Warning: The following contains no drugs, thugs, coach choking, roach smoking, nose rings, wild things, bets, threats, f words or flipped birds. Please proceed with caution.
Isn't it great—just for a change—when the nice guy gets the girl? The decent Joe gets an even break? The schlub who drops his last quarter in the Salvation Army bucket turns the corner and finds a fifty?
Don't you love what's going on in the NBA right now?
Two years ago David Robinson and his wife, Valerie, gave $5 million to The Carver Complex, a college prep school and cultural center that's going to be built in one of the worst sections of San Antonio. This year David Robinson agreed to turn over his superstar role on the Spurs to Tim Duncan, lock, stock and magazine covers. In two weeks David Robinson may just win the NBA title. "I guess I just figured winning was more important than anything else I could do for the team," Robinson says.
Now, this brief message to Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers: Are any of you listening to this!?!
At the beginning of the season, San Antonio coach and general manager Gregg Popovich asked an NBA megastar to do the unheard of: He asked him to give up the mega. He asked him to give up the dap, the glamour, the shots, the minutes—all for the good of the team. He asked him to play defense, block shots and put his nose in front of Karl Malone's elbows. Not only did Robinson do it, he did it without complaint.
It worked like a Styrofoam hammer. It looked clunky. It made no sense. Here was Robinson, this 7'1" Greek statue with a 32-inch waist and a sprinter's stride, setting up at the high post, trying to sneak inside for garbage and getting the ball every other Tuesday. The only player in NBA history to win Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, MVP, the scoring tide, the rebounding title and the blocked-shots title was now the Spurs' go-from guy.
Yet while San Antonio opened the season 6-8 and fans howled for Popovich's head, Robinson didn't say a word. "He probably could've flushed me," says Popovich, "but he believed in this team."
What do you know? It began to work—and the Spurs began to win. Since that ugly start, San Antonio is 42-6 and in the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. "How many superstars would've done it?" asks Popovich. "Not many."
Well, it hasn't been easy for Robinson. "It's weird chasing the ball all the time," he says. "It used to come right into me every time down. But I'm getting used to it. You dream about having a team where everybody trusts each other, all the way, and here we are."