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SPORTS: The Admiral’s greater cause

MULKEYTOWN, Ill. (BP)–David Robinson has never been one to seek the spotlight. He was selfless with the basketball, and he’s selfless with his money.

That comes as no news to a committee of college basketball coaches, who selected Robinson as this year’s Coach Wooden “Keys to Life” Award winner. Named in honor of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, the award is given annually to a college or professional basketball player — past or present — who displays traits like outstanding character, faith and leadership in the home and devotion to the community.

Robinson was presented with the award at a breakfast during the Final Four weekend in San Antonio. He’s truly deserving of the honor.

On the court, Robinson established himself as one of the greatest NBA players ever. He was a top draft pick out of the U.S. Naval Academy, and became arguably the most dominant center in the league.

But for the first part of his career, Robinson didn’t win any championships, and he couldn’t escape from that legacy. Then the Spurs drafted Tim Duncan.

Robinson was one of the highest paid players in the league, but he subordinated himself to Duncan on the floor. The transition wasn’t painless for Robinson.

“Sure, I had a few talks with [San Antonio coach Greg Popovich] because it was a tough thing for me when the offense started going through Tim,” Robinson said in a recent Sports Illustrated article. “But it never got to the argument stage because how could I not accept it? It was the right thing to do.”

The result was an NBA title in 1999. In 2003, Robinson’s final NBA season, he and Duncan led the Spurs to a second championship.

Since retiring from life as a pro basketball player last year, Robinson has been actively involved with a San Antonio school called the Carver Academy. In fact, Robinson serves as the school’s chairman. He has a vested interest in doing so, since he and his wife Valerie donated $9 million to get the school started.

“Education’s really important to them,” said Niki Simpson, the school’s director of development. “They wanted to give back to the community that they now call home. This seemed like the most effective way to do that.”

The elementary school is designed to serve an economically and culturally diverse community in San Antonio’s East Side. The school teaches Judeo-Christian values, offers small class sizes and seeks to instill in its students the importance of character and service to the community.

“God has given me my short-term marching orders,” Robinson said in SI. “It’s to become as good a husband and father as I can and to make this school work. I have the faith to carry it out. It’s going to work.”

Robinson’s legacy on the basketball court is undisputed. He averaged 21 points, nearly 11 rebounds and three blocks per game over his NBA career. He was a 10-time all-star. He played in three Olympics. He played on two championship teams.

But Robinson is proving that there’s more to his life than basketball. Through the Carver Academy, he is providing a potentially life-changing experience for a group of children in San Antonio, and he’s helping to establish principles that will serve them the rest of their lives.

In doing so, he’s forging a legacy off the court that dwarfs his basketball accomplishments.
Tim Ellsworth is a regular columnist for BP Sports, online at www.bpsports.net.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth

    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.

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