Robinson, David 1965–

views updated May 17 2018

David Robinson 1965

Professional basketball player

At a Glance

The Admiral in the NBA

Robinson Wins the MVP

The Top of the Mountain


David Robinson, future NBA Hall-of-Famer and leader of the San Antonio Spurs, was born in Key West, Florida on August 6, 1965. He was the second child of Ambrose and Freda Robinson. Since Robinsons father was in the Navy, the family soon moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia where Robinson excelled in school and in most sports except basketball. He was 5 feet, 9 inches tall in junior high school so he tried basketball, but he soon quit. Robinson attended Osbourn Park High School in Manassas, Virginia just outside of Washington D.C., where Robinsons father was working as an engineer after retiring from the Navy. By his senior year in high school he was 6 feet, 7 inches tall, but he had not played organized basketball. When the coach added the tall senior to the basketball team, Robinson earned all-area and all-district honors but generated little interest among college basketball coaches. Basketball was not his first priority anyway, getting an education was. With an SAT score of 1,320 out of a possible 1,600, Robinson could go to any school he chose, and he chose the United States Naval Academy.

Robinson entered the Naval Academy in the fall of 1983. Not only did Robinson have to deal with the rigors of the Naval Academy, but he had to learn to play college basketball. In his freshman year he did not start a single game and averaged 7.6 points and four rebounds a game. But the next year Robinsons height and ability in basketball would change dramatically. Robinson grew to be 6 feet, 11 inches tall and began to dominate on the basketball court. Robinson led the Midshipman to a 266 record, a Colonial Conference Title, and into the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time in 25 years. Robinson averaged 23.6 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, and blocked 128 shots. Robinson performed so well that he finally allowed the thought of playing in the NBA to enter his mind. But after graduating from the academy, he would still owe the Navy five years of service. Because of this long-term commitment he seriously considered transferring after his sophomore year, but he decided to stay when Navy officials hinted at reducing his obligation after graduation.

In his junior year Robinson led the Naval Academy to the Great Eight of the NCAA tournament and was named to the Associated Press (AP) 1986 All-American Team. Robinson averaged 22.7 points and 13 rebounds per game. But he really dominated on the defensive end.

At a Glance

Born David Robinson, August 6,1965 in Key West, FL; son of Ambrose (an engineer) and Freda Robinson; married with children: David Jr. and Corey. Education: graduated from the United States Naval Academy.

Career: After one year of high school basketball Robinson attended the Naval Academy and played basketball all four years, 1983-84, 1986-87; the first overall selection in the NBA draft of the San Antonio Spurs, 1987; served two additional years at Kings Bay Naval Base, 1988-89; participated in the Olympic Games, 1988, 1992, 1996; starting center for the San Antonio Spurs, 1989-.

Awards: Associated Press All-American, 1985-86, and 1986-87; Naismith and Wooden Awards as the College Player of the Year, 1987; NBA Rookie of the Year, 1989-90; NBA All-Defensive First Team, 1990-91, 1991-92, 1994-95, and 1995-96; NBA Defensive Player of the Year, 1991-92; All NBA First Team, 1990-91, 1991-92, and 1994-95; All NBA Second Team, 1993-94, and 1997-98; All NBA Third Team, 1989-90, and 1992-93; NBAs Most Valuable Player, 1994-95; Named by the league as one of its 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, 1996; Eight-time NBA All-Star, 1990-98.

Addresses: ResidenceSan Antonio, TX; Mailingc/o The San Antonio Spurs, 100 Montana, San Antonio, TX 78203-1031.

After three seasons Robinson had set NCAA records for most shots blocked in a game (14), most shots blocked in a season (207), and most career shots blocked (372). Robinsons 207 blocks were more rejections than every team in the NCAA except Louisville, which won the national championship in 1986.

In his senior season, Robinson was named the only unanimous selection on the APs All-American Team and won the Naismith Award as the College Player of the Year. Robinson graduated from the Naval Academy in the spring of 1987 and almost immediately he was the first player selected in the NBA draft by the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs drafted Robinson knowing that he would not be available until the 1989-90 season. Robinson reported to the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base and worked as an engineer. He also played on the United States national team. Robinson participated in the Pan Am Games in 1987 and in the Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, where the U.S. team finished a disappointing third.

The Admiral in the NBA

In May of 1989 Robinson was discharged from the Navy. Robinson went from being a solitary engineer to the glamour of the NBA and a starring role in his own Nike commercial. His impact on the Spurs was phenomenal. The year before San Antonio posted a 21-61 record and in Robinsons first year the team improved 35 games to finish at 56-26. Robinson ended the season tenth in the league in scoring with a 24.3 average, second in rebounding averaging 12 per game, and third in blocked shots with 3.89 per game. Robinson was named to the All-Star Game, was All-NBA third team, and was the unanimous Rookie of the Year. In his first year Robinson led his team to a Midwest Division title and into the second round of the playoffs.

The following season Robinson again played in all 82 games and bettered his statistics from the previous year. He not only made the All-Star team but was also first team All-NBA and a member of the All-Defensive team. Robinson was the only player in the league to finish the season in the top 10 in four statistical categories. He finished first in rebounding (13 a game) and second in blocked shots (3.90 a game). Despite his individual achievements the Spurs were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Two years into his career, he seemed to be on top of the world, but just the opposite was true. Robinson told Sports Illustrated about his state of mind after the 1991 season: What surprised me was that I wasnt happy. Here I had everything I ever wantedI had graduated from a good school, had a good family behind me, was doing things I never dreamed Id doand I wasnt happy at all. I looked at myself, and I didnt like the person I was becoming. I felt I was so important. I had selfishness and arrogance. Robinsons solution was to commit more fully to Christianity. He also became more settled marrying Valerie Hoggat, a woman he had met in 1988 while he was serving in the Navy.

Robinson continued to improve in his third season despite an injury that forced him to miss the last part of the season. Robinson tore a ligament in his hand and missed all the games after March 16. Robinson became only the third player in NBA history to finish the season in the top ten in scoring (seventh), rebounding (fourth), blocked shots (first), steals (fifth), and field-goal percentage (seventh). For the third time Robinson made the All-Star team and was again named All-NBA first team and the Defensive Player of the Year. Robinson also played in his second Olympic games winning the gold medal in Barcelona with the first Dream Team. After the injury the previous season, Robinson took on a massive workload in the 1992-93 season. He played in all 82 Spurs games and broke the franchise record for minutes played with 3,211. The star center played more than 40 minutes in 41 games. During this marathon season, Robinson was typically excellent, starting for the Western Conference All-Star Team and for the year averaging 23.4 points, 11.7 rebounds, 3.22 blocks, and 1.55 steals per game. In the post season the Spurs advanced to the Western Conference semi-finals before losing to the Phoenix Suns in six games.

Robinson Wins the MVP

For the 1993-94 season, the Spurs brought in rebounding sensation Dennis Rodman, which allowed Robinson to concentrate more on offense. He responded by leading the NBA in scoring, averaging 29.8 points per game. Robinson averaged 40.5 minutes per game and finished second in the voting for the leagues Most Valuable Player (MVP). Robinson also made a fifth straight All-Star appearance and led his team to a 55-27 record. Still there were whispers that the intelligent, religious, young center who listened to classical music could never lead his team to an NBA championship. Isiah Thomas, the Detroit Pistons Hall-of-Fame point guard, commented on this perception in an article in Sports Illustrated: David Robinson has always been nice, and their team has always been nice. But do you want a bunch of guys who are nice all the time, or do you want to win championships? If Dennis can keep David angry, they could make it out of the West. Rodman would not help enough as the Spurs lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Robinson seemed to answer his critics during the 1994-95 season winning the NBAs MVP award. Robinson showed the all-around quality of his game averaging 27.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 3.23 blocks per game. He led the Spurs to the best regular season record in the NBA (62-20) and a number one seed throughout the playoffs. San Antonio moved through the first two rounds of the post-season, but lost in the conference semi-finals to the Houston Rockets and the 1993-94 MVP Hakeem Olajuwan. Robinson told Sports Illustrated about the turnaround from winning the MVP award to being bounced from the playoffs: I dont think theres any worse feeling for an athlete than to feel inadequate. These are the times when you really have to love the game, when you realize you were six games away from a title, and now you have to start over again. I just stayed home for a few days. The kids give you perspective.

Despite his disappointment, in 1995-96 Robinson almost equaled his accomplishments from the previous MVP year. He made All-NBA and All-Defensive First Teams and made the All-Star game for the seventh consecutive time. After a seven-year career filled with every sort of accolade except post-season success, Robinson was finally bitten by the injury bug during the 1996-97 season. He missed his first 18 games with a lower back strain, and then after six games back in the lineup, Robinson broke his foot and missed the rest of the season.

The 1997-98 season marked the arrival of highly-regarded rookie Tim Duncan. Robinson came back strong from his year off and battled through a concussion and nagging injuries in both knees to be named an All-Star and second team All-NBA. Despite missing some games and a reduction in playing time, Robinson still averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. As he approached his tenth season in the league, Robinson had accomplished about as much as an individual player could accomplish-including being named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. He had homes in San Antonio and Aspen, Co. and his family had now grown to include two sons, David Jr. and Corey. Off the court he had established the David Robinson Foundation, his own charitable organization, helped an entire grade at a San Antonio school pay for college, and is active in feeding the homeless through a problem called Feed My Sheep. He also founded the Ruth Project that provides diapers and baby food for needy families. In short, he had done it allexcept win a championship.

The Top of the Mountain

To win the championship, Robinson was asked to do something he hadnt done since he was a freshman at Navyplay a supporting role rather than be the man. The coach asked his former franchise player to focus more on the defensive end of the court and allow Duncan to take over as the scorer. Robinson told Sports Illustrateds Phil Taylor that the adjustment was difficult: It grinds on everything in me thats competitivemy ego, my pride, everything. Ive always been the focus here. To feel as though Im not anymore is difficult, very difficult. I look at my numbers, and they look so strange. I used to laugh at the guys who averaged only 12 points and 10 rebounds. Anybody could average 12 and 10. But now I find myself in that position. When the Spurs, which were one of the favorites to win the championship, started 6-8, many, including Robinson himself, questioned the strategy. But the Spurs kept to the game plan and then stormed through the rest of the season running up a 42-6 record to the NBA finals. During the playoffs Robinson averaged 15.6 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.35 blocks, and 35.3 minutes per game. In the NBA finals against the New York Knicks, Robinson pushed his playoff numbers even higher. He averaged 16.6 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game. The Spurs went out and beat the Knicks in five games and the man known as The Admiral led his team to the NBA Promised Land. But still he kept the title in perspective as he explained in an article he wrote with Phil Taylor of Sports Illustrated: Everybody thinks the trophy and the ring are the ultimate things, but as valuable as they are, theyre just things. Theyll wind up on a shelf somewhere, but the experience of winning them, the journey, will be right here in my heart forever.



Miller, Dawn M., David Robinson: Backboard Admiral (The Achievers). Lerner Publications Co. : N.Y., 1991.


Sports Illustrated, March 7, 1994; April 26, 1996; April 12, 1999; July 13, 1999.


Additional information for this profile was obtained from

Michael J. Watkins

Robinson, David

views updated May 08 2018

David Robinson


American basketball player

David Maurice Robinson, known as "The Admiral," did not play his first professional basketball game until he was twenty-four years old, after serving two years in the U.S. Navy. A member of the San Antonio Spurs for his entire career, Robinson has established himself as one of the best big men to ever play in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Consistently posting solid offensive numbers, at the height of his career, Robinson was known as a defensive stopper with excellent shot-blocking abilities. Robinson is also well

known as a stellar role model who gives generously to his community.

Growing Up and Up

David Robinson was born on August 6, 1965, in Key West, Florida. His father, Ambrose, was a naval officer, and his mother, Freda, a nurse. When Robinson was still young, his father was transferred to Virginia Beach, Virginia, where Robinson grew up with his two siblings. He attended schools for gifted children since the age of six and, as a high school senior, scored among the top five percent nationally on the Scholastic Aptitude Test. He was active in sports, including tennis, golf, and baseball. Although he joined the basketball team as a freshman, he soon quit because he spent most of his time warming the bench.

After growing from five-feet-nine-inches as a freshman to six-feet-seven-inches as a senior, Robinson decided to give basketball another try. Although he became a star center for Osbourn Park High School in Manassas, Virginia, he lacked the exposure and experience to attract the attention of top college recruiters. Robinson, who was more concerned with getting good grades, wasn't worried about a future in basketball and enrolled at the U.S. Naval Academy. Robinson joined the Naval Academy team as a freshman, but played little. However, during the summer between his freshman and sophomore years, he grew five inches, to seven feet. When he was finally done growing, Robinson stood seven-feet-one-inch tall. For the first time, Robinson considered the possibility of pursuing basketball on a professional level.

As a junior Robinson led his team to the Elite Eight of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament. During the year Robinson averaged 22.7 points and thirteen rebounds per game and dominated on the defensive end, setting NCAA records for most blocks in a game (14), most blocks in a season (207), and most career blocks (372). Robinson's game continued to improve, and he was named to the Associated Press All-American Team in both 1986 and 1987. In his senior year he also received the Naismith Award as the College Player of the Year.

Soon after graduating in 1987 Robinson was drafted as the number one overall pick by the San Antonio Spurs. At first reluctant to play in San Antonio, Robinson was swayed by the offer of an eight-year, $26 million contract. The Spurs, however, would have to wait two years while Robinson completed his service obligation to the Navy before he could join the team. For the next two years, the future NBA star worked as an engineer at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia.

Promoted to "Admiral"

In 1989 Robinson donned a Spurs uniform and became a member of a team that had won only twenty-one games the previous year. However, with the added support of the 1989 College Player of the Year, Sean Elliot of the University of Arizona, Robinson, who soon became known as "the Admiral," helped turn the team around. In his rookie year he averaged 24.3 points, twelve rebounds, and 3.9 blocks per game, leading his team to fifty-six wins, the biggest one-season turnaround in league history. Robinson was the unanimous choice as NBA Rookie of the Year.


1965Born August 6 in Key West, Florida
1983-87Attends the U.S. Naval Academy
1987First overall National Basketball Association (NBA) draft pick by the San Antonio Spurs
1987-89Serves as an engineer in the U.S. Navy
1989Joins the Spurs; named NBA Rookie of the Year
1991Marries Valerie Hoggatt
1992Establishes the David Robinson Foundation
1997-98Misses all but 15 games of the season due to injury
2002Announces his retirement following the 2002-03 season

Over the next seven years Robinson became one of the premiere players in the NBA. He played in the NBA All-Star Game from 1990 to 1996 before missing the All-Star Game and all but five Spurs games in the 1997-98 season due to a strained back and broken foot. Despite his impressive performance, which earned him the scoring title in 1994 with an average of 29.8 points per game and the NBA's Most Valuable Player award in 1995, Robinson's detractors weren't sure that he had the leadership ability and passion it would take to propel his team to an NBA championship. Robinson, a devout Christian since 1991 who listened to classical music, didn't party. He read the Bible, and took seriously his job as a role model, and was considered by some as simply too nice to win big.

The Twin Towers

Robinson's chances for an NBA championship improved greatly in 1997 when the Spurs, after a disappointing 1996-97 season with Robinson sidelined by injury, drafted seven-footer Tim Duncan , a highly regarded center from Wake Forest. Quickly dubbed the "Twin Towers," Robinson and Duncan dominated under the basket on both ends of the court. Yet despite the team's regained success, Robinson struggled personally with his changing role on the team. For the first time in his NBA career, he was asked to step aside from the center focus of the team to support Duncan as the team's new go-to man. Despite the blow to his pride and a decline in his playing time and numbers, Robinson accepted his new place, for which he earned the praise of the sports press and fans alike.

The following season the Spurs finally reached the NBA finals, beating the New York Knicks in five games to win the 1999 championship. It appeared that Robinson had finally quieted those who thought him to be too soft, especially come playoff time. In 2000 the Spurs lost in the first round of the NBA playoffs, primarily because Duncan was out with an injury. During the summer of 2000 Robinson cut short his vacation in Hawaii, returning early to talk Duncan into foregoing his free agent option of moving to another team. When Duncan re-signed with the Spurs, Robinson was given much of the credit. In 2002 Robinson announced that he would retire following the 2002-03 season.

Giving Back

In the twilight of his career, Robinson struggled with his nagging bad back and knees. Although his stats declined due to his changing role on the team, he continued to contribute positively to his team. Regardless of his on-court performance, the Admiral has proven himself to all that he is an exceptional person. In 1991 he made a pact with ninety-one fifth-graders from Gates Elementary School in San Antonio that if they finished high school, he would donate $2,000 to each of their college educations. In the same year he married Valerie Hoggatt; they have three sons. The following year he and his wife established the David Robinson Foundation, which provides funding grants to schools, homeless, and children's charities, including a $9 million gift in 1997 to build a prep school in San Antonio. Robinson, who signs autographs for free with his name, number 50, and reference to a Bible verse, has a simple explanation for his generosity: "We do the right things because that's what God told us to do."

Career Statistics

SA: San Antonio Spurs.


Address: San Antonio Spurs, 100 E. Market St., San Antonio, Texas 78203. Phone: (210) 554-7773.



Newsmakers 1990, Issue 4. Detroit: Gale, 1990.

Phelps, Shirelle, ed. Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 24. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000.

Sports Stars. Series 1-4. Detroit: UXL, 1994-98.

Who's Who Among African Americans, 14th ed. Detroit: Gale Group, 2001.


Bailey, Scott. "Spurs Brass Get Caught Between an Admiral and a Hard Place." San Antonio Business Journal (July 20, 2001): 23.

Clancy, Frank. "Twin Engines." Sporting News (December 15, 1997): 52.

Jerome, Richard. "Hoop Dreamer." People (December 1, 1997): 99.

MacMullan, Jackie. "Robinson's Helping Hand." Sports Illustrated (March 23, 1998): 48.

Montville, Leigh. "Trials of David." Sports Illustrated (April 29, 1994): 90.

Reilly, Rick. "Spur of the Moment." Sports Illustrated (June 14, 1999): 106.

Smith, Stephen A. "Robinson Playing Young Now But Will He Be Old for the Playoffs?" Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (November 14, 2002).

Smith, Stephen A. "Time for Robinson to Say Adios." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (May 18, 2002).

Taylor, Phil. "Here's to You, Mr. Robinson." Sports Illustrated (July 7, 1999): 20.

Taylor, Phil. "Rear Admiral." Sports Illustrated (April 12, 1999): 40.

Taylor, Phil. "Spur of the Moment." Sports Illustrated (March 7, 1994): 58.


"David Robinson." National Basketball Association. (December 11, 2002)

"David Robinson." Sports (December 11, 2002)

Sketch by Kari Bethel

Awards and Accomplishments

1986Led nation with 13 rebounds per game and 5.9 blocks per game
1987National Player of the Year and First Team All American; first overall pick in the National Basketball Association (NBA) draft by San Antonio Spurs
1990Rookie of the Year, All Rookie Team, Second Team All Defense, and Third Team All NBA
1990-91, 1994-96Received IBM Award
1990-96, 1998, 2000-01NBA All Star
1991-92First Team All NBA and First Team All Defense
1992Defensive Player of the Year; First Team All Defense
1994Won NBA scoring title, averaging 29.8 points per game
1995Selected as NBA's Most Valuable Player
1995-96Named to First Team All NBA
1996Named one of the 50 Greatest Basketball Players in NBA History
1998Inducted into the Sports World Humanitarian Hall of Fame
1999NBA championship as member of San Antonio Spurs; received the Montblanc de la Culture Award
2000Received the Patriot Award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society