Like Stocktobot, the Admiral is entering the HoF in less than a week, and that’s all the excuse I need to revisit Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood.
He was such a unique and amazing athlete, that it’s hard to believe David Robinson has become a polarizing name among fans and experts.
He is a statistical monster. When Michael Jordan retired after 1993, David stepped up and led the league in PER for three consecutive years. He led the league in WS twice, defensive WS four times, defensive rating five times, and offensive rating twice. He has the second highest total WS for the 1990s behind only Karl Malone, who played 100 more games in the decade. He leads all centers in wins produced since 1980. He ranks third all-time in statistical plus / minus behind Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. In terms of traditional stats he also led the league in total rebounds twice, total blocks twice, and total points once. He also scored 71 points in a game and had a quadruple double.
He’s also a major award winner over the years. 2 NBA Titles. 2 Olympic Gold Medals. Rookie of the Year. Defensive Player of the Year. MVP. The only other player who has won all three was Michael Jordan. He’s a 10 time All-Star. All-NBA 1st Team four times. All-NBA 2nd Team twice. All-NBA 3rd Team four times. All-Defense Team seven times.It’s easy to see why there are pundits who believe that David Robinson was not just the best center of the 90s but quite possibly the best center since Kareem was in his prime. The thinking goes that he’s a player who missed out on more championship success because he lacked the productive teammates necessary to win in the playoffs.
The counterargument can be found here.
Not sure I buy that one playoff defeat undermines a career full of amazing play. His numbers do drop off pretty significantly in the post-season though. And that is the battleground. The people who see the consistently superb basketball that Robinson played from October to April, and the people who can’t see past what did not happen in May and June, at least not until Tim Duncan arrived.
Here’s what I can say about the Admiral. He is the single most athletic 7 footer I’ve ever seen. He had incredible rebound range, able to challenge guards on the pick and roll and recover to pull down boards with the bigs. He patrolled the paint as well as anyone, and he could run down a fastbreak for a big swat better than any other center. He had quick feet and hands and rotated inside the team scheme with discipline. He could change ends faster than any center in the league and finished like a slam dunk champion.He could shoot up to 15′ and beat just about any center off the dribble with the first step of an athletic small forward. He had a full back to the basket game complete with hooks, fades, and drop step power moves, but he was not a dedicated deep post player like a Shaq or Hakeem. He was more comfortable playing face-up and using his speed and explosiveness like Amare.
I recall people declaring Robinson the wave the future, a glimpse of what the modern center would become. They were wrong. There have been players with David’s size. There have been players with David’s athleticism. There has not been anyone else to bring 7′ 1″ and top level speed and explosiveness to the table at the same time. Amare and Howard are close, but close doesn’t count in basketball. A peak David Robinson would undoubtedly be the best center in the league today (no offense to Dwight or Yao). I don’t think anyone, pundit or condemner, would rank him outside of the ten best centers in NBA history. On top of all that talent he was always a great teammate, and his willingness to take a support role for Tim Duncan helped kick off the San Antonio dynasty. Not many Kobes know when it’s time to Pippen, and Robinson Pippened with the very best of them. But that was just David, selfless, team-first, and devastating on the saxophone.