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TRIALS OF DAVID
Leigh Montville
April 29, 1996
SAN ANTONIO SPURS CENTER AND BORN AGAIN CHRISTIAN DAVID ROBINSON IS TRYING TO LEAD HIS TEAM TO AN NBA TITLE AND REMAIN PURE IN A WORLD BESET BY THE SEVEN DEADLEY SINS
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April 29, 1996

Trials Of David

SAN ANTONIO SPURS CENTER AND BORN AGAIN CHRISTIAN DAVID ROBINSON IS TRYING TO LEAD HIS TEAM TO AN NBA TITLE AND REMAIN PURE IN A WORLD BESET BY THE SEVEN DEADLEY SINS

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He has felt himself taken by these NBA tides toward perdition, felt a loss of control. Nobody else might have noticed, but he did. He has found the answer that works for him. He is a Christian.

The opponent every day and night on the schedule is sin. David Robinson versus sin. David Robinson versus all the seven deadly sins: pride, lust, greed, gluttony, sloth, anger and envy. Every day. Every night. It is a never-ending season.

DAVID ROBINSON VERSUS PRIDE

He was not prepared for this NBA life. Maybe no one but the children of rock stars and Washington politicians could have had any idea of what to expect, but Robinson was less prepared than most of the tall young men who rise from their seats on draft day in June, place team baseball caps on their heads and walk in newly purchased, routinely ill-fitting suits toward a grand future. He did not know he would receive around-the-clock attention.

"This league changes everyone who comes into it," Robinson's San Antonio teammate Sean Elliott says. "I don't care who you are—you come here, you're going to change somehow. Usually it's not a good change, either. David was no different from anyone else."

The typical NBA No. 1 draft choice at least has been through a minor league training program for stardom, starting as early as seventh or eighth grade. Taller, quicker, better than everyone else his age at playing this game, he has been romanced first by high school coaches, then taken to high-powered summer camps, then cheered in big-time college arenas. He has had experience with sycophants working in sync, boosters quick with compliments.

Robinson had little of this. He played only one year of high school basketball, went to no camp, went to the Naval Academy as only a 6'6", 175-pound future sailor. He never gave pro basketball a thought. His sister, Kimberly, always said she was going to be famous. She practiced signing her autograph so it would look good when the moment came and people asked. He never thought about that. He says he only wanted "a nice life." Whatever that was.

His circumstances changed forever when he grew seven inches while he was in college. Who would have figured that? It was as if he had won some bizarre biological lottery. His body grew much larger, but his coordination remained the same. Suddenly he could do things on a basketball floor he never had imagined. Always faster than almost everyone else, now he was also bigger than almost everyone else. "I didn't even notice how fast I was growing," he says. "It just seemed that more and more people were looking at mc and saying, "Man, you must play basketball.' "

One success led to another—the NBA was knocking at his door by his senior year, making him the No. 1 draft choice in the country in 1987—but his environment still was quiet. At the Naval Academy he didn't have a car, didn't have any of the perks of the famous. He had to have permission to go see a movie. He was like everyone else. Quieter, in fact.

"Even when I graduated, I didn't go right into the NBA life," he says. "I had my two-year service commitment, and I was living a normal life on a base. It was strange. I would go to NBA things—go to the All-Star Game, for instance, where everyone was treated special—then come back to the base, where guys were going to the supermarket with their families, working jobs, doing all the normal things that people do. I had a foot in both worlds."

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