Sobering Story About College Basketball Legend

One of my favorite and funniest college memories involved a pick-up basketball game that took place in a small public park near my college dorm in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The game was usually a mix of Harvard geeks and city kids, the latter usually three or four levels of talent above us.

One day, I was encouraged by my teammates to guard a particularly large and muscular player on the other team.  After he completely ran over me twice, my teammates laughed and informed me that the huge guy I was guarding was indeed the esteemed small shooting guard for the Michigan Wolverines, Rumeal Robinson, home from a school break.

Later that year, Robinson would hit two of the clutchest free throws in the history of roundball to win the NCAA championship against Seton Hall:

Watch them here:

Today, Robinson is serving a six-and-a-half year sentence for a 2010 conviction on bank bribery, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and making a false statement to a financial institution.  Dan Wetzel interviewed him for Yahoo Sports (h/t Tony Cruise):

He strongly maintains his innocence, partly on the grounds that his request for new representation just before his trial should have been granted. He says while he did a poor job of handling sophisticated loans and debts, he is not a criminal.

Robinson points much of the blame on prosecutors and Helen Ford. In an effort to help fund the casino/resort project, his adoptive mother signed her home over to Robinson’s business group – she says unwittingly. The house was eventually lost to foreclosure.

Nearing 70, the now widowed Helen lives in a smaller apartment in the Boston area. Robinson claims she “conspired with the feds” in his case. She also took part in numerous media stories that, he said, made it seem like the lost house was the center of the case. All while, he said, discounting the Mercedes, the mink coat and the other gifts he provided her through the years.

She eventually testified on behalf of the prosecution, a devastating blow Robinson said.

“People are going to believe your mother when she says you were doing things,” Robinson said. “… The damage was done before [I] stepped into court. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about my case.”

There is little regret, plenty of defiance.

Ronald E. Longstaff, United States District Judge for the Southern District of Iowa saw it differently. He criticized Robinson’s stance as a demonstration of “absolutely no remorse, absolutely no acknowledgement of fault. The record is replete with significant fraud.”

Click here to read the full story.

As the founder of a site dedicated to second chances, I am hoping that my former court adversary is able to turn things around for his second act upon his prison release in a few years.  He inspired a lot of us two decades ago.  I pray that he can do the same again.


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