As I write this the San Antonio Spurs lead the New
Jersey Nets two games to one in the NBA championship finals. By the
end of the week the series may be over, and with it the career of
Spurs center David Robinson.
Not “Dave,” mind you; it is David, though he’ll tolerate
I don’t often write about professional sports, ripe
though it is with examples of modern values in action – mostly bad.
Even in the good old days sports figures were largely overblown as
role models, propped up by willing media and a self-serving
understanding by athletes that scandal was bad for the career.
Neither is true today. Bad boys get good press unless
they cross over to a Dennis Rodman-like nether world, a dark
province Rodman pretty much has to himself. Even a legend in the
making like the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa is more firmly planted on
his pedestal than ever after getting caught with a corked bat and a
lame excuse. Once he’d have been booed off the field; today he gets
And then there is Robinson, who could sell baby seals
for Saddam Hussein’s dinner table and still be a better man than
most in sports, or anywhere else for that matter.
“The Admiral” will retire after this year’s NBA finals
at age 37. After playing exactly one season of high school
basketball, Robinson entered the United States Naval Academy where
he grew seven inches and became a basketball phenomenon. The Spurs
used the number one pick of the 1987 draft to sign him after he
graduated with a degree in mathematics, then waited two years for
him to fulfill his commitment to the Navy. Robinson served
honorably, resisting any urge he might have felt to whine or sue his
way to NBA millions early.
His career guarantees a greased highway to the
Basketball Hall of Fame: 1990 Rookie of the Year, 1995 League Most
Valuable Player, 10 years on the NBA All-Star team, two Olympic
gold medals and a bronze, the Spurs’ 1999 NBA championship, and so many
individual awards this column would be moved to the sports page if I
tried to list them.
None of this makes a man. There are plenty of wealthy,
accomplished professional athletes you wouldn’t want living next
door, but Robinson isn’t one of them. He and his wife founded the
faith-based David Robinson Foundation in 1992 to help with the
physical and spiritual needs of San Antonio’s families. The
Robinsons also donated $11 million to help found The Carver Academy,
a private school for underprivileged children stressing quality
academics and Judeo-Christian values.
Robinson, an assistant pastor at the church his family
attends while on Hawaiian vacations, is considering attending
medical school after basketball. It’s a safe bet he won’t be doing
it for the money.
The only gripe I have with David Robinson is the Spurs’
elimination of the Dallas Mavericks from this year’s finals, which
remains my second favorite team despite bumping off my beloved
Sacramento Kings. At least Robinson and crew did the same for that
squad from Los Angeles, which is known in my home as “They whose
name must not be spoken.”
In a profession where tattooed, foul-mouthed scofflaws
get most of the attention, the rap on David Robinson is that he’s
“too nice” and not tough enough on the court. While the latter
might be argued by the poor chumps who’ve had to guard him, the
Admiral might take issue with the former.
The website for the magazine “Philanthropy in Texas”
quotes him: “Jesus Christ, as my exemplar, reached out to people in
His community who had need. I want to show my love of God.”
Some will scoff, but he can handle it. David Robinson
would be a big man if he were 5 feet tall.