A Game of Character: A Family Journey

A Game of Character: A Family Journey


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



For many years the role of family historian—the “keeper of the family lore” as Craig puts it—had

 belonged to his father, my late husband, Fraser Robinson. Without Fraser here to keep those

stories alive, they were in danger of becoming lost and Craig was determined not to let them go . . .



A Game of Character: A Family Journey

from Chicago’s Southside to the Ivy League and Beyond

By Craig Robinson

Book Review by Kam Williams

A fundamental teaching my parents always emphasized [was] that life happens to you, putting choices in your path that offer an abundance of opportunities as well as challenges, and that the best choices are usually the ones that require courage… Really, that’s what inspired me to write A Game of Character—not only to share what I’ve learned, but also to help reclaim the value of character that I believe is as intrinsic to basketball as it is to life. What’s more, as the pages ahead will elaborate, true character is a quality that can be found everywhere and anywhere, in some of the least likely places—including the Southside of Chicago.—from the Preface (pg. xxvi) 

For most of her life, Michelle Robinson lived in the shadow of her older brother, Craig, both literally and figuratively. After all, not only did he always tower over and protect her from neighborhood bullies as a child, but he was also even more of a standout later at their alma mater, Princeton University, where the 6’7” basketball phenom was twice voted the Ivy League Player of the Year.

As Craig reflects in this touching, intimate memoir, “Michelle was the head of my fan club… Being known as Craig Robinson’s little sister was a badge of honor that she wore well into our college years. Of course, later on the tables would turn and I would have the honor of being known as Michelle Obama’s big brother!” We all know that she went on to study law, marry Barack and become a cultural icon as the first African-American First Lady, but her overachieving sibling’s accomplishments are nonetheless noteworthy in their own right.  

Post Princeton, he went on to play professionally in Europe, before returning to the States to earn his MBA at the prestigious University of Chicago. Next, he would enjoy a meteoric rise up the corporate ladder to the rank of vice president at Morgan Stanley before following his passion and taking a huge pay cut to be an assistant college basketball coach. But his hard work and dedication led to the head coach position at Oregon State where he is still employed today.   

A Game of Character is mostly a heartfelt homage crediting Craig and Michelle’s parents, First Mother Marian Robinson and the late Fraser Robinson, III with making countless selfless sacrifices on behalf of their offspring while instilling them both with “fundamental values like love, discipline and respect.” What makes the book so compelling for this critic is that after reading so many unauthorized biographies about the Obamas by authors neither one seemed to have spoken with much if at all, we finally have a legit opus by a person who you tend to believe when he says he grew up sharing the same bedroom with his little sis who is now the First Lady. Sorry, nobody can question the cred of anyone that close to her.

And when you factor in that Chicago witnessed 40 gang-related shootings on the Southside over a recent weekend, the deteriorating state of affairs in the Windy City makes this uplifting success story about how a couple of kids miraculously made it out of that very same ‘hood all the more remarkable, refreshing and eminently worthwhile.  

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He helped elect a president.—The New York Times Craig’s understanding of character and his sound judgment for how to win on any court, clearly learned in the extraordinary household where he grew up, are unsurpassed. The lessons he shares in this book provide a playbook for success that can be applied by anyone. It’s been a joy to witness his remarkable journey.—Bill Carmody, Men’s Basketball Coach, Northwestern University For many years the role of family historian—the “keeper of the family lore” as Craig puts it—had belonged to his father, my late husband, Fraser Robinson. Without Fraser here to keep those stories alive, they were in danger of becoming lost and Craig was determined not to let them go, but instead to take up his father’s mantle of storyteller, motivator, and Philosopher-in-Chief. Craig has risen to the challenge with A Game of Character, a book that not only pays tribute to his parents (and to all parents, teachers, mentors, and coaches for that matter) but also honors a beautiful brother-sister relationship and all sibling, family, and community relationships.—Marian Robinson

The eagerly anticipated inspirational memoir from Michelle Obama’s brother, celebrating the extraordinary family members and mentors who have shaped his life When he stepped into history’s spotlight at the National Democratic Convention, Craig Robinson recalls that nothing could have been more gratifying than introducing his sister, Michelle Obama, to millions of Americans. Within minutes, he won the hearts of the nation by sharing highlights of growing up in the modest Robinson household, where the two were raised by devoted parents who taught them the values of education, hard work, and the importance of reaching far beyond what even seemed possible.

Those lessons of character were fundamentals in shaping Craig Robinson’s own remarkable journey: from his days playing street basketball on Chicago’s Southside, while excelling academically, to admission at Princeton University, where he was later named Ivy League Player of the Year, twice. After playing professionally in Europe, Robinson made an about-face, entering the competitive field of finance. With his MBA from the University of Chicago, his meteoric rise landed him a partnership in a promising new venture. But another dream beckoned and Craig made the unusual decision to forego the trappings of money and status in the business world in order to become a basketball coach.

Michele and Craig as children

He soon helped transform three struggling teams—as an assistant coach at Northwestern, then as head coach at Brown and now at Oregon State University. In his first season at OSU, he navigated what was declared to be one of the nation’s best single season turnarounds.

In A Game of Character, Robinson takes readers behind the scenes to meet his most important influences in his understanding of the winning traits that are part of his playbook for success. Central to his story are his parents, Marian and Fraser, two indefatigable individuals who showed their children how to believe in themselves and live their lives with conviction through love, discipline and respect.

With insights into this exemplary family, we relive memories of how Marian sacrificed a career to be a full-time mom, how Fraser got up and went to work every day while confronting the challenges of multiple sclerosis, how Craig and Michelle strengthened their bond as they journeyed out of the Southside to Princeton University and eventually, the national stage.

Heartwarming, inspiring, and even transformational, A Game of Character comes just at the right time in an era of change, reminding readers of our opportunity to work together and embrace the character of our nation, to make a difference in the lives of others and to pave the way for the next generation.—Publisher, Gotham


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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 19 May 2010



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