Tuesday, 9 August 2011
(Originally Published on SLAMonline (09/12/09))
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
(Part of our special 'HALL OF FAME' week)
Sometimes nice guys really do finish last. Overshadowed by other legendary centers of the 90s and, later in his career, his frontcourt partner Tim Duncan, David Robinson is about to claim his hard and well-earned place in the NBA’s Hall of Fame. Just his luck he’s about to enter it with a class that includes Michael Jordan. So with all eyes on MJ, let’s take a minute to propose a toast to the admiral.
admirable — worthy of admiration; excellent.
Ladies and gentleman let’s take a trip down memory lane to the golden 90s era of the NBA. An era belonging to the greatest player to ever lace them up. Redefining the game and bringing it to the world’s stage. That player is not being talked about here. Mike’s getting his due on SLAMonline, but the Golden Age wasn’t great just because of Air.
The 90s was also bought (for now at least) the era of the last great, true centers of the National Basketball Association. There was Shaquille O’Neal coming into his prime, larger than life on and off the court and the most dominant a center the League has seen since Wilt Chamberlain. There was also Hakeem Olajuwon who shook defenders and crowds wherever he went on the way to two championships with the Houston Rockets. Who could forget Patrick Ewing playing on basketball’s biggest stage at Madison Square Garden? Carrying the city of New York on his back. With all his blood, plenty of sweat and tears. How about Alonzo Mourning? One of the toughest, resilient players to ever do battle in the paint. Not to mention Dikembe Mutombo, finger-wagging his way to being one of the leading defensive players of all-time. These players are not being talked about either, however; the player being talked about right now is someone who deserves the spotlight as much as the aforementioned, Mr. David Robinson.
Shaq may have four championship rings to his name but he had to go through Robinson’s San Antonio Spurs after many years of frustration for his first. Hakeem may have dominated David in the 1995 Western Conference Finals but the ‘Admiral’ retired with as many championships as the ‘Dream.’ Patrick Ewing may have been at the center of New York’s metropolis for many seasons, but DRob made San Antonio his permanent home. As for Deke and Zo they’ve worked hard on and off the court in the same vein as David Robinson, going those extra million miles for people in need. They may not have been as dominate as David on the court but they knew how to be the consummate professional athlete, like Robinson. So these other high-profile, imposing centers may have overshadowed the gentleman sportsman in David Robinson, but how many of these centers bettered David’s career high 71 points? That’s right — none of them. Now that’s dominant.
So how come is it that when the legends of the game are discussed this man is more of an afterthought? An afterthought in the sense that although he is always considered, he’s never championed in the way he should be. Sometimes fans casually forget this man. How is a player like this forgotten? A dominant, yet different type of center. A big man, built but slender. A guy strong enough to push around opponents in the paint before his trademark two-handed flushes all while looking like he could play the forward or even run track.
A player who despite playing in a decade full of legendary centers still claimed his place and then made it his home. How can a guy who even had a Sega game named after him be forgotten? The same player who featured in many bizarre Nike Air commercials, promoting his popular, classic sneakers. It could be because nice guys really do finish last and guys who are a bit rough around the edges are more interesting. Players, who had a love-hate relationship with their fans like Patrick Ewing and the play hard or go home faithful of Madison Square Garden are to some much more captivating. It could even be simply because that high top fade was so 80s (we see you Carlton Banks!).
How can one half of the ‘Twin Towers’ be forgotten? A duo that caused so many problems for Shaq and Kobe’s Lakers before the Lake Show obtained that elusive first ring? It could be due to Tim Duncan being the difference maker between San An’s contender and championship status. In the NBA, however, it takes two like Marvin and Tammi said. The pair of big men couldn’t do it on their own. They needed each other to win a ring. Even in the post-Admiral days, Tim at his most stoic and dominant needed Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and a great team to get championships every other year. These towers had more than one foundation. If Tim Duncan is a top 10 player of all-time, then David isn’t far behind.
With that being said, how come No. 50 San Antonio jerseys are not seen everywhere outside of Texas? It could be because Shaq and Kobe were a more intriguing partnership than Timmy and Dave. This could be because of the exciting way the most dominant ever and the potential heir to the G.O.A.T throne played the game. It could even be because of their personalities for better or worse. Shaq’s candid interviews or Kobe’s Miles Davis cool or their high-profile, headline-producing, attention-grabbing feud. Now the twin peaks never had any problems with each other. The nothing but business approach of two perfect role models didn’t get much press but it produced W’s.
Look at how well David and Tim played off each other from day one. Recovering each others mistakes, looking out for each other, being an unstoppable force on the offensive end and an immovable force on the defensive end. Two dominant big men in the same frontcourt, scary right? Taking nothing away from Shaq and Kobe, Tim and David didn’t need much time to claim their first ring, lockout or no lockout, asterisk or no asterisk. Even if that championship is discredited just do the research on the Spurs second championship. No more questions.
Basketball is one of those sports. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from or what your circumstances are because once someone’s on the court they better show and prove. A lot of star players in the NBA had their problems on the court and a lot of players had their fair share of problems off the court too. To some fans, though, as long as a player’s playing great — throwing down dunks and breaking ankles — it doesn’t matter if he’s throwing elbows and breaking laws off the court. Is the League not tiring of this? A true athlete should work hard to be a role model both on and off the court. Take a look at David Robinson’s career. He has done exactly that. His name comes with many accolades for his on court efforts and many philanthropic efforts. Now that’s a true legend.
From the very start of his basketball career David treated the game and everything outside the game with the dignity and respect of a true gentleman. Right from the beginning, DRob was All-American in more ways then one. Even selecting his No. 50 after his idol Ralph Sampson showed respect for a similar player that came before him. After being honorably discharged by the Navy after a prestigious college basketball and military career (which included the Naismith and Wooden basketball awards and the Naval Academies Senior First Class men merit) DRob began his 14-year duty in San Antonio.
Take a look through his storied career and the list of achievements on court stretch as wide as his generosity off it. Rookie of the Year in the first year of the 90s, scoring champion in 1993, countless First Team All-NBAs, First Team All-Defensive teams and All-Star honors. Defensive Player of the Year in ’92, a league MVP in ’95, and two-time NBA Champion. Should David’s worth still be doubted? DRob recorded a quadruple-double, which only three other players have ever done. A leader in scoring, rebounding and blocks and five-time winner of the IBM Award, which measures overall contributions to a team’s overall success. A three-time Olympian, including being part of ‘that’ 1992 Dream Team that woke the world up to basketball in Barcelona. Need more be said?
There is a reason Robinson is about to be elected into the Hall of Fame and why he’s already in the elite company of the NBA’s greatest all-time players. So what’s the reason the Admiral isn’t in the forefront of everybody’s mind when they look back at the legends of the game? David Robinson is one of the best role models off the court that the NBA has ever been lucky enough to have. This dignity, generosity and professionalism extend more than the sportsmanship award he received in 2001. It even extends further than the exclusive honor of having the NBA’s Community Assist Award renamed after him. The recipients receiving a plaque created in Robinson’s honor and the great standards he’s set in the community. Is there anyone better the award could be named after? A guy who founded a school, funded scholarships and has been in as many ads promoting the right path as sneaker ads. So the next time someone jumps around idolizing their favorite player, walking his walk, talking is talk, they should think of the admiral. He really is the man.
Nothing can be taken from the other legendary centers of the 90s or the center piece of this year’s Hall of Fame, Michael Jordan. They are all well deserving of their achievements and accolades. But you can not take away anything from the legend and the gentleman, David Robinson. So ladies and gentleman, raise your glasses one time and give a hand for the Admiral.