An Embarrassed David Robinson Saved the Spurs From Owner Red McCombs’ Ugly Plan B

David Robinson was the first pick of the 1987 NBA Draft. He played for the San Antonio Spurs for 18 years, winning five championships and being named MVP in 1999. In 1999, his contract expired and he wanted to retire but the Spurs were not ready to let him go.

David Robinson is a retired NBA player who was known for his height. In 1997, when owner Red McCombs wanted to sell the team, he was embarrassed by what he thought of as a lame plan B.

For the San Antonio Spurs, the wait was well worth it. The club was in the midst of a humiliating six-year losing streak, but when David Robinson was finally given the opportunity to play during the 1989-90 season, everything changed.

Robinson, who was drafted first overall in the 1987 NBA Draft out of the Naval Academy, had to serve in the military for two years before joining the Spurs. The club was in serious financial trouble, and owner Red McCombs was considering severe measures. Robinson rescued the Spurs as a humiliated rookie.

For the San Antonio Spurs, David Robinson was too excellent to pass up.


David-Robinson-Spurs-1-1024x691 During an NBA basketball game at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California, approximately 1990, David Robinson #50 of the San Antonio Spurs competes for position with Sam Perkins #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers. Robinson was a member of the Spurs from 1989 until 2003. | Getty Images/Focus on Sport

The Spurs had just finished the 1986-87 NBA season with a record of 28-54, and they held the first overall selection in the forthcoming draft. Robinson was regarded as the finest player in the draft, but the Spurs would have to wait two years for him to finish his military service if they selected him. Their patience paid off when they chose the 7-foot-1 center.

The Spurs’ following two seasons were a struggle, as they had become used to. They finished 31-51 in the 1987-88 season, and 21-61 the following season. Things soon altered when Robinson joined the team.

Robinson started 81 of the 82 games he played as a rookie. He averaged 24.3 points and 12.0 rebounds per game during the 1989-90 season. He was also a force on defense, with 3.9 blocks per game. The Admiral led the Spurs to a 56-26 record and a Western Conference Finals appearance. It was the biggest single-season turnaround in NBA history at the time.

David Robinson was embarrassed by the media attention he was receiving as a result of his efforts to save the San Antonio Spurs.

Red McCombs, the Spurs’ owner, was debating what to do with the club before Robinson arrived. He understood that moving the team out of San Antonio would increase its value, but that was Plan B. He was willing to go to any length to ensure his survival in the metropolis.

McCombs set a target of selling 10,000 season tickets in November 1989, Robinson’s first full month as a starter for the club. He barely sold approximately 7,800 tickets on the first day. According to Sports Illustrated, if that target isn’t reached by the end of the year, “then, yeah, we have some choices to make.”

Was he referring about relocating the team?

He replied, “I don’t want to say that yet.” “Obviously, the team is more valuable outside of here, but I want to make it work here. Now! And I believe we will be able to.”

With his play, Robinson assisted with the placement of seats in the stands. They were one victory away from reaching the NBA Finals before falling in seven games to the Portland Trail Blazers. For the first seven years of his career, Robinson was an NBA All-Star and earned Rookie of the Year. However, as a rookie, he was embarrassed by all of the attention.

He stated, “All of the attention I’ve gotten is, well, humiliating since I’m still trying to earn my way in the league.” “It’s all too easy to lose track of your goals and identity. Especially when you don’t even have a name.”

With the Spurs, Robinson’s identity developed fast.

Robinson instantly elevated the Spurs to a championship contender. Until the 1996-97 season, they were a playoff club every year with their big guy in the center. Robinson was restricted to six games after breaking his foot early in the season. San Antonio completed the season with the third-worst record in the NBA, at 20-68.

Despite having two teams with inferior records, the Spurs beat the odds and won the 1997 NBA Draft’s first selection. Tim Duncan, another franchise-altering athlete, was chosen. In the 1998-99 season, Robinson and Duncan joined together to capture their first championship. In five games, the Spurs beat the New York Knicks.

In his 14th and last season in the NBA, Robinson won another championship with the Spurs. He averaged 21.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game throughout his career. Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009, he was a 10-time NBA All-Star.

Robinson was the Spurs’ rescuer in the end. McCombs was deterred from pursuing Plan B as a result of his immediate effect.

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