time ever somebody’s done that. That’s sick. So cool, fan’s are great. How can you be mad at that?”
But Cohen wasn’t going to let Robinson have the last word.
“Nate, I’ll kick your ass, baby,” he shouted from off-camera.
When Cohen said he’ll see him “next year” in the premier league, and that he’ll kick his ass, the interviewer said: “That sounds like a challenge.”
“It does sound like a challenge. I’ll bust his ass,” Robinson replied, squinting.
Unfortunately the two didn’t duke it out on camera, and Robinson had yet to respond to a tweet from The Times of Israel by publication time, so it isn’t clear whether the two eventually faced off.
“That moment in life when you meet one of the most brilliant basketball players in the history of the NBA, and the shortest of them to ever play,” Cohen wrote in a Facebook post that included a picture of him posing with the star.
Robinson, who’s 5″9, was the 20th shortest man to play in the NBA.