In her younger years, Michelle Obama often felt like she was in the shadow of her athletic older brother, Craig Robinson, who was a star basketball forward at Princeton in the early 1980s. When she followed him there, she became known as “Craig’s little sis.”

Craig Robinson And Sister Michelle Obama On Their Childhood Games

Now, as first lady, Michelle Obama has become the superstar. She and her brother, who coached the Oregon State Beavers men’s basketball team from 2008-2014 and now serves as an ESPN basketball analyst, reunited for a forum on youth sports at the Aspen Institute’s 2016 Project Play Summit at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. The summit was moderated by ESPN host Michael Wilbon.

“We used to play everything, and it started with playing catch in the house,” Robinson said at Tuesday’s forum.

“And it was a little house,” Mrs. Obama interjected, smiling at her brother, who worked as a bond trader in the 1990s prior to becoming a college basketball coach.


A week of sports news in your in-box.
We find the sports news you need to know, so you don't have to.

The two siblings then continued, discussing the many games and sports in particular that represented such a strong facet of their childhood.

“We used to play Nerf basketball in the living room with a Nerf basketball and a lampshade,” Robinson told the audience of advocates and organizers for youth sports. “My mom’s here. You remember we almost burned the house down because we left a ball in the lamp and somebody turned the lamp on and my mother was like, ‘What’s that I smell? Is something burning.’ We looked at each other like. . . it’s the Nerf ball.”

The first lady couldn’t help but laugh at the memory, as did her mother, Marian Robinson, who sat in the front row.

When “Miche,” as Robinson calls her, began dating Barack Obama, she asked her brother to play basketball with her beau and return to her with his opinion. “He’s very confident without being cocky,” Robinson told his sister, according to his 2010 memoir, Game of Character. “He had passed the test with a definitive thumbs up on his playing and his character.”

The first lady has become known for her near-daily exercise routine. Robinson also added that his daughter, Leslie, plays basketball at Princeton. Michelle Obama teased that her older brother had dropped down to at least third place in terms of the best athletes in the family — or possibly seventh, behind his four kids.

The two siblings also called for corporations to support activities and an infrastructure that would make it possible for more children to become physically active regardless of their economic circumstances.

Robinson’s older children, Leslie and Avery, have travelled abroad with their aunt, including a visit to South Africa where they met the late anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela. 

Although they both jumped from working class to a higher social strata, Robinson and Obama both seemed to look back nostalgically on their shared childhood. All of their children are involved in some type of organized sport.

“We would play all day long. I mean, you would be rushing down your breakfast to go out,” Obama recounted. “We played this game that the kids in the neighborhood just called ‘chase.’ I don’t even know if there was a point to it. You were just being chased — you know.”

“Oh yeah,” Robinson said. “I remember that.”

PHOTO: LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 02: Head coach Craig Robinson of the Oregon State Beavers reacts to play from his team during the first half against the UCLA Bruins at Pauley Pavilion on March 2, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Read more about:

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

Listen to the uInterview Podcast!
Get the most-revealing celebrity conversations with the uInterview podcast!