The rest of the country got a fluorescent eyeful of Robinson during last month's All-Star weekend in Phoenix. In a stroke of sports-marketing genius, Robinson performed in the dunk contest clad in radioactive shades of green—shoes, elbow sleeve—along with the uniform the Knicks wear when they play on St. Patrick's Day. Krypto-Nate was intended to counteract Magic center Dwight Howard, the self-styled Superman who was the event's defending champ. (Robinson had won in 2006.) With the 6'11" Howard, who had donned a cape, gamely playing along, Robinson, who can't come close to palming the ball, vaulted over Superman for the clinching dunk.
Robinson returned to New York with an enlarged profile. The roar of the Garden crowd thickens when he enters the game. If the city has embraced Robinson, he hugs back. "Playing here is the best," he says. Nevertheless, he could have a limited number of nights left in his Manhattan run. Along with power forward David Lee, Robinson will be a restricted free agent after this season. Paying big money to keep both players could undercut the Knicks' chances of signing a bona fide star (James, LeBron) in the 2010 off-season. Lee, New York's most reliable player, is a good bet to re-sign. Multiple league executives predict that a small-market team such as Memphis or Oklahoma City will be willing to overpay for Robinson, who can not only score points but also draw fans.
Robinson knows the reality. But he reckons his best move is to make himself indispensable with his play for the rest of this season. Height be damned. "Being 5'9", I wouldn't have it no other way," he says. "Guys on the team are like, 'How good would you be if you were 6'8"?' But then I wouldn't be who I am." Then, he turns uncharacteristically serious. "It's like Charles Darwin's theory: survival of the fittest. I survive. If I were on Lost, I'd be the last man standing. You know that, right?"