Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Salute to the Admiral

The San Antonio Spurs have been having a rough 2008-2009 NBA season. They just can't seem to string a number of wins like the team has been habitually doing for the past decade. But losing isn't always that bad. Not with the story of my avid support for the Spurs.

My attachment to the Spurs started, ironically, when they got embarrassed by the Houston Rockets in the 1995 playoffs. And because of a certain "Loser" in that series.

For all the flak that David Robinson got in that series, I saw him as a personal hero. When people all around weren't giving him a break for his winning the Most Valuable Player award and yet being outplayed by Hakeem Olajuwon, I saw a man who was struggling to prove himself to the world as much as he physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally can. To take nothing away from Hakeem who certainly played the series of his life, I saw David as my hero. As a kid who knew himself to be better than a lot of people gave him credit for, I could understand.

From then on, even though I have to say that couldn't help but love that second three-peat Chicago Bulls, what with the Jordan-Scottie Pippen-Dennis Rodman triumvirate, no team could come closer than the Spurs in my heart. David never came as close to that much coveted championship ring as he did with that Western Conference showdown with the Rockets. The criticisms didn't end for him as well. Critics said he was too soft, being pushed around by the likes of Karl Malone. (As an aside, I find Malone a great player but I can can say for him what Rodman said about John Stockton, "The cheapest cheap shot in the league." I trust "The Worm to know what he's talking about.). A lot said he didn't have the heart to win the big one. The 1987 first round draft pick and 1992 and 1996 Olympic gold medallist Dream Teamer wasn't playoff material. The MVPs, All-NBA First Teams, Defensive Player of the Year, and All-Star selections were superficial.

The whole team actually took a lot of hits as well. "The Admiral's" fleet was destined to sink. People said with Avery Johnson as point guard, the Spurs can always kiss their hopes goodbye. He wasn't a championship point guard they said. Sean Elliot was damaged goods. The 1996-1997 Spurs lost David to an injury for most of the season and had an awful, awful, awful season.

But outside of the court, David had everyone saluting him, basketball fan or not. He was truly an Officer and a Gentleman of the highest order. A man's man he was. Selfishness never seemed to have been part of his vocabulary. He always gave out so much to his community. Education for the youth was a cause he always supported (to which I salute him anew). The NBA has even recently renamed the Community Assist Award as the David Robinson Plaque. That's respect right there. (As a tribute to him, when I was a kid, I wore the No. 50 in my jersey in a local basketball league in my town, not that anybody got the point since I rode the bench most of the time embarrassingly.)

For his game, he became my childhood idol. For his overall legacy, he is a hero of mine for all time.

When I said David never came close to that NBA ring, I was talking from the point before the 1997 draft, before a certain graduate of Wake Forest University would come and become one of the greatest basketball players of all time. But that's for a different post.

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