David Maurice Robinson (born August 6, 1965) is an American former professional basketball player, who played center for the San Antonio Spurs in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for his entire career. Based on his prior service as an officer in the United States Navy, Robinson earned the nickname “The Admiral“.
Robinson is a 10-time NBA All-Star, the 1995 NBA MVP, a two-time NBA Champion (1999 and 2003), a two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner (1992, 1996), a two-time Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee (2009 for his individual career, 2010 as a member of the 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team), and a two-time U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame inductee (2008 individually, 2009 as a member of the 1992 Olympic team). He is widely considered one of the greatest centers in both college basketball and NBA history. To date, Robinson is the only player from the Naval Academy to play in the NBA.
David Robinson was born in Key West, Florida, the second child of Ambrose and Freda Robinson. Since Robinson’s father was in the Navy, the family moved many times. After his father retired from the Navy, the family settled in Woodbridge, Virginia, where Robinson excelled in school and in most sports, except basketball. He was 5 feet, 9 inches tall in junior high school; he tried his hand at basketball, but soon quit. Robinson attended Osbourn Park High School in Manassas, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., where Robinson’s father was working as an engineer.
By his senior year in high school he was 6 feet, 6 inches tall, weighed 175 pounds, and had not played organized basketball or attended any basketball camps. 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. Robinson scored 1320 on the SAT, and chose to go to the United States Naval Academy, where he majored in mathematics.
College basketball career and military service
David Robinson is widely considered to be the best basketball player in Naval Academy history. He chose the jersey number 50 after his idol Ralph Sampson. By the time he took the court in his first basketball game for the Navy Midshipmen men’s basketball team, he had grown to 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m), and over the course of his college basketball career he grew to 7 ft 0 in (2.13 m). He began college with no expectations of playing in the NBA, but in Robinson’s final two years he was a consensus All-American and won college basketball’s two most prestigious player awards, the Naismith and Wooden Awards, as a Naval Academy first classman (senior). In 1986, Robinson led Navy, a number seven seed, within a game of the Final Four before falling to Duke in the East Regional Final. Robinson played his first three years for the Midshipmen under Paul Evans (who left Navy to coach at Pitt) and his senior season under former University of Georgia interim Head Coach Pete Herrmann. Upon graduation, he became eligible for the 1987 NBA draft and was selected by the San Antonio Spurs with the first overall pick; however, the Spurs had to wait two years because he had to fulfill his active-duty obligation with the Navy.
Robinson was 6 ft. 8 in. when he was admitted to the Naval Academy, two inches above the height limit, but received a waiver from the Superintendent of the Academy. Robinson considered leaving the academy after his second year, before incurring an obligation to serve on active duty. He decided to stay after discussing with the Superintendent the likelihood that his height would prevent him from serving at sea as an unrestricted line officer, which would be detrimental to his naval career, and might make it impossible for him to receive a commission at all. As a compromise, Secretary of the Navy John Lehman allowed Robinson to train for and receive a commission as a staff officer in the Civil Engineer Corps. As a result, Robinson was commissioned in the Naval Reserve and was only required to serve an initial active-duty obligation of two years. After graduating from the Naval Academy, Robinson became a civil engineering officer at the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia. He was regularly featured in recruiting materials for the service. Despite the nickname “Admiral”, Robinson’s actual rank upon fulfilling his service commitment was Lieutenant (junior grade).
Since he had not signed a contract, NBA regulations stated that Robinson could have reentered the draft after his naval service. Although there was speculation that he might choose not to sign with the Spurs, Robinson agreed to move to San Antonio for the 1989-90 season, but the Spurs agreed to pay him as much as the average of the salaries of the two highest-paid players in the league each year, or release him to free agency.
The Spurs had spent the second half of the 1980s as an also-ran, bottoming out in 1988-89 with a 21-61 record, the worst in franchise history at the time. While it was widely thought that the Spurs would become respectable again once Robinson arrived, no one expected what happened in his rookie season. Robinson led the Spurs to the greatest single season turnaround in NBA history at the time (a record the Spurs themselves broke in 1997-98, after drafting Tim Duncan, which was then broken by the Boston Celtics in the 2007-08 NBA season). The Spurs leaped to a record of 56-26 for a remarkable 35 game improvement. They advanced to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs where they lost in seven games to the eventual conference champion Portland Trail Blazers. Following the 1989-90 season, he was unanimously named the NBA rookie of the year, and subsequently Sega produced a game featuring him entitled David Robinson’s Supreme Court.The Spurs made the playoffs seven more seasons in a row. Robinson also made the 1992 US Olympic Dream Team that won the gold medal in Barcelona. During the 1993-94 season, he became locked in a duel for the NBA scoring title with Shaquille O’Neal, scoring 71 points (breaking George Gervin‘s single-game franchise record of 63) against the Los Angeles Clippers to win it. In that season, Robinson averaged a career-high 29.8 points per game, 10.7 rebounds per game, career-high 4.8 assists per game and 3.3 blocks per game.
Robinson went on to win the MVP trophy in 1995, and in 1996 he was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. Still, from 1991 to 1996, Robinson was thwarted in his quest to claim the one prize that had eluded him: an NBA title. During that span the Spurs were eliminated from the playoffs by the Warriors, Suns (twice), Jazz (twice), and Rockets. The loss against the Rockets was particularly painful for Robinson because it occurred in the Western Conference Finals with Robinson playing head-to-head against his chief rival, Hakeem Olajuwon. By his own admission, Robinson was outplayed by Olajuwon in the series, their only meetings in post-season play.
Early in the 1997 season, Robinson’s dreams of becoming a champion seemed to vanish when he hurt his back in the preseason. He finally returned in December, but six games later broke his foot in a home game against the Miami Heat, and ended up missing the rest of the regular season. As a result of the injury to Robinson and other key players (most notably Sean Elliott, who missed more than half the season), the Spurs finished the season with a dismal 20-62 record. However, his injury proved to be a blessing in disguise. Despite having only the third-worst record in the league, the Spurs won the NBA Draft Lotteryand with it, the first pick in the next year’s NBA draft. They used that pick to select Tim Duncan out of Wake Forest University, who was, after a few years, the final key to Robinson’s quest for an NBA title.
Before the start of the 1998-99 season, the NBA owners and NBA commissioner David Stern locked out the NBA Players’ Association to force negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. This lockout lasted for 202 days, well into the regular NBA season, before an agreement was finally reached. After playing a truncated 50-game season, the Spurs finished with an NBA-best record of 37-13, giving them the home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Spurs blitzed through the first three rounds of the NBA playoffs, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Lakers, and Portland Trail Blazers by a combined record of 11-1 to reach the NBA Finals for the first time ever. In the Finals, the combination of Robinson in the post and second-year, 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m) Tim Duncan proved overpowering, the Spurs beat the New York Knicks in five games to become the first former American Basketball Association team to win an NBA title. Duncan was named Finals MVP.
Twilight years and second championship
After winning his first championship in the previous season, his statistical performances began to decline. During the 1999-00 season, in 80 games he played, Robinson averaged 17.8 points per game, 10.0 rebounds per game and 2.3 blocks per game. The Spurs still made it to the playoffs as the fourth seed. But they bowed out to the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs, even though he averaged 23.5 points per game, 13.8 rebounds per game and 3 blocks per game during that series.
Robinson announced he would retire from basketball after the 2002-03 season.
On June 15, 2003, in the finale of Robinson’s career, the Spurs won another NBA title with an 88-77 victory over the New Jersey Nets in Game 6 of the 2003 NBA Finals. Turning back the clock, Robinson scored 13 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in his final game for the Spurs. He and the year’s regular season and NBA Finals MVP Tim Duncan shared Sports Illustrated magazine’s 2003 Sportsmen of the Year award.
Robinson averaged 21.1 points per game, 10.7 rebounds per game, 3 blocks per game, and 2.5 assists per game over 987 games in his NBA career. Also, he is one of only a very small group of players to have scored over 20,000 career points in the NBA, as well as being one of only four players to have recorded a quadruple-double (with 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, and 10 blocks against the Detroit Pistons on February 17, 1994).
He is also one of only six players to record 70 or more points in a single game. Robinson scored 71 points against the Los Angeles Clippers on April 24, 1994. Only Elgin Baylor (71 points), Wilt Chamberlain (70, 72, 73 twice, 78, 100 points), David Thompson (73 points), Devin Booker (70 points), and Kobe Bryant (81 points) have scored 70 or more points in a single game.
Robinson is also noteworthy for his harmonious relationship with Tim Duncan. Sportswriter Chris Sheridan noted that it was rare for someone like Robinson to have welcomed and mentored Duncan as willingly as he did.
NBA career statistics
YearTeamGPGSMPGFG%3P%FT%RPGAPGSPGBPGPPG1989-90San Antonio82*8136.6.531.000.73212.02.01.73.924.31990-91San Antonio82*8137.7.552.143.76213.0*18.104.22.1685.61991-92San Antonio686837.7.551.125.7022.214.171.124.5*23.21992-93San Antonio82*82*39.2.501.176.73126.96.36.199.223.41993-94San Antonio808040.5.507.345.74910.74.81.73.329.8*1994-95San Antonio818138.0.530.300.77410.82.91.73.227.61995-96San Antonio82*82*36.8.516.333.76112.23.01.43.325.01996-97San Antonio6624.5.500.000.6548.51.31.01.017.71997-98San Antonio737333.7.511.250.73510.62.7.92.621.61998-99San Antonio494931.7.509.000.65810.02.11.42.415.81999-00San Antonio808032.0.512.000.72188.8.131.52.317.82000-01San Antonio808029.6.486.000.7478.61.51.02.514.42001-02San Antonio787829.5.507.000.68184.108.40.206.812.22002-03San Antonio646426.2.469.000.7220.127.116.11.78.5Career98798534.7.518.250.73610.62.51.43.021.1All-Star10318.4.588.000.6918.104.22.168.314.1
YearTeamGPGSMPGFG%3P%FT%RPGAPGSPGBPGPPG1990San Antonio101037.5.533.000.67712.02.31.14.024.31991San Antonio4441.5.686.000.86813.52.01.53.825.81993San Antonio101042.1.465.000.66412.64.01.03.623.11994San Antonio4436.5.411.000.74110.03.5.82.520.01995San Antonio151541.5.446.200.8122.214.171.124.625.31996San Antonio101035.3.516.000.66710.12.41.52.523.61998San Antonio9939.2.425.000.635126.96.36.199.319.41999San Antonio171735.3.483.000.7188.8.131.52.415.62000San Antonio4438.8.373.000.76184.108.40.206.023.52001San Antonio131331.5.472.000.695220.127.116.11.416.62002San Antonio4420.3.474.000.0005.81.3.8.84.52003San Antonio232323.4.542.000.6618.104.22.168.37.8Career12312334.3.479.100.70810.62.31.22.518.1
National team career
David Robinson was a member of the United States national team at the 1986 FIBA World Championship, the 1987 Pan American Games, the 1988 Summer Olympics, 1992 Summer Olympics, and the 1996 Summer Olympics. He won the gold medal at all games except the 1987 Pan Am Games, where he won a silver medal, and the 1988 Summer Olympics, where he won a bronze medal.
Robinson married Valerie Hoggatt in 1991. They have three sons, David Jr., Corey, and Justin. Corey attended Notre Dame and was a wide receiver on the football team before ending his playing career in 2016 on medical advice due to multiple concussions prior to what would have been his senior season. He was very active on campus in his final undergraduate year, having been elected student body president in February 2016 for the 2016-17 school year. Justin, a 6’8″ (2.03 m) forward in basketball and a two-time all-state selection in Texas, has attended Duke since August 2015. He was initially recruited to the Duke team as a “preferred walk-on” with the opportunity to eventually earn a scholarship, but was placed on scholarship before his arrival at Duke.
In 2001, Robinson founded and funded the $9 million Carver Academy in San Antonio, a non-profit private school named for George Washington Carver to provide more opportunities for inner-city children. In 2012, the school became a public charter school and its name changed to IDEA Carver. Robinson continues to be a very active participant in the school’s day-to-day activities.
In 2011, Robinson earned a Master of Arts in Administration (with concentration in organizational development) from the University of the Incarnate Word to better “understand how businesses work and how to build them.”.
Beyond his founding of Carver Academy, Robinson is well known as a philanthropist. Robinson and business partner Daniel Bassichis donate 10 percent of their profits to charitable causes. The winner of the NBA Community Assist Award is presented with the David Robinson Plaque.
In 2008 Robinson partnered with Daniel Bassichis, formerly of Goldman Sachs and a board member of The Carver Academy, to form Admiral Capital Group. Admiral Capital Group is a private equity firm whose mission is to invest in opportunities that can provide both financial and social returns. Robinson’s primary motivation in starting Admiral Capital was to create a source of additional financial support for The Carver Academy. Its portfolio is worth more than $100 million and includes nine upscale hotels and office buildings across the U.S. as well as Centerplate, one of the largest hospitality companies in the world. Admiral Capital Group also partnered with Living Cities to form the Admiral Center, a non-profit created to support other athletes and entertainers with their philanthropic initiatives. Robinson is also co-owner of a Jaguar Land Rover Dealership in San Juan, Texas.
Awards and honors
- Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame
- class of 2009 – individual
- class of 2010 – as a member of the “Dream Team”
- U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame
- class of 2008 – individual
- class of 2009 – as a member of the “Dream Team”
- FIBA Hall of Fame
- class of 2013 – individual
- class of 2017 – as a member of the “Dream Team”
- Two-time NBA Champion
- 1995 NBA MVP
- 1992 NBA Defensive Player of the Year
- 1990 NBA Rookie of the Year
- 1990 NBA All-Rookie First Team
- Four-time All-NBA First Team
- Four-time All-Defensive First Team
- 10-time NBA All-Star
- 2001 NBA Sportsmanship Award
- Two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner
- Olympic Bronze Medal winner
- One of 50 Greatest Players in NBA History
- 1994 NBA Scoring Champion
- Five-time IBM Award winner
- 2008 NBA Shooting Stars champion
- Gold Medal in 1986 FIBA World Championship.
- 2003 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year
- 2012 NCAA Silver Anniversary Award
- Number 50 retired by the San Antonio Spurs
- Coach Wooden “Keys to Life” Award (2004)
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Fourth (and most recent) player in NBA history to record a quadruple-double in a game: San Antonio Spurs (115) vs. Detroit Pistons (96), February 17, 1994
- 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, 10 blocked shots (and 2 steals) in 43 minutes
- Nate Thurmond, Alvin Robertson and Hakeem Olajuwon are the only other players to achieve this.
Fourth player in NBA history to score 70 or more points in a game: 71, at Los Angeles Clippers, April 24, 1994
- Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and David Thompson also achieved this. Kobe Bryant and Devin Booker have achieved this since then.
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the first player to achieve this.
- Hakeem Olajuwon led the league in blocks thrice, and in rebounding twice, but the closest he came to a scoring title was second place, both in 1994-95 (Shaquille O’Neal) and 1995-96 (Michael Jordan).
Second player in NBA history to win Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player during his career
- Michael Jordan was the first player to achieve this.
- Hakeem Olajuwon won Defensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player during his career, but finished second in Rookie of the Year voting to Jordan in 1984-85.
Only player in NBA history to lead the league in scoring, rebounding, and blocked shots and win awards for Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player during his career
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar achieved all of these except for Defensive Player of the Year, an award which did not exist for most of his career.
Only player in NBA history to rank among top five players in the league in rebounding, blocks and steals in the same season: 1991-92
- Ranked first in blocks (4.49 bpg), fourth in rebounding (12.2 rpg) and fifth in steals (2.32 spg).
- Hakeem Olajuwon ranked first in rebounding, fourth in blocks and sixth in steals in 1988-89.
Only player in NBA history to rank among the top seven players in the league in five statistics in the same season: 1991-92
- Ranked seventh in scoring (23.2 ppg), fourth in rebounding (12.2 rpg), first in blocks (4.49 bpg), fifth in steals (2.32 spg) and seventh in field-goal percentage (.551)
Highest field goal percentage in a game (minimum 8 made): 1.000 (88), vs. Phoenix Suns, April 19, 2003 (OT)
- Tied with many other players
Part of second trio of players in NBA history to score 30 or more points in the same game: San Antonio Spurs (130) vs. Golden State Warriors (121), April 25, 1991
Personal fouls, quarter: 4 (1991)
In addition to his lengthy NBA career, Robinson is also noted for his charitable work.
In 1991, Robinson visited with fifth graders at Gates Elementary School in San Antonio and challenged them to finish school and go to college. He offered a $2,000 scholarship to everyone who did. In 1998, proving even better than his word, Robinson awarded $8,000 to each of those students who had completed his challenge. In perhaps his greatest civic and charitable achievement, David and his wife, Valerie, founded the Carver Academy in San Antonio, which opened its doors in September 2001. To date, the Robinsons have donated more than $11 million to the school.
In March 2003, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to charity, the NBA renamed its award for outstanding charitable efforts in honor of Robinson. Winners of the NBA’s Community Assist Award receive the David Robinson Plaque, with the inscription “Following the standard set by NBA Legend David Robinson who improved the community piece by piece.” The award is given out monthly by the league to recognize players for their charitable efforts. Robinson is also the recipient of the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership.