The off-season search for the NBA’s all-time greats continues with the Hoop Diary Jersey Countdown. We’ve covered all but one of the 50’s as we arrive at the half ton. In our effort to keep the NBA fires burning during the lockout, enjoy the next installment as we cover off Hoop Diary’s selection for the greatest #50 in ABA/NBA history.
There are a lot of pretenders to this throne but only one will be forever known as “The Admiral”. David Robinson revolutionised the centre position with his ability to run the floor and finish on a regular basis. He made plays that were unheard of for a man of his size and did it with ease, leaving opponents in his dust.
For those of you who are not familiar with Robinson’s work, think about a player the size of Dwight Howard possessing LeBron James’ agility and Kevin Durant’s open court handle, that’s how NBA fans saw Robinson in the early 90’s. With the other elite big men of the time including Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parish, Robinson was like a video game that wasn’t due out for a decade when compared to his peers.
With the first pick in the 1987 NBA Draft, David Robinson was selected by the San Antonio Spurs. Robinson did not play in an NBA game until November 4th 1989 as he completed his tenure in the US Navy. When he did arrive in the NBA however, it was with a bang. Averaging a staggering 24.3 points, 12 rebounds, 3.9 blocks and 1.7 steals per game, it was one of the most impressive rookie campaigns in NBA history. Naturally, Robinson won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award, playing every game of the regular season and helping his Spurs win an additional 35 games. Joining a team already featuring established players such as Terry Cummings, Maurice Cheeks and veteran Caldwell Jones, Robinson also got an early taste of Playoff Basketball in his first campaign. Leading the way alongside Cummings and sophomore Willie Anderson, the Spurs made a solid run, narrowly missing the Western Conference Finals by dropping Game 7 of the Semis to the Portland Trailblazers.
Over the next six seasons Robinson and his Spurs made the Playoffs every year. The peak of his individual success came in 1995 as he won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award averaging 27.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and 2.9 assists per game. Despite his dominance, Robinson’s Spurs fell in the Western Conference Finals to Olajuwon’s Houston Rockets.
Injury struck Robinson only six games into his 1996/97 campaign, wiping him out for the entire season. With this being one of many injuries to hit the Spurs that season, San Antonio plummeted to a 20-62 regular season record. A blessing in disguise for both Robinson and the Spurs however as an apt sidekick and successor to The Admiral’s throne, Tim Duncan, was soon drafted with thanks to the NBA Lottery.
With Duncan by his side and his individual talent undeniable, Robinson’s team success was just around the corner. In a locked out and shortened 1998/99 season the San Antonio Spurs captured their first NBA title and all but secured The Admiral’s status as an all-time great. The only cause for conjecture from some media outlets and fans alike was assessing the true value of a shortened and arguably tainted Championship run. All of this was put aside in 2003 however as the Spurs won their second title and Robinson was able to walk away from the NBA as a true and deserving Champion.
While his numbers trailed off a little in his later years, Robinson finished his career with an achievement list as long as Greg Oden’s prognosis. The run sheet of accomplishments is an impressive one.
- 2× NBA Champion (1999, 2003)
- NBA Most Valuable Player (1995)
- NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1992)
- 10× NBA All-Star (1990–1996, 1998, 2000–2001)
- 4× All-NBA First Team (1991–1992, 1995–1996)
- 2× All-NBA Second Team (1994, 1998)
- 4× All-NBA Third Team (1990, 1993, 2000–2001)
- 4× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1991–1992, 1995–1996)
- 4× NBA All-Defensive Second Team (1990, 1993–1994, 1998)
- NBA Rookie of the Year (1990)
- NBA All-Rookie First Team (1990)
- NBA Sportsmanship Award (2001)
- NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team (1996)
Robinson’s career numbers of 20,790 points, 10,497 rebounds, 2,954 blocks and a freakin’ quadruple-double cement his place as one of the great centres in NBA history.
A worthy selection to Hoop Diary’s Jersey Countdown, David Robinson clearly is the greatest ABA/NBA #50 of all-time.
Notable mentions: Ralph Sampson, Greg Anthony, Zach Randolph, Corey Maggette, Steve Mix and Theo Ratliff.