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Little Big Man Is In Motion

And not just dunk but to send his stout little body hurling over men more than a foot taller as he does it.

"He jumps like he's someone who is 6-foot-6," teammate Brandon Roy says.

Nate Robinson, a 5-9 junior, was nicknamed at birth by his father, Jacque Robinson, a former MVP of the Orange Bowl. (Matt Sayles -- AP)

Or as Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar says with a bemused laugh: "He is the only one who doesn't know he's 5-9."

Nate Robinson shrugs. Growing up his father would always tell him "it's not the size of the dog in the fight; it's the size of the fight in the dog." For years the analogy stumped the boy. "What does that mean?" he used to ask.

Now he understands. He's Nate the Great, which means there's nothing he can't do.

"He has this ability to make you forget what you came to watch," Romar says. "Whatever you came to watch, you leave thinking of him. You zone in on his every move because you don't know what he's going to do next. It might be a big dunk or it might be a defensive play where he jumps in and steals a pass. Or maybe he takes a charge.

"You don't know. But you want to see."

Robinson's first basketball game at Washington was a disaster. He still had the football in him, careening into opposing players, being whistled for fouls almost every time he took a step.

The second, on the road at Santa Clara, didn't start much better. He still didn't know any of the plays, he had been to only a couple of basketball practices and hadn't even learned any of the defenses. Nonetheless Romar tepidly let him on the court early in the second half just to get him accustomed to the game. Suddenly Robinson stole a pass and raced down the court for a layup, then another, a jump shot and a rebound. The player who didn't know a single play had taken over the game on instinct alone. By the end, he had 19 points in 18 minutes and the crowd rose as he left the court, giving the littlest player on the opposing team a standing ovation.

"I've seen a lot of basketball, but I've never seen that one before," Romar says.

Yet in Nate's world, such things are commonplace.

His senior year of high school, he stole a night that was supposed to belong to LeBron James. At the Slam Dunk to the Beach tournament in Delaware, the gym was filled to see James in a later game, when Robinson in his No. 2 jersey swooped in to snatch a rebound from a 6-10 NBA draft prospect named DeAngelo Brown and then dunked all in one motion. The gym erupted, and for a moment, the crowd forgot about James and began to chant: "Give it to No. 2! Give it to No. 2!"

Every game brings something new -- a flying dunk off the glass, a spinning jump shot taken among three bigger players that bounces off the top of the backboard and somehow rolls through the rim, a long arcing jump shot from the farthest corner of the court.

"Nate, I think, visualizes himself doing special things 24 hours a day," Romar says. "He lives out special fantasies that keep coming true for him.

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