After many years of carrying the Spurs on his chiseled shoulders, David Robinson endured excruciating back pain and surgery in the 1996-97 season. When he returned to form for the 1997-98 season, a rookie by the name of Tim Duncan was on board to help shoulder and, eventually, assume the burden. Robinson surely benefited from the deal. He captured two titles with Duncan taking the lead role in their partnership.
That post-1997 Robinson was a really good player, an all-star player. But he was in several regards a shadow of himself. To illustrate the point, take a moment to watch some (or all) of the following video:
The pre-injury Robinson was an athletic marvel of humanity. He was one of, if not the best, center in the history of the game at running the floor. He just had a natural pace suited perfectly for completing fast breaks. It’s almost as if the Admiral glided up the court like a cruiser sails upon the high seas: effortless, calm, but bringing a whole heaping helping of devastation.
Robinson used that quickness on defense supremely well, too. Only Hakeem Olajuwon compares to Robinson when it comes to spectacularly blocking shots at the rim, but also having beguiling speed and quick hands to create havoc in passing lanes.
For such a dominating center, Robinson was never that great at scoring with his back to the basket and performing grind-it-out post moves. He was always about speed, power, and grace in openly attacking the basket, at least until his back acted up. Instead he’d favor moving off-the-ball, or starting out back-to-the-basket and spinning to the hoop for points, or facing up nailing a fairly good mid-range jumper.
There was no doubt Robinson would be a great pro player. That’s why the Spurs took him 1st overall in 1987 and willingly waited two years for him to finish his commitment to the US Navy. After winning Rookie of the Year, an MVP award, leading the league in scoring, blocks and rebounds, and capturing two NBA titles, David Robinson certainly proved to the Spurs that good, even great things, come to those who wait.
Seasons Played: 1990 – 2003
2x Champion (1999, 2003)
Defensive Player of the Year (1992)
Rookie of the Year (1990)
4x All- NBA 1st Team (1991-’92, 1995-’96)
2x All-NBA 2nd Team (1994, 1998), 4x All-NBA 3rd Team (1990, 1993, 2000-’01)
4x All-Defensive 1st Team (1991-’92, 1995-’96)
4x All-Defensive 2nd Team (1990, 1993-’94, 1998)
10x All-Star (1990-’96, 1998, 2000-’01)
NBA – 987 Games
21.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 2.5 APG, 3.0 BPG, 1.4 SPG, 51.8% FG, 73.6% FT
PPG Leader (1994), BPG Leader (1992), RPG Leader (1991)
Contemporary NBA Ranks (1990 – 2003)
4th Points, 12th PPG
2nd FTs Made, 12th Steals
6th FGs Made, 10th FG%
2nd Rebounds, 6th RPG
1st Blocks, 3rd BPG
11th Games Played, 8th Minutes Played