Robinson, David

▪ 2000

      Pegged for much of his National Basketball Association (NBA) career as a player who was “soft” and unable to win big games, American basketball player David Robinson completed a 10-year campaign for respect in 1999. His San Antonio Spurs defeated the New York Knicks four games to one in the league finals, bringing San Antonio its first NBA title and silencing the critics who complained that the 2.16-m (7-ft 1-in), 113.4-kg (250-lb) centre played more like a small forward. Whereas most players his size were expected to maintain an aggressive, menacing presence on the court, Robinson's style was based on agility and grace. Accompanied by teammates who played a more physical game—most notably second-year standout power forward Tim Duncan—Robinson was able to fully utilize his talent and win a championship.

      Robinson was born on Aug. 6, 1965, in Key West, Fla. He played basketball at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md., leading the academy team to the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament in 1985, 1986, and 1987. Although Robinson proved himself one of the best collegiate players in the nation, some observers considered it a gamble when the Spurs chose him with the first pick of the 1987 NBA draft, since he had to serve two years of active duty in the U.S. Navy after graduation—time when he would not play for the Spurs or play regularly against top-flight competition.

      After serving his navy hitch as a civil-engineering officer, Robinson joined the Spurs in 1989. He quickly established himself as one of the best centres in the NBA, averaging 24.3 points, 12 rebounds, and 3.9 blocked shots per game during his rookie season as he helped the Spurs win 35 more games than they had during the previous season—at the time the best one-year improvement in league history. The following season Robinson continued to play extremely well, making the All-NBA first team and the All-NBA defensive first team and finishing third in the balloting for the league's most valuable player. The Spurs made an early exit from the play-offs, however, something that would happen all too often during Robinson's career.

      At the beginning of the 1998–99 season, Robinson could boast of a career that included such honours as Rookie of the Year (1989–90), NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1991–92), Most Valuable Player (1994–95), a place on the league's official list of the 50 greatest players in NBA history, eight appearances in the NBA All-Star game, and two Olympic gold medals. He was regarded, however, as a great player who could not win a championship. That changed forever in 1999 as Robinson's Spurs roared through the NBA play-offs, compiling an impressive 15–2 postseason record.

Anthony G. Craine

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Universalium. 2010.

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