David Robinson was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 1987, but he did not make his NBA debut until 1990. This is because of a naval stipulation that prevents active duty members from playing professional sports for two years after leaving the Navy.
David Robinson was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 1987, but he didn’t play his first NBA game until 1989. In fact, he only played three games during his first season because of a Naval Stipulation that required him to serve for 3 years before playing in the NBA.
Because of his service in the United States Navy, David “The Admiral” Robinson earned the moniker. However, a technicality in the Navy enabled him to skip a full five-year service commitment and join the San Antonio Spurs three years ahead of schedule.
As a member of the Navy Midshipmen, David Robinson grew to be over seven feet tall.
Following his choice to join the United States Naval Academy, David Robinson rose in status and notoriety.
When Robinson traveled from his birthplace of Key West to Annapolis, Maryland, he was a relatively unknown commodity. He wasn’t much of a prep prospect until his final year of high school, when he grew to 6’6′′.
The late development surge wasn’t enough to attract big collegiate schools’ attention. Despite this, Robinson was accepted to the Naval Academy based on his skills and academic achievement. In Annapolis, though, he experienced something unusual.
Robinson grew to 6’7′′ soon after his admission, surpassing the Academy’s maximum height requirement. Robinson, on the other hand, was granted a waiver in part because the Navy assumed he would not go through another growth spurt at such a young age.
Robinson, on the other hand, continued to grow higher. In his sophomore year, he grew to 7’0″ and established himself as one of the finest centers in the nation. The Admiral averaged 23.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 4.0 blocks per game, instantly putting him on NBA scouts’ radars.
Robinson’s status as a 7-footer, however, caused issues for the Navy and Robinson’s commitment to serving for the entire five years.
Robinson was not allowed to be an unrestricted line officer due to a Naval requirement, enabling him to join the NBA sooner than expected.
DAYTON, OHIO – MARCH 15: Navy Midshipman David Robinson #55 sits on the bench during a game versus the LSU Tigers at the University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, OH on March 15, 1985. (Photo courtesy of NCAA Photos/Rich Clarkson via Getty Images) )
Following Robinson’s surprising development, the Navy found itself in a bind. He couldn’t be an unrestricted line police anymore since he was a 7-footer.
Robinson would basically be relegated to shore duty, which over the course of five years may not have appealed to him. The Navy, on the other hand, wanted Robinson to stay at Annapolis and developed a plan that would enable him to serve while also allowing him to enter the NBA sooner than planned.
According to We Are The Mighty, former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman determined that after graduating from the Academy, Robinson would join as a Naval Reserve Officer. Before going to the NBA, he would serve two years and be granted permission to compete in foreign tournaments.
Teams across the league may not have been as eager to select Robinson and wait out his duty if the Navy had insisted that he complete the full five years. However, Lehman’s decision allayed some of those fears.
Robinson was the first overall selection in the 1987 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs. He debuted in the NBA in 1989, three years sooner than if he had been required to complete the original five-year contract.
In San Antonio, the Admiral established himself as one of the greatest centers in the NBA.
Robinson’s early discharge from the military gave him the opportunity to get NBA experience at a young age. He used that expertise to become one of the league’s top centers.
In San Antonio, the Admiral enjoyed a successful career. Robinson had a career average of 21.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks. During the 1994-95 season, he was named to ten All-Star teams, won a scoring championship, and was named league MVP. However, team triumph would have to wait.
Robinson resurrected the Spurs’ once-dormant club and turned them into a regular postseason contender. However, it wasn’t until Tim Duncan came that San Antonio won an NBA championship. In 1999 and 2003, Robinson’s last seasons in the NBA, the Spurs won the title twice.
It’s fascinating to speculate about what Robinson’s legacy would have been if he had stayed in the Navy for the full five years. Due to late growth spurts and Naval height restrictions, basketball fans will never know.
Basketball Reference provided the statistics.
RELATED: Hakeem Olajuwon Destroyed David Robinson After The Admiral Failed to Mention Him in His MVP Speech: ‘I’m Going to His House to Get My Award’
David Robinson began his $116 million NBA career 3 years early because of an intriguing naval stipulation. He was drafted in 1987, but did not enter the league until 1990. Reference: average nba career.
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