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“You could gamble on defense, because you knew 'The Admiral' was back there” — Vinny Del Negro on playing with David Robinson

Stars fill out the stat sheet. Superstars make their teammates better while doing so.
San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson and guard Vinny Del Negro

David Robinson and Vinny Del Negro

Many NBA stars could be dominant, but not all of them could single-handedly lead a team. We’ve seen a lot of exceptional players over the years that could light up the box score night after night but wouldn't make their team and teammates better. If we are to ask former San Antonio Spurs guard Vinny Del Negro, David Robinson was never on that list.

Playing D was easy

Del Negro spent six seasons with the Spurs. It was in San Antonio where he played the best basketball of his career, specifically from 1994-1997. The former NC State guard posted 13.1 points per game in those three consecutive years. But unlike other players hitting their stride, Del Negro didn’t feel he needed to push himself to the limit regularly, as Robinson was doing it all on both ends of the floor for the Spurs.

In fact, Del Negro confessed that there were times when he didn’t play his best defense because he kind of got used to “The Admiral” stopping every player from the opposing team. And if necessary, Del Negro said Robinson would also clean up their mess on the defensive end.

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For Vinny, that was one of the many perks of playing with an all-around player like Robinson.

I was fortunate to be his teammate in the prime of his career,” Del Negro said of Robinson in 2009 via Masslive. “You could gamble on defense, because you knew ‘The Admiral’ was back there to help.

The Admiral was unique

Indeed, Robinson was a beast during his prime. Aside from being a perennial All-Star, “The Admiral” also had at least one scoring champion, rebound champion, and blocks champion season, respectively. He won the MVP award and the Defensive Player of the Year Award once, but we can all agree that if it wasn’t for the Patrick Ewings, Hakeem Olajuwons, and Shaquille O’Neals, Robinson could’ve copped more accolades to his name. But for Del Negro, Robinson’s unique arsenal always put him on top of his peers.

David was not as physical as Patrick Ewing or Hakeem Olajuwon. He was different than Tim Duncan in that he was not a pure post-up player,” Del Negro assessed. ”But he had great athleticism, and he was most effective at the elbow (of the foul lane), where he could put the ball on the floor and drive past people.

In 1998, Del Negro left the Spurs for the Milwaukee Bucks. It was unfortunate because in 1999, Robinson and the Spurs won the chip. Nevertheless, Vinny is forever grateful for having played alongside one of the best all-around players of all time.

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