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DAVID ROBINSON NAMED AMBASSADOR OF SPORTS FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION

New York, June 19, 2003 – After climaxing his brilliant 14-year NBA career in storybook fashion by winning his second NBA title, the San Antonio Spurs’ David Robinson will now begin the newest chapter in his life as Sports Illustrated’s 50th Anniversary Ambassador of Sports, it was announced today by SI President Bruce Hallett.

 
Here's to You, Mr. Robinson
Michael Jordan's farewell tour is getting most of the attention, but the void created by David Robinson's departure may be even harder for the NBA to fill.
      It was a June night in 1999, and David Robinson had been an NBA champion for all of 90 minutes. As he dressed, reporters and TV crews massed around his stall in the visitors' locker room of Madison Square Garden, notebooks and cameras at the ready. But they had to wait while he answered questions from another source.
      "How do you tie a tie, Daddy?" asked David Jr., six years old at the time. "Well, you bring this part around here and tuck this in here, and then you pull down here," Robinson answered softly, as he performed each step. "Is it hard?" David Jr. asked. "Not once you know how to do it," said his father. "Don't worry, I'll teach you."
      They went on like that for a few minutes, a father chatting with his son as though they were the only two people in the room. On the night that he reached the peak of his profession, Robinson was content to be David Jr.'s dad, which should come as no surprise to anyone who followed him during his four seasons at the Naval Academy or since he joined the San Antonio Spurs, in 1989. The 7'1" Robinson has often been called an extraordinary man, but in truth he is an ordinary one, in the best sense. He values his family and his faith; he tries to do good works and spread good will. He measures himself by how much he gives, not by his two Olympic gold medals or his 10 All-Star appearances or the mind-boggling digits on his paycheck.
      "There are other things in my life that validate me beyond basketball," he says. "Criticism or losing a playoff series never really crushed me. At the end of the day I knew I'd given my best."
      That sense of perspective allows Robinson, 37, to prepare for his exit from the NBA with such equanimity. He intends to retire at the end of the Spurs' playoff run, and though his farewell season has been overshadowed by Michael Jordan's, the Admiral may be as difficult to replace. There are few athletes in any sport who can match his combination of talent, dignity and social conscience. He and his wife of 11 years, Valerie, started Carver Academy for economically disadvantaged children in San Antonio in 1997, and they have poured more than $9 million into the school. Robinson's work at Carver is just one reason that the NBA's community service award now bears his name.
      Although he appreciates such honors, the man who served his two-year hitch in the Navy as a civil engineer feels uneasy about being given a hero's send-off while a war rages in Iraq. "For people to acknowledge my contributions to the league means a great deal to me," he said. "But honoring my career was already a little uncomfortable. Now it's really uncomfortable."
      Still, the recognition is better than the slings and arrows Robinson used to take before he finally won his championship, criticism that would have made a less gracious and grounded man turn bitter. Some of those barbs came from me. "It is difficult to believe that a man whose torso bulges with such marblelike muscle," I wrote in 1994, "could be so squeezably soft when the playoffs arrive." Robinson no doubt read those words and others like them, yet a smile and a handshake were always waiting for me the next time we met.
      He gained his revenge on all of his critics when he and Tim Duncan led the Spurs to that championship in 1999. But Robinson's real last laugh will echo for years to come, as he devotes himself to his family, his faith and his charitable works. In an era of ego-driven athletes to whom the big picture extends no further than the sidelines, we will miss him far more than he misses us.
 
      -- Phil Taylor, writing in the June 23, 2003 Sports Illustrated Scorecard Column  
 

Robinson, who ironically wore No. 50 during his career, will serve as the spokesperson for the magazine’s anniversary program, “America’s Sports Illustrated: 50 Years, 50 States, 50 Sports.” The wide-ranging multimedia platform, which begins next month and continues through July 2004, is a yearlong celebration of sports in America. It will include editorial coverage in the magazine and online, a community sports outreach campaign, as well as a mobile tour that will travel to unique sports events in cities and towns throughout the country. Toyota is the presenting sponsor of the Tour; Starter and Best Buy are the program sponsors. SI’s actual 50th anniversary date is August 16, 2004.

“This program is in perfect step with my goals to give back to my community in a meaningful way,” said Robinson. “I admire SI for celebrating their anniversary by celebrating sports and giving back to the fans. While I’ve been honored to be on the cover of SI several times, I feel truly privileged to have been asked to be a part of this program.”

Robinson will have an integral role throughout the 12-month celebration, which kicks off on Friday, July 11, 2003 in Newport, Rhode Island during the Newport Sailing Regatta and Tennis Week. In addition to participating in the official kickoff festivities in Newport, Robinson will visit with kids from the local YMCA and parks and recreation agency. YMCA of the USA and the National Recreation and Park Association are the two national beneficiaries of SI’s outreach efforts to enhance the quality of sports in America’s communities.

“The occasion of our anniversary provides a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the role of sports as a force for good in our country,” said SI President Bruce Hallett. “No one better personifies that role than David Robinson. In addition to being a leader and a champion on the basketball court, he has served his country – both as a Naval officer and an Olympian – and he does extraordinary work for his community through his foundation. In short, David Robinson is a tremendous ambassador for all that is right in the sports world.”

Robinson’s career highlights include winning two NBA titles (1999 and 2003), playing in 10 NBA All-Star Games, winning two Olympic Gold Medals and being named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. Off the court, David and his wife Valerie created the David Robinson Foundation, and he has donated more than $9 million toward the establishment of The Carver Academy (TheCarverAcademy.org), an independent school designed to serve a culturally and economically diverse community of pre- kindergarten through fourth-grade students in San Antonio. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, the No. 1 selection of the 1987 NBA Draft passed on two seasons to serve in the U.S. military. In light of Robinson’s ongoing dedication to his country and community, the NBA’s community service award now bears his name.

Contact
 
Sheryl Spain
Sports Illustrated
(212) 522-6905 
 
 
Nicole Bradley
Edelman
(212) 704-8153 
 
 
David Schwab
Octagon
(703) 905-3363 
 

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