David Robinson spent an awful lot of time putting the ball in the basket -- for a defensive-minded player who once said scoring didn't interest him. He averaged 25.6 points his first seven seasons after joining the NBA in 1989 and won the scoring title in 1994.
Robinson also became one of four players in history with 70 points in an NBA game. His defense didn't suffer, either. He topped the league in blocked shots twice during that span and was named Defensive Player of the Year in 1992.
Early in his career, Robinson was a rebounding and shot-blocking terror who got most of his points on fastbreaks. Later, he refined his moves around the basket and began to hit perimeter jump shots consistently, thus clearing the middle for his quick drives.
Athletically, he had a big advantage over most centers. He's 7'1'' with a 33-inch waist and a body rippling with muscles. Robinson first gained acclaim at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he set NCAA records for blocked shots.
As a rookie with the San Antonio Spurs, "The Admiral" led the greatest one-season turnaround in NBA history, and in 1995 he won the league's Most Valuable Player Award. Yet his career seemed unfulfilled because he had never played in the NBA's championship round.
The Spurs, who finished two victories short of the NBA Finals in 1995, failed to advance past the Western Conference semifinals each season from 1990-1994. It was only the addition of fellow "Twin Tower," Tim Duncan that spelled change for Robinson and the Spurs, who won two NBA titles with the pair of seven-footers in the front court.
Robinson was born August 6, 1965, in Key West, Florida. Growing up in Virginia Beach, Virginia, he participated in tennis, golf, gymnastics, and baseball and dove headlong into such pursuits as music, science, and mathematics. His interest in basketball was minimal.
That changed his senior year, when he transferred to Osbourn High School in Manassas, Virginia, and was dragged onto the basketball team by the coach. Robinson played well and attracted interest from several colleges, but he had his heart set on the Naval Academy.
Because graduates were required to serve five years in the Navy after gaining their diploma, players with pro aspirations avoided the academy. Navy hadn't produced a first-team All-American since 1945 or played in the NCAA Tournament since 1960.
Robinson had All-American talent, but his laid-back approach to basketball frustrated coach Paul Evans. Robinson averaged 7.6 points as a freshman, practicing only when he had to.
The next season, however, he began to dominate, averaging 23.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 4.0 blocks. In exchange for his promise to stay at the academy, rather than transfer to a "basketball" school, he was told that his activity requirement would be reduced to two years.
After being named college Player of the Year in 1987, he was sent to Georgia to help supervise the building of a submarine base. Meanwhile, the Spurs drafted him, signed him to a $26-million contract, and waited.
Robinson's skills grew rusty during his two-year hiatus, and he was criticized for playing poorly at the 1988 Olympics, averaging 12.8 points. But his long-awaited NBA debut was brilliant: 23 points and 17 rebounds against the Los Angeles Lakers. "Some rookies are never really rookies," Magic Johnson said after the game. "Robinson's one of them."
From a 21-61 record the season before, the Spurs vaulted to 56-26 in 1989-1990. Robinson finished second in the league in rebounding, third in blocks, and 10th in scoring. He was named on every ballot for the Rookie of the Year Award. The following year, he led the NBA in rebounding.
Robinson's achievements in the 1990s were extraordinary. He was NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1991-1992, and his 71 points on the last day of the 1993-1994 season helped him edge Shaquille O'Neal for that year's scoring title. In 1996, he became the first male basketball player to play for three U.S. Olympic teams.
The Admiral retired on a high note in 2003, securing San Antonio's second championship in four seasons. His efforts in the pivot laid the foundation for the Spurs as the NBA's most formidable franchise in the 21st century, and come 2008, he's a lock for the Hall of Fame.
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