Very few people will ever know the actual feeling of going to the line in front of a packed Kingdome crowd and sinking two free throws under the greatest of pressures. It’s not because Seattle’s Kingdome has gone by the waste side – replaced with Safeco Field and Qwest Field. Every basketball-loving fan has also made an attempt at matching greatness, imaging the crowd and the pressure before releasing each shot. In the 1989 NCAA Basketball Championship Game, Michigan’s Rumeal Robinson sunk two free throws with :03 left in overtime to lift Michigan over Seton Hall. Now, more than 20 years later, Robinson has accomplished a different, unique fate – he was found guilty on 11 fraud charges.
Robinson’s sad story joins a host of other former Wolverine basketball players that have found trouble with the law. He turned one shining moment into a seven year NBA career that took him to stops in Atlanta, New Jersey, Charlotte, Portland, Phoenix and Los Angeles. It was also only one year and a half ago when he joined his fellow 1989 champions at Crisler Arena for a 20 year recognition of their famed run through the tournament. Even following being recognized at the event as a real-estate developer, it can be argued that this appearance began his downfall that brought his entire family into financial troubles.
The Michigan story does not end with Robinson’s latest conviction. The University remains unable to fully embrace the entire 1989 team since the coach (Steve Fisher) has been black listed by the school. The Fab Five class that followed not long later have had their records removed and their name tarnished by shady booster deals. The classes that followed with limited success were also cut under an NCAA violation umbrella, a label that still impacts the Wolverines to this day.
Rumeal Robinson may have made some of the biggest free throws in NCAA history, but his actions at the courthouse may truly define his legacy.