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David Robinson Served in the Navy, Then Dominated in the NBA
Photo by Stuart Ramson/Invision for Kelly Cares Foundation/AP Images

They call David Robinson the Admiral.

It’s a nickname that fits like a glove in San Antonio, Texas — where Robinson played on the San Antonio Spurs for 14 years.

Military City USA is only right for the man who attended the United States Naval Academy, served two years in the forces, and became one of the greatest basketball players in NBA history.

David Robinson Navy

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David was born in Key West, Florida to Ambrose and Freda Robinson. Due to Ambrose’s career in the Navy, the family moved frequently before settling in Virginia. David attended Osbourn Park High School in Manassas, Virginia — a suburb of Washington, D.C.

Robinson didn’t fully to commit to hoops until his senior year when he shot from 5-foot-9 to 6-foot-6. He excelled but didn’t garner much interest from college coaches.

Hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps, Robinson chose to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he would major in mathematics and play on the basketball team.

His stature and skills would only continue to grow. By his sophomore year, Robinson stood 7-foot.

He became the best basketball player in Midshipmen history:

— National College Player of the Year (1987)
— Consensus First-Team All-American (1987)
— Consensus Second-Team All-American (1986)
— 3x CAA Player of the Year
— 2x NCAA Blocks Leader
— NCAA Rebounding Leader
— USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year (1986)

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As a junior, he led the team to the Elite Eight of the 1986 NCAA Tournament. The Midshipmen fell to Duke 71-50.

Over his four-year college basketball career, Robinson averaged 21 points, 10.3 rebounds, 4.1 blocks, and 1.3 steals.

The big man was selected No. 1 overall by the San Antonio Spurs in the 1987 NBA Draft. Following graduation, the Navy requires a five-year service commitment.

However, because Robinson exceedingly surpassed 6-foot-6 — the maximum height of an unrestricted line officer — he was unable to serve at sea.

As a compromise, Secretary of the Navy John Lehman granted Robinson a waiver to receive commission as a civil engineering officer in the Naval Reserve for only two-years instead of five.

He served at the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in southeastern Georgia. While on active duty, Robinson frequented recruiting material and was allowed to compete for the United States at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Team USA won the bronze medal.

David Robinson NBA Career

Despite not signing a contract with San Antonio out of the gate, giving him the opportunity to reenter the draft, Robinson signed with the Spurs in 1989.

With that, a franchise cornerstone and NBA legend was born:

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— 2x NBA Champion
— NBA Most Valuable Player (1995)
— 10x NBA All-Star
— 4x All-NBA First Team
— 2x All-NBA Second Team
— 4x All-NBA Third Team
— NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1992)
— 4x NBA All-Defensive First Team
— 4x NBA All-Defensive Second Team
— NBA Sportsmanship Award (2001)
— NBA Scoring Champion (1994)
— NBA Rebounding Leader (1991)
— NBA Blocks Leader (1992)
— NBA Rookie of the Year (1990)
— NBA All-Rookie First Team (1990
— NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
— No. 50 retired by San Antonio Spurs
Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year (2003)

The two-time NBA champion averaged 21.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 1.4 steals over his 14-year career. He played for the United States as a member of the Dream Team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The U.S. won the gold medal both times.

Robinson had great playoff success in the latter portion of his career with head coach Gregg Popovich and power forward Tim Duncan. He retired following his second championship in 2003.

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The 1995 NBA MVP was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009 and the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2013.

Robinson takes time to give back to the community. He donates 10 percent of his business profits to charity.

In 2001, he opened The Carver Academy, a public charter school in San Antonio with his wife Valerie. The winner of the NBA Community Assist Award is given the David Robinson plaque.

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Joe Grobeck About the author:
Joe is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and lives in Austin, Texas. He believes Ndaumkong Suh should've won the 2009 Heisman and is an avid basketball fan.
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