TODAY   |  April 19, 2010

First lady’s big brother on ‘Character’

Craig Robinson, brother of first lady Michelle Obama, discusses his book “A Game of Character” and recalls sizing up Barack Obama during a game of basketball when he was dating his sister.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> craig robinson . first this is "today" on nbc .

>>> we are back now. 8:37, with the big brother of the first lady, michelle obama . craig robinson is the head coach of oregon state university 's men's bask ball team. he also had the honor of introducing his sister to the world at the 2008 democratic national convention .

>> they'll stand by you, the american people , now and in the future. so, please join me in welcoming an impassioned public servant, a loving daughter , wife and mother , my little sister and our nation's next first lady, michelle obama .

>> craig robinson has now written a new memoir called "the game of character." good to see you. good morning.

>> good morning.

>> that had to be a freak-out moment. standing in front of that convention, introducing your sister.

>> matt, it was a freak-out moment. i was so honored and so grateful to have been asked. i actually thought that they should have asked someone other than a basketball coach, but they thought i would do a decent job.

>> you hung in there. you did a really good job. this, i want people to know about this book. this is not a tell all. if they're looking for dirt on the first family , they've got the wrong book here. even so, based on the fact that this is all pretty wholesome stuff, do you have to ask permission of the white house when you set out to write a book like this?

>> well, i did ask permission. "a game of character" is a book that i've been dying to write even before my family got to the stage they were at. i thought about what makes people memorable, whether they're a tv host , a coach, a leader.

>> politician, yeah.

>> a parent. and it all boils down to character. and a game of character is -- it's a love letter to my parents.

>> yeah. one thing that struck me, craig, you know the expression you can't choose your parents? if you could choose, you probably would have chosen frazier and marion.

>> absolutely.

>> you had great parents.

>> i had great parents and they taught it resonates in the board room , on the basketball court , on the playing field and at the dinner table.

>> you write lovingly in the book about your dad, who was kind of like the philospher in chief. he said you learn a lot about a guy watching him play basketball or play basketball with him. you got to put that to test when michelle introduce the family to a man named barack obama .

>> exactly. michelle said you've met this guy i've been dating and it's getting serious. would you mind, since you and dad think you can tell a guy's personality based on how he plays, take him to play ball with you. i was like, you don't want me to take him to play ball . i didn't want that pressure because i liked him and i didn't want to be the one who says this guy is a bad guy . lo and behold, it all worked out just as my dad said it would.

>> you also write something at that time. when your family met barack, you thought it was the kind of guy your sister wouldn't run over , but your mom and dad , after meeting him, felt she would eat him alive. was she tough on guys?

>> she didn't suffer many fools. so, you know, she's -- i wouldn't say she's -- she was overly tough. she was just discerning. and it would take a strong person to be able to relate to my sister.

>> you talk about the fact that growing up -- you were a stand-out basketball player in high school and in college and there was, for a long period of time in your family , it was michelle who was proud to be craig robinson 's little sister .

>> right.

>> and now, in many ways -- although, you're doing very well -- the shoe is on the other foot. and how do you like it?

>> i love it, as a matter of fact . and she spent so many years coming behind me, whether it was sports, school -- we went to the same grammar school together. she was always craig robinson 's little sister . i tell you, being michelle obama 's big brother is a real treat and not just because she's the first lady. she's just -- she's turned into a wonderful person and that's why she's one of the people of character who have really moved me in my life, albeit being a little sister .

>> having the opportunity to live in the white house is a huge honor. it's a huge honor. it comes with a downside too. enormous scrutiny. critics are everywhere. it's hard to have a normal life . are you at all worried for your sister and their little girls about how this might impact them?

>> no. you know, i think that my sister and brother -in-law are doing a great job at trying to give their life some normalcy outside of the obvious. so, i don't worry about them from that standpoint at all. you know, what i worry about is that the cousins see each other enough times, but that would be something you would worry about if they were still in chicago and we were out in oregon.

>> most commuting families and widespread families worry about that anyway. great to see you, coach.

>> thanks for having me.

>> good luck with the book.

>> thank you.

>> the book is called "the game of character."

>>> rise and fall , a strange