From Making the Dream Team to Making Dreams Come True: Why David Robinson is the Truest Dream Teamer
I like to keep a reading list of broad topics. One such topic is sports. I love watching sports. I used to love playing them until I grew old and out of shape. And now, as happens when you become older, I suppose, I enjoy reading about them too.
Recently, I’ve been reading through Jack McCallum’s book Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry Charles, and the greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever. Aside from the title being as long as one from Jonathan Edwards, it’s a pretty good book. It takes you inside the selection of the 1992 US Men’s Olympic Basketball team, considered by, well, everyone to be the greatest team ever assembled. Looking back now, it’s amazing that such iconic players crossed paths. Michael Jordan was a bonafide superstar. He was hands-down the best player on the planet. (I know many argue for Lebron James’s place atop that list now, but no one played like Jordan. No one.) Magic Johnson was fresh off his HIV diagnosis and in a weird “I am retired but might come back” commitment to the NBA. Larry Bird was at the tail-end of his hall of fame career. Charles Barkley was young and slim, but still as free with his mouth as he is now. Those four players take center stage throughout this book, as well they should. They were the faces of the team. (Barkley less so, though now we see more of him than any of the others.)
But the team was comprised of twelve players. Aside from Michael, Magic, Larry, and Charles, the team included Karl Malone, Christian Laettner, John Stockton, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler, Chris Mullin, and David Robinson. As a team, they’re Hall of Famers, being inducted in Springfield in 2010. Individually, all but Laettner are in the Hall, though he is a member of the Collegiate Hall of Fame. Three of the four coaches are in enshrined. To say the least, this was a very good team. To say the most, no team will ever top it.
Personality was not at a premium on this team. We all know about Barkley’s loud-mouth ways, but nearly everyone else was full of it too. The exception being, seemingly, David Robinson. By 1992, Robinson was a Christian, having come to Christ a year earlier. As such, he was a bit of an outsider on the team. Robinson certainly deserved his spot. He was one of the best centers in the league. No one questioned that. His physicality and smarts provided a huge advantage to Team USA.
I found McCallum’s chapter on Robinson’s faith to be a pleasant surprise. Though McCallum isn’t a Christian and therefore doesn’t understand what really makes Robinson tick, I think he did a good job presented him fairly. I knew Robinson was a Christian. I remember admiring his game alongside Tim Duncan with the Spurs, and I remember when he retired after winning it all in 2003. But I had forgotten about him as the years went on. In his retirement, Jordan went back into the basketball business, buying teams. Magic went into all kinds of businesses, buying stakes in the Lakers and Dodgers. Barkley went on TV and is one part of the most entertaining show on television as a member of Inside the NBA. Laettner reappears every March, sinking that last second shot, to the chagrin of my fellow University of Kentucky fans. The rest have found their place in life, mostly away from the spotlight, like Stockton, who moved home to Spokane, Washington.
David Robinson did something different. After his retirement in 2003, he started a school, The Carver Academy, in San Antonio, named after George Washington Carver, the once slave-turned entrepreneur. Carve was a scientist and botanist who invented a way to use alternative crops to cotton, helping poor farmers grow both a food source and a money-maker at the same time. Robinson named the school after Carver with the vision of helping the underprivileged in a poor area of San Antonio. But Robinson didn’t just start it. He funded it—to the tune of $10 million. It wasn’t a financial investment. It was a monetary gift and investment in the kids who benefited. That’s the kind of guy Robinson is. He’s different. He’s a Christian, and what he does with his money is outside of what the other Dream Teamers did with theirs. (He did, however, buy a small stake in the Spurs, which he still owns.)
Robinson’s initial funding of the school was only the start. He was involved in the day-to-day. McCallum writes, “The vast majority of his time and money go to Carver. He and his wife, Valerie, have put in additional millions as the school has flourished, and Robinson continues to spend the majority of his waking hours keeping the school humming, raising money for scholarships and facility upgrades, supervising curriculum, hiring and firing, traveling to conferences—all those day-to-day things that define the lives of most of us, though generally not the lives of Hall of Fame athletes.”
Robinson went on to start Admiral Capital Group with the goal of creating a platform to make an impact on the broader community. In a 2014 Forbes Magazine interview he said, “It was a way to sustain the work I was doing in San Antonio, but also allowed me to work with other communities. It also presented a new and exciting challenge in a new field. I was interested in learning more about the world of finance, how it worked, how it impacted different people. I also knew that to make a bigger impact, I would need to have a strong, profitable and sustainable business with the right partners. I had the opportunity to start a business with a close friend and board member of The Carver Academy, Dan Bassichis, someone I trusted and who shared my passion for helping the community.”
He goes on to say, “The community and social impact is at the heart of Admiral Capital. Dan and I initially started it with a commitment to using at least 10% of our profits to support Carver and other community projects. Additionally, our goal is use every asset we invest in to create opportunities for lower income communities and to support education.”
Interviewer Dan Schawbel asked Robinson his top three career tips, and Robinson responded with this. “1. Honor God with your first fruits. 2. Do the very best you can at everything you do and take pride in your work. 3. Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”
You can read the rest of the interview here.
Obviously, Robinson’s faith has had an impact. He’s lived his life out of the grace he’s experienced in the gospel. Robinson spent fourteen years in the NBA, all with the San Antonio Spurs. He was the Rookie of the Year, a ten-time All-Star, a two time NBA champion, an NBA MVP in 1994-1995, a ten-time All-NBA player, a Hall of Famer, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, and a member of the greatest team to ever take the court, the 1992 USA Men’s Basketball team, the Dream Team.
But basketball dreams aside, Robinson is now making dreams come true for other people. What does that say about him? What does it say about the Dream Team of which he was apart? That’s the question Jack McCallum asked in his book. Here’s his answer.
“Robinson was sometimes an afterthought, too, on that immortal team, whose members admired his athleticism, his grace, and his integrity but didn’t know him particularly well, and who talked about how basketball wasn’t his passion, how his success was due to the accident of his astounding genetic composition.
“But twenty years later, as the greatness of the 192 Olympic gold medalists becomes more and more a flicking light in history, I think that Robinson might be the truest Dream Teamer, a gentle and complex man from two worlds who lived the dream and, through the power of his own sweat and blood and faith, now gives a dream to others.”
David Robinson was a basketball player—and a really great one. But Robinson’s life was bigger than basketball, and when it was over, he passed the baton to his friend Tim Duncan and got to work making dreams come true for others.
So, yeah. David Robinson might be the truest Dream Teamer. After all, isn’t the purpose of dreams to reach beyond this world into another?