Remembering Crane's Tim Robinson

Remembering Crane's Tim Robinson
December 31, 2012, 5:50 pm
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Chet Walker, a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame who starred on the Chicago Bulls teams from 1969 to 1975, said he still can't understand why his former Bradley teammate Tim Robinson didn't make it to the NBA.
"Tim was a great player. He had all the talent that you could ask for in a young player. He had enough talent to go to the NBA," Walker said. "He was agile, could run the court, rebound and shoot. He had all the talent. I don't know why he didn't go to the NBA. He had the talent to be a star."
Robinson, a 6-foot-5 All-State forward from Crane, and Du Sable's Mack Herndon were recruited by celebrated Bradley coach Chuck Orsborn after graduating from high school in 1959. Because of NCAA rules, they couldn't play as freshmen. But they started with Walker on Bradley's 1960-61 team.
James Tim Robinson, who later played for six years with the Harlem Globetrotters, died last Wednesday after a long illness. He was 72.
In the 1950s, Crane's Tim Robinson was one of the icons of city basketball, along with St. Elizabeth's Arthur Hicks, Du Sable's Paxton Lumpkin and Charlie Brown, Marshall's Art Day and George Wilson, Dunbar's Mel Davis and Bernie Mills, Parker's Tom Hawkins and Wells' Frank Burks.
"I considered Tim one of my heroes at that time, he and Bernie Mills and Frank Burks," said Wilson, who led Marshall to state championships in 1958 and 1960. "He was a smooth player, shy but strong. He could jump and had a great jump shot."
Wilson, Robinson, Mills, Burks and other standouts of that era played regularly in the summer league at Marillac House at California and Jackson and at the 39th Street Park.
In 1959, Wilson's Marshall team beat Robinson and Crane 61-58 for the Public League title. As a sophomore in 1957, Robinson started on a Crane team that defeated Marshall 66-61 for the city title, then lost to Evanston in the supersectional.
"I got to know Tim, not just as a basketball player," Wilson said. "As you come through life, you meet special people and he was a special person in my life, in sports and life."
Chicagoan Ernie Jones, who played with Robinson on the Globetrotters for two years, recalled that his teammates used to refer to Tim as "Tim the Rim" for his jumping ability. Robinson, Meadowlark Lemon, Tex Harrison, Murphy Sammons and another Chicago native, Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton from Du Sable, spent a lot of time together on globe-trotting trips.
"Playing with the Globetrotters was a different thing," Jones said. "When it came to serious basketball, Tim played very well. At the end of the year, they selected players to play against the College All-Stars. Tim was one of those who was selected. He could play today. He was very versatile and a great athlete. And he was very much a gentleman."
Dr. Conrad Worrill, a longtime friend, still recalls how Robinson's Crane team defeated his Hyde Park team 60-59 in the 1957 Public League semifinals. "It was Marshall and Crane and Dunbar and Du Sable at that time, the most dominant teams in the city," he said.
"Tim was a gifted athlete. He played all positions in high school. He was the forerunner to players like Simeon's Jabari Parker, tall guys who could play all positions. Tim played guard and forward at Crane. He could handle the ball, shoot and rebounds. He was phenomenal in all phases of the game."
Born in Mississippi, Robinson's family moved to Chicago when he was an infant. His college career was cut short after the 1960-61 season when he and Alphra Saunders from Dunbar were dismissed from Bradley in the wake of allegations of point-shaving.
Robinson was employed by the Department of Human Services for more than 20 years as a social service worker in Chicago. In later years, he became involved with his church, Liberty Temple Full Gospel Church, and was preparing to become a minister.
He is survived by Yvonne "Bonnie," his wife of 38 years, three children--Christy, Bryant and Raquel -- and seven grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. on Thursday at Golden Gate Funeral Home, 2036 W. 79th. Services will be conducted on Friday at Liberty Temple Full Gospel Church, 2233 W. 79th St. The wake will be at 10 a.m., the funeral at 11 a.m.