There are two kinds of athletes we cheer for. First are those who perform for our favorite teams, easily identified by their team uniform. Much rarer are the players who we root for because of the kind of persons they are away from the bright lights. David Robinson is more than a Hall of Fame basketball player; he is a true role model not for athletics, but for character.
We saw this at the beginning of his NBA career, because it was delayed two years so he could fulfill his obligation to the US Navy following his graduation from the Naval Academy (Great American Things, July 18, 2010). Robinson’s service earned him his nickname “The Admiral.” Listing his basketball accomplishments would take a post all its own, but here are some of the highlights:
- Rookie of the Year
- NBA Champion (2x)
- Most Valuable Player
- Defensive Player of the Year
- NBA 50th Anniversary All-Star Team
- Olympic Gold Medal (2x)
But as great as Robinson’s basketball career was, all who know him recognized that his character was even greater. Just one example – in 1991, Robinson visited some fifth graders at an elementary school in San Antonio. He promised that he would give a $2,000 college scholarship to all who stayed in school. In 1998, he made good on his promise – but he gave them $8,000 instead. Robinson’s main charitable effort has been the Carver School in San Antonio, a free private school for underprivileged children. To date, he and his wife have donated $11 million to fund the academy.
Greg Popovich, Robinson’s coach in his final years with the Spurs, had this to say about his star player: “He’s got much more sense than to stay involved in basketball. He’s got a lot of interests that actually have impact on the world and have some value, unlike the rest of us. He’s way too committed to real life to do something as silly as basketball the rest of his life.”