Spur Of The Moment

June 13, 1999

WARNING: The following contains no drugs, thugs, coach choking,
roach smoking, nose rings, wild things, bets, threats, f words
or flipped birds. Please proceed with caution.

Isn't it great--just for a change--when the nice guy gets the
girl? The decent Joe gets an even break? The schlub who drops
his last quarter in the Salvation Army bucket turns the corner
and finds a fifty?

Don't you love what's going on in the NBA right now?

Two years ago David Robinson and his wife, Valerie, gave $5
million to The Carver Complex, a college prep school and
cultural center that's going to be built in one of the worst
sections of San Antonio. This year David Robinson agreed to turn
over his superstar role on the Spurs to Tim Duncan, lock, stock
and magazine covers. In two weeks David Robinson may just win
the NBA title. "I guess I just figured winning was more
important than anything else I could do for the team," Robinson
says.

Now, this brief message to Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and the
Los Angeles Lakers: Are any of you listening to this!?!

At the beginning of the season, San Antonio coach and general
manager Gregg Popovich asked an NBA megastar to do the unheard
of: He asked him to give up the mega. He asked him to give up
the dap, the glamour, the shots, the minutes--all for the good
of the team. He asked him to play defense, block shots and put
his nose in front of Karl Malone's elbows. Not only did Robinson
do it, he did it without complaint.

It worked like a Styrofoam hammer. It looked clunky. It made no
sense. Here was Robinson, this 7'1" Greek statue with a 32-inch
waist and a sprinter's stride, setting up at the high post,
trying to sneak inside for garbage and getting the ball every
other Tuesday. The only player in NBA history to win Rookie of
the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, MVP, the scoring title,
the rebounding title and the blocked-shots title was now the
Spurs' go-from guy.

Yet while San Antonio opened the season 6-8 and fans howled for
Popovich's head, Robinson didn't say a word. "He probably
could've flushed me," says Popovich, "but he believed in this
team."

What do you know? It began to work--and the Spurs began to win.
Since that ugly start, San Antonio is 42-6 and in the NBA Finals
for the first time in franchise history. "How many superstars
would've done it?" asks Popovich. "Not many."

Well, it hasn't been easy for Robinson. "It's weird chasing the
ball all the time," he says. "It used to come right into me
every time down. But I'm getting used to it. You dream about
having a team where everybody trusts each other, all the way,
and here we are."

There must have been so many times when Robinson believed he'd
never get this chance--times when his back ached so badly he
couldn't bend over to brush his teeth; when teammates he'd grown
to admire were shipped out, only to come back and beat the Spurs
like rented mules; when a 62-20 season would go up in the smoke
of a Dennis Rodman playoff flake-out. "There've been times when
I said, 'Maybe this is not what the Lord meant for me,'" he
says, "but that's what's great about faith. You don't spend all
your time worrying about it. I mean, who am I?"

Who is Robinson? A lot of San Antonio families think Robinson is
somebody pretty cool. Eight years ago Robinson promised 91
fifth-graders at Gates Elementary that if they made it through
the 12th grade, he'd pay $2,000 toward their college tuition or
hairdressing school. About 50 of them graduated from high school
last year, and Robinson attended the commencement ceremony for
25 of them at Sam Houston High. "People say I've given them
this, but, really, these kids have given me a lot more," he
says. "I went to that graduation, and I felt like a dad to 25
kids! How cool is that?"

That's just a spoonful of the seeds he has sewn. He also feeds
the homeless through his Feed My Sheep program. He helps needy
families get diapers and baby food through The Ruth Project.
"These aren't sacrifices for me," he says. "If I'm clutching on
to my money with both hands, how can I be free to hug my wife
and kids?"

If there is such a thing as karma in this world, Robinson will
have to let go of that clinch with his wife and kids and put a
serious bear hug on the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

Don't you love it when the good guy wins?

Thank you. We now return you to your regularly scheduled mayhem.

COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA

An NBA megastar, David Robinson, was asked to do the unheard of:
He was asked to give up the mega.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)