Today's column is dedicated to my favorite athlete of all-time. It was announced on Monday that David Robinson was elected to the National Basketball Hall of Fame.
In my opinion there is no player more deserving of this honor than David Robinson. David's on court success is the story of a true NBA legend and his life off the court makes him a role model for everyone. In a game dominated by all kinds of personalities, David Robinson set the standard for what it means to be a great player, father, husband, man of morals and someone who cares about his community and others.
I remember watching David in college while he played at Navy. I knew he was a special player as I watched his clips each night on Sportscenter. My first exposure to David's greatness came on January 25, 1987. David brought his Navy team into Rupp Arena in Lexington to take on the Kentucky Wildcats. I was and still am a true blue Kentucky fan and the Cats were well known for defending their home floor at Rupp Arena. David came into the Cats' house that day and scored 45 points, leading his Midshipmen to a 80-69 victory over the Cats. This was and still is the greatest scoring effort in Rupp Arena history. As I watched David's performance, I knew he was going to be a special player and he gained a fan that day.
I continued to follow David for the rest of his collegiate career. As I watched him play, I also became aware of what type of person he was. When David's Navy career was over, he was going to be facing a commitment to them that would delay his ability to enter the NBA and begin his career. David faced that commitment with honor and spent two years serving his country before beginning his NBA career.
The San Antonio Spurs defied the odds and were the owners of the first pick in the 1987 NBA Draft. The Spurs were coming off a terrible season and needed help badly. With the first pick, they chose Robinson. This was a somewhat risky move as David would have to serve two years in the Navy before he would be able to play for the Spurs and provide them with the help they needed. I remember watching the draft that day, following the journey of this player I had grown so fond of. Though I lived several thousand miles away from San Antonio and really knew little about the team at the time, I immediately gained an interest in this small market team from Texas. David's arrival likely saved the team from moving out of San Antonio and would signal the beginning of one of the great periods of franchise success ever.
As a teenager who loved the NBA, I wanted to connect with my heroes, so I sent a letter to David to let him know how much I enjoyed his basketball abilities and to congratulate him for joining the Spurs. What happened next cemented my love for David Robinson and the Spurs organization. Several weeks after sending the letter to the Spurs and David, I received a package in the mail. Inside the package was a treasure chest of items. Even though he was not even playing for the Spurs yet, he took the time to write me a personal letter thanking me for sharing my thoughts with him. In addition, he had signed the cards I put in the letter and also sent me an autographed 8x10. In addition to the items David put in the package, the Spurs included a copy of thier media guide for that season and some old ABA playoff tickets. This went over and above anything I had expected and David and the Spurs earned a fan for life.
The other thing that made David my favorite player was the type of person he has been off the court. I am as much of a fan, if not more, of David the man. I am so appreciative of David's service to his country, his devotion to his wife and family, and his moral leadership. David's commitment to his community and his dedication to making the lives of others better is one of the biggest reasons to be a fan of this great individual. Each time I was able to see David play, I always commented on how he stood perfectly still and at attention during the National Anthem. While others would look around, fidget, chew gum and slouch, you could always count on David to be standing there at attention showing the proper respect to his country and flag.
David's career numbers speak for themselves:
- NBA Champion (1999, 2003)
- NBA MVP (1995)
- NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1992)
- NBA Rookie of the Year (1990)
- All-NBA First Team (1991, '92, '95, '96)
- All-NBA Second Team (1994, '98)
- All-NBA Third Team (1990, '93, 2000, '01)
- All-Defensive First Team (1991, '92, '95, '96)
- All-Defensive Second Team (1990, '93, '94, '98)
- 10-time NBA All-Star
- Only player in NBA history to win the Rebounding, Blocked Shots, and Scoring Titles and Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and MVP
- One of only four players to have recorded a quadruple-double
- NBA Sportsmanship Award (2001)
- Third player in NBA history to rank among the league's top 10 in five categories in one season (7th in scoring (23.2 ppg), 4th in rebounding (12.2 rpg), 1st in blocks (4.49 per game), 5th in steals (2.32 per game) and 7th in field-goal percentage (.551))
- First player in NBA history to rank among the top five in rebounding, blocks and steals (per game) in a single season
- Fourth player ever to score 70+ in an NBA game
- 3-time Olympian (1988, '92, '96)
- One of 50 Greatest Players in NBA History (1996)
- Led NBA in Scoring (1993–94 season) - 29.8 ppg
- Led NBA in Rebounding (1990–91 season) - 13.0 rpg
- Led NBA in Blocked Shots (1991–92 season) - 4.49 bpg
- Holds record for most IBM Awards (1990, '91, '94, '95, '96)
- His 10,497 rebounds and 2,954 blocked shots are the most by any player wearing a San Antonio Spurs jersey, and his 20,790 points are second most only to George Gervin's 23,602.
- Gold Medal in 1986 FIBA World Championship.
- Member of Dream Team #1 during Olympic Games at Barcelona.
As the 1999 season unfolded, I started to feel that David finally had a chance to take his team to their first NBA Championship. With the addition of Tim Duncan, David and the Spurs finally had the talent they needed to give David the one career achievement he did not have on his resume'. I still remember the great feeling I had when the Spurs defeated the Knicks and David was able to finally hoist the Larry O'brien trophy over his head. I will never forget Avery Johnson's comments about how glad he was to see his friend finally achieve this great success.
David's great career came to and end in 2003, winning his second NBA Championship with the Spurs. In what I consider to be my favorite basketball image of all-time, David walked off the court for the last time holding the NBA trophy and leaving the court for good as a champion. I have that photo framed on my wall and I always get a smile each time I look at it. What a fitting end to one of the greatest NBA careers of all-time.
I can't wait to see David inducted into the Hall of Fame. This will again be a perfect ending to his outstanding career. We should all take time to appreciate what David did on the court, and look at the example he set off the court. There will likely never be a player like David Robinson again. David Robinson is a champion on the basketball court and also a champion in the game of life and we should all take this time to reflect on the time we got to spend with him on his journey.