"Jon Robinson had everything — looks, voice, charisma," a colleague said of the former Maryland hoopster, drive-time radio host, television anchor, Carolina Panthers public address announcer and, all along, cocaine and heroin addict.
That last part he admitted in a sprawling story in Sunday's Charlotte Observer, which detailed a public life quietly overrun by the worst kind of private demons:
• The man who trained him to play basketball molested him until Robinson was 15.
• By the age of 18, Robinson was free-basing cocaine, and at Maryland, where he won a full scholarship to play basketball, he started using heroin. Robinson was a reserve for Lefty Driesell from 1979 to 1982, and he scored 50 points in 39 minutes over four years, leaving the year before Len Bias arrived in College Park.
• His wife gave birth in 1994, and Robinson started attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings. It didn't last long, and when the marriage was over, Robinson "started a relationship with a stripper, smoked crack in his garage and told his wife he didn't love her."
• In 1997, he moved from radio to television, and in 2004, from Charlotte to Charleston. A short story in The (Charleston) Post and Courier, upon Robinson's arrival, quoted the new anchor as saying he was going to cut down on his competitive basketball habit to avoid getting hurt. He continued to serve as the voice of the Carolina Panthers — a job he held from the team's expansion until this season — and his dual employment led to a 2,400-word profile in The Post and Courier in 2005. Robinson didn't mention his scarring youth or the fact that one night, between the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. news, he smoked crack, and no one noticed.
• Robinson was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in 2008, forcing him to undergo chemotherapy and radiation. He said he craved crack throughout. His second wife, with whom he had a new baby, left him soon after and slapped him with a restraining order. He was arrested and jailed for two days in October for violating the restraining order by calling and texting his ex-wife. It was a Friday. On Sunday, he didn't show up for work at Bank of America Stadium.
What made Robinson unburden his soul? "Only reason I'm doing this is so people will know," he said. "I don't want to be a fraud anymore. I want people to know what I am." He recently emptied the last savings from his bank account, some of which went to paying off a drug debt. His home is in foreclosure, and he's ready to move into a homeless shelter. Even Robinson admits that this doesn't have the type of happy ending that would make everyone around him feel all warm and fuzzy — at least not yet, and maybe not ever. Not all stories do.
Former media star reveals dark life [Charlotte Observer]
The man in Jon Robinson's nightmares [Charlotte Observer]
Crack-Smoking TV Newsman Indistinguishable From Colleagues [Gawker]