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Sports Heroes Who Served: David Robinson

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Almost every sporting event in the United States has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To help fill the void, this series looks at sports heroes who also served in the military.

Basketball player prepares to make a free throw.
Olympic Games
David Robinson prepares to make a free throw at the Olympic Games, Aug. 4, 1992.
Photo By: Ken Hackman, Air Force
VIRIN: 920804-O-ZZ999-001

David Robinson played basketball for the San Antonio Spurs in the National Basketball Association from 1989 to 2003. His list of achievements is astonishing:

  • Two-time NBA champion: 1999 and 2003.
  • NBA most valuable player: 1995.
  • 10-time NBA All-Star: 1990-1996, 1998, 2000, 2001.
  • Four-time All-NBA First Team: 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996.
  • Two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner: 1992, 1996.

Robinson's teammates nicknamed him "The Admiral" because after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, where he majored in mathematics, he served in the Navy from 1983 to 1987.

Incidentally, at the time he was accepted to the Naval Academy, a height restriction of 6 feet, 6 inches applied for midshipmen. Robinson was an inch over that limit, but the superintendent granted him a waiver. By the time he graduated, Robinson had grown to 7 feet tall, and he grew another inch after that.

Upon receiving his commission, Robinson was assigned to the Civil Engineering Corps at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia. Besides doing engineering work, he also helped the Navy with its recruiting campaigns.

Tall man poses for a photo with kids.
The Admiral
Former San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson meets military families on Military Spouse Appreciation Day at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, May 9, 2019.
Photo By: David DeKunder, Air Force
VIRIN: 190517-F-JV236-4976C

In 2001, Robinson founded the Carver Academy in San Antonio, designed to serve inner-city children. He also has kept his military ties in place and visits with military families. For example on May 9, 2019, he signed autographs and shot some hoops during a Military Spouse Appreciation Day event on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

He particularly likes to talk to the children, he said at that event, because he himself was a military brat growing up. His father, a sailor, was often deployed.

"I remember growing up my dad would go to sea for several months at a time," Robinson said. "My mom would have to be both mom and dad to me."

Two men chat beside an athletic field track
Basketball Banter
Former San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson speaks with a U.S. Army All-American West Team family member at the Blossom Athletic Center in San Antonio, Dec. 31, 2012.
Photo By: Army photo
VIRIN: 121231-O-ZZ999-001

"I remember she would always say, 'Well, you wait till your dad gets home. I’m going to tell him everything you did,'" Robinson said, laughing. "But I saw what she did to keep our family strong. I just know what it takes for spouses of military families. I know the energy, the effort, what it means, how you're the backbone of the family. So, for me being able to be here and encourage you and thank you for what you do is a blessing for me. Thank you for your sacrifices, for the country, for each other and for keeping this country strong."

Robinson reflected on the sacrifices that military spouses and their children make each day. "I know the price that people pay to serve our country, and so it's just a blessing to be able to come in and encourage the families here that are paying that price for us," he said. 

(David DeKunder of the 502nd Air Base Wing contributed to this story.)

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Photo By: DOD
VIRIN: 200706-D-ZZ999-903

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