The Spurs #1 overall pick, 7’1” center David Robinson, wasn’t present in MSG and was thus unavailable for the traditional handshake with NBA Commissioner David Stern. At the time of the 1987 NBA draft, Robinson was having breakfast in Washington, D.C., with the U.S. Vice President – future U.S. President George H.W. Bush!
“I would really like to play pros, that’s one of my main goals right now. I am trying to approach the game in a way that not to get too caught up in it. That way, you know, I feel like I’ll work on it and it will be fun, and I will enjoy it. And that’s pretty much what’s happened up to the point where I really enjoy it!”David Robinson, CBS
Robinson, who enlisted in the Naval Academy at 6’6” and weighing in at just 175 pounds, would grow another 7 inches and gain 60 pounds during his four-year tenure with the Navy! It was during that time that he also matured as a basketball player and became the dominant inside force.
On the defensive end, his incredible athleticism and massive frame helped him become a dominant shot-blocker and rebounder. On offense, he had developed a nice jump-shot and a hook. Robinson would frequently go after his, or his teammates missed shot and turned it to a spectacular put-back dunk!
“I will say one thing about this young man – he is a kind of player that can make a team a winner, a champion. He is probably the best defensive shot-blocker that I have seen since Bill Russell’s days, he is a tremendous young person, and he is a hard worker.”Rick Barry, CBS
As a vital part of the 1986 U.S. World championship-winning team, Robinson tested his game against top-level international teams such as the USSR, Yugoslavia, and Brazil. And in the air battles against the future NBA peers such as Arvydas Sabonis and Stojko Vrankovic, The Admiral more than held his own.
“I think Lute Olsen, Bobby Cremins and also Jerry Pimm, the coaches on that team, deserve a lot of credit for this young man’s improvement. He was very weak in a lot of fundamental departments, and they spent hours upon hours upon hours working with this young man. And he has developed into a fine player.”Rick Barry, CBS
The 1987 NCAA Player of the Year and consensus 1st Team All-American finished his collegiate career by scoring over 2,500 points (2,669), grabbing over 1,300 boards (1,314) and shooting better than 60% from the field (61.3%), thus becoming the first collegiate player ever to achieve that feat up to that point.
Robinson’s impressive credentials and inside presence inspired the San Antonio Spurs to overlook his two-year obligation towards the U.S. Navy and take a gamble by drafting him.
Another thing the Spurs had overlooked in the process of acquiring Robinson was the NBA regulation, which allowed drafted players who had to serve military service to reenter the draft if they hadn’t already signed a deal with a team.
Robinson’s agents Lee Fentress and Jeff Austin (Advantage International) were smart enough and used this rule as incredible leverage in the process of negotiating a deal with the Spurs.
It worked, and on November 6th, 1987, the Spurs signed Robinson to a $26 million eight-year deal, thus making the still-active submarine officer one of the best-paid NBA players at the time!
The Admiral led the rejuvenated squad from a 21-61 record in 1988-89 to a 56-26 record in 1989-90 – which still marks one of the biggest turnarounds in NBA history!
It took the 1995 & 1996 NBA Most Valuable Player a decade alongside his teammate Tim Duncan to navigate the San Antonio Spurs to the ‘promised land’ – all the way to the 1999 and 2003 NBA championship titles!
Patience truly is a virtue.