Some of his endorsement money goes to the David Robinson Foundation, which administers cash grants, provides game tickets and gives items for auction to charities that serve young people in South Texas. Over the last four years the foundation has given more than $1 million to these organizations. Robinson also has sponsored a fifth-grade class at San Antonio's Gates Elementary School, vowing lo provide a $2,000 scholarship for the college education of every kid who wants one. That class has now reached the 10th grade.
The speeches Robinson makes arc mostly to youth groups. He does no autograph shows, but he signs forever for free. He writes his name, No. 50 and a reference to a favorite Biblical verse. On the road he usually is the last Spur on the team bus, signing while his teammates snake past the crowd around him.
"It's a joke, the money that's available in this position," Robinson says. "The things people want to give you—I can't remember when I last paid for a set of golf clubs." He has a little deal under which a San Antonio television station contributes money to his foundation every time he answers a letter from a kid on a filmed weekly segment called "Dear David." Today's letter is from Raymond. He wants to know how fast Dave can dribble a basketball.
"Hi, Raymond," Robinson says into the camera with a smile. "Good question. I say dribbling a basketball is like swimming with a shark chasing you. The closer the shark gets, the faster you swim. It's a grand chase. I dribble as fast as I have to." Two hundred bucks to the foundation. Just like that. It's a joke.
DAVID ROBINSON VERSUS SLOTH
He is just now learning the game of basketball. That might be the most unsettling news about him, the biggest joke of all. He is just now loving the game. He has made all this money, has been named the best player in the game, and only now is he discovering what it is all about. He is 30 years old and still improving.
"He didn't play a lot of basketball before he came to us," Spurs general manager Gregg Popovich says. "When he came here he was an athletic phenomenon, not really a basketball player. Remember, one year of high school, four years at a college that wasn't playing big games all the time—he did not have the same basketball background as most NBA players. Never played all that time on the playgrounds. You can still see it sometimes. Situations will arise where he looks awkward. He won't know what to do. Those situations, though, are becoming fewer and fewer."
"I came into this league with almost no offense," Robinson admits. "I could use my height and speed to get away from people, and I could dunk. That was my offense."
He has worked to put together a package. He has a solid jump shot. He has a strong drive from the left side. He has a dance-studio drop step. He has bulked up to 250 pounds, heading toward 275 to withstand the Shaquille O'Neals in the middle. He presses 325 pounds, good for a big man whose long arms force him to bring weights such a long way. He still is one of the fastest players and highest leapers on the Spurs.
The biggest changes probably have occurred in his head. He has learned where to go, what to do, how to react to situations. He also has acquired a passion for work. "I came here, I didn't have that," he says. "Larry Brown, the coach then, used to yell at me, and I'd never react. I'd just sit there. I didn't know what he wanted from me. It took me four years to become the player they expected me to be."