This Day In Sports: The 7-foot-1 Admiral goes off for 71

April 24, 1994: San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson becomes the fourth player in NBA history (after Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor and David Thompson) to score 70 points in a game as he goes for 71 in a win over the Clippers at the L.A. Sports Arena.The explosion enabled “The Admiral” to pass Shaquille O’Neal on the final day of the regular season for the NBA scoring title, breaking a seven-year run by the temporarily-retired Michael Jordan. Robinson averaged a career-high 29.8 points per game.

Pretty good for a guy who didn’t even play hoops until his senior year in high school. It was then that Robinson grew from a 5-9 non-player to a 6-6 all-district center at Osbourn Park High in Manassas, VA. Without significant offers to play college ball, Robinson decided to go to the U.S. Naval Academy and play for the Midshipmen. Navy had a 6-6 height restriction at the time for all attendees, and Robinson grew to 6-7 his freshman year. But he was granted a waiver. After all, how much more could he possibly grow? The answer, of course, was 7-1. Robinson ended up as a two-time All-American and finished his career with both the Naismith and Wooden Awards.

Robinson’s stellar NBA career could have been two years longer. He was drafted first overall by San Antonio in the 1987 NBA Draft, but he was committed to serve two years of active duty in the Navy. Never mind—Robinson picked up where he left off and was voted NBA Rookie of the Year for the 1989-90 season. He was MVP of the league in 1994-95, when he averaged 27.6 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.

Part of Robinson’s legacy is his relationship with Tim Duncan, who was drafted first overall by the Spurs in the 1997 NBA Draft. Instead of being threatened by the uber-talented Duncan, Robinson befriended him and mentored him. The duo won two NBA championships together, in 1999 and 2003. The latter title marked the triumphant end of Robinson’s career. His final appearance was the decisive Game 6 of the 2003 NBA Finals against the New Jersey Nets, when he scored 13 points and pulled down 17 rebounds. At the end of the year, Robinson and Duncan shared Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsmen of the Year” award.

Robinson is actually a two-time inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame—in 2008 for his individual accomplishments, and in 2009 as a member of the Dream Team, the 1992 U.S. Olympic gold medal team in Barcelona. He’s now a minority owner of the Spurs.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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