HeroVet: David Robinson, All-Star status
Former Navy midshipman David Robinson finished in style, rounding out a prolific basketball career with a second National Basketball Association Championship in 2003. And even though he is "retired" from the sport, he retains All-Star status in his personal and charitable pursuits.
Nicknamed "The Admiral," Robinson was drafted out of the Naval Academy with the first pick in the 1987 draft. He later joined the San Antonio Spurs two years after fulfilling his military service commitment at Kings Bay, Georgia and Port Hueneme, California.
Two years of military service had no negative effect on his basketball game, as he went on to become the NBA’s Rookie of the Year in 1990, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist in basketball, the NBA’s individual scoring champ in 1994, and leader of the Spurs’ championship team in 1999 and 2003.
But above all, Robinson’s personal pride resides in helping people. He’s demonstrated a lifelong commitment to giving back to others: family, teammates and children.
"Your military experience is going to serve you for the rest of your life," Robinson told a gathering of high school ROTC students in 2000. "You don’t think when I step out on this basketball court that I don’t rely on my military experience?" he bantered. "Every day!"
The Spurs star said he grew up around military people and saw the Naval Academy as a way to get a great education, be with great people and end up with a job with responsibility. As a young boy he looked up to his father, also a Navy veteran. And even in the twilight of his career, he served under his last coach, Gregg Popovich, a 1970 Air Force Academy graduate.
Robinson and his wife have contributed about 10 million dollars to The Carver Complex, a college prep school and cultural center built in one of San Antonio’s roughest neighborhoods. He has fed the homeless through his "Feed My Sheep" program, he has helped families get diapers and baby food through "The Ruth Project," and fulfilled a promise he made to about 50 elementary school students -- he gave them each $2,000 towards higher education.
He and his wife work at the school, which they founded in 1997. Most of Carver’s 117 students are African American or Hispanic, and nearly all of them come from low-income families and receive scholarships.
"The measure of your success is going to be how you serve other people," he told The New York Times in January, 2007. His commitment to service won him the the 2003 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship award presented annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association for citizenship, and he’s even achieved global recognition, as a 1998 inductee into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame.
"These aren’t sacrifices to me. If I’m clutching onto my money with both hands, how can I be free to hug my wife and kids?" Robinson says. Even his teammates feel Robinson’s passion, and lamented his retirement for many reasons. Towards the end of his memorable 2003 season, fellow Spur teammates reflected on the impact Robinson would leave behind.
"We really don’t realize what we are losing," said Spurs forward Malik Rose after announcing that he and other Robinson teammates were donating $100,000 to Carver. "Its comical to think about what we’d have to do to repay a fraction of what you’ve done for us," Rose added.
"I can’t even imagine walking into a locker room and not seeing him smile next season," Coach Popovich said. "It’s going to be a sad, sad thing at the end of the year." Robinson continues to serve at Carver as its chairman. As he says on its Web site, his future non-basketball dreams remain solid: "It is our hope that The Carver Academy will spark the hunger to serve in our children and provide an oasis of learning for parents and the community. Through collaborative efforts, we will provide opportunities to many."
Image Credit: http://www.espn.com/nba/player/_/id/715/david-robinson