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David Robinson: The Spursiest

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We wouldn’t even have a “Spursiest” series without The Admiral setting the tone.

We are back once again with the Spursiest moves and skills of all time. Simply put, these are the grittiest, most overlooked, and most singularly unflashy moves/skills in the San Antonio Canon. If you haven’t already, go back and check out our previous entries, listed at the bottom of this article.

Perhaps the most gracious and unselfish Spur of them all, his attitude helped set the entire foundation of “The Spurs Way”, and without him we may not even have this series. As his physical gifts began to decline with age and injury, he relinquished his star pedestal to another and accepted a role of doing the dirty work. Next we have:

David Robinson’s Box Out

On a list brimming with decidedly ‘un-sexy’ entries, it can be hard to argue which inclusion is the least sexy, but if there’s any single contender that deserves a unanimous nomination, it’s this one. Insofar as technical prowess in the post is concerned, The Admiral was never quite on Tim Duncan’s level. But to be fair, in his prime, David Robinson was such a physical freak for his size that he never really had to be. His speed and lift allowed him to run circles around most of the premier big men of his era (excepting perhaps Hakeem Olajuwon and the pre-diesel version of Shaquille O’Neal), which combined with his size and strength rendered him an almost unconscionable force in the low block.

This isn’t to say that Robinson was technically deficient, so much as that in the presence of such prodigious physical talent, technical skills can become more of a nuance than an outright necessity. But in 1999, facing a decline brought on by both age and the lingering effect of his 1997 back and foot injuries, Robinson made the gracious and somewhat prophetic decision to step down from his position of on-court prominence in favor of a second-year power forward teeming with obvious potential.

This is a story Spurs fans know well, but one of the things that seems to have been forgotten is the crucial detail that this was not an immediate reaction/decision on The Admiral’s part (an aspect we tend to gloss over that I think gives both the story and eventual decision more power) and another is exactly what that decision entailed when it came to playing together.

In most of our minds we tend to conjure the image of Tim Duncan and David Robinson endlessly blocking and dunking on the opposition like a glorified YouTube highlight reel, but the reality was something closer to what we remember least about the ’03 championship squad: Robinson doing the dirty work, acting as the defensive epicenter, and buying Duncan and company space and time with crafty positioning and savvy high-low passes. Significantly this is also what we remember least about Duncan and the ‘Beautiful Game’ Spurs of 2014, who despite an MVP caliber performance in the 2013 Finals relegated himself in a similar fashion in favor of Kawhi Leonard.

And while Robinson’s transformation into technical master came late and at the behest of physical decline, falling just shy of Duncan’s prodigious skill level (though you should watch him box Shaq out, it’s a joy to behold), it’s was David’s recognition of and adaptation to his own declining skill-set that set the stage for two decades of dominance, proving that even a gesture as small as boxing out can carry monumentally disproportionate impact, and that little things done well are at the foundation of every grand success.

In many ways, it wouldn’t be crazy to contend that this is the ‘Spursiest’ of all the skills on the list. And to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure that I would contest it.

For some reason no one makes highlight videos of boxing-out, so I had to settle for this sweet standing arm-bar on Ewing by baby Dave. Turns out people only seem to want pictures of players dunking.
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