Much like the military background he was surrounded by, "The Admiral" had to take charge in the rebuilding of the San Antonio Spurs.
David Robinson was drafted back in 1987. Due to his commitment to the Navy however, Robinson wouldn't get on the court until 1989.
While "The Admiral" served his military honor, the Spurs were a team in dire need of a superstar to take charge and command respect from his opponents.
San Antonio was a dismal 115-213 from 1985-1989. It ended up playing the waiting game with its top pick in 1987, wondering if his "sea legs" can allow him to join a fleet of NBA powerhouses.
Robinson would then go from Navy Cadet to impact rookie during a game with the New Jersey Nets.
"The Admiral" dropped 26 points in a 109-92 win versus the Eastern Conference foe. One unnamed opposing guard said this about Robinson after the game:
"If he's still learning the game, I'd hate to see him when he knows its cold."
Robinson would become an unanimous Rookie of the Year winner that season after averaging 24.3 points per game, 12.0 rebounds, 3.89 blocks and shooting .531 from the field.
More important, he helped take charge of a Spurs franchise in disarray.
The previous season saw the Spurs finish with a lowly 21-61 record. Robinson's presence turned the Spurs into the Midwest Division champion with a 56-26 record in the 1989-1990 season. The 35-game improvement was the greatest one-year turnaround in NBA history at the time.
Robinson would then establish himself as one of the league's greatest big men, while also uplifting a once down-trodden franchise.
He would drop 71 points in a 1994 game against the Los Angeles Clippers that earned him the league's scoring title. He averaged 29.8 PPG that season.
The very next season, Robinson would take home the NBA's Most Valuable Player award and led the Spurs to an NBA best 62-20 record. He helped San Antonio reach the Western Conference Finals only to lose to eventual champion Houston.
Robinson made the Spurs playoff regulars from 1989-1996. He would earn first team, All-Defensive team, MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors while the Spurs continued to make postseason runs.
One season however put "The Admiral" in an unfamiliar territory, the injured reserve list.
He was limited to six games, and the Spurs finished the year 20-62 in the 1996-1997 season. The frontcourt showed why they needed "The Admiral" in the lineup.
San Antonio would welcome back Robinson the very next season, but would also welcome another big man who elevated the franchise even further, Wake Forest legend Tim Duncan.
Duncan and Robinson would form the "Twin Towers" and gave the Spurs another historic one-year turnaround. San Antonio made a 36-game improvement and finished the season 56-26, shattering the old record the team set back in the 1989-1990 season.
Robinson and Duncan became one of the greatest duos in NBA history because of their frontcourt presence and stellar defense.
Robinson would modify his game so that Duncan could fully blossom. Duncan would establish himself as one of the greatest players in the league and helped finish what Robinson started.
It came in the strike-shortened 1999 season, when the Spurs defeated the New York Knicks in five games to take home their first NBA title, and the city of San Antonio's first professional sports championship.
Robinson would show wear and tear towards the end of his career in 2003, but Duncan made sure that the Spurs were still title contenders. He and the Spurs helped send "The Admiral" on top by bringing home a second NBA title, by defeating Jason Kidd and the New Jersey Nets.
Duncan's success however wasn't because of carrying Robinson as "The Admiral" got older, it was because he learned the game from one of the NBA's greatest big men.
Robinson was a mentor to Duncan, one of the greatest frontcourt players ever, a Navy standout basketball player and a former Cadet who took charge of a dismal franchise 20 years ago.
Since 1989, the Spurs have won 11 division titles, have averaged over 53 victories each year, endured just one losing season and have brought back four NBA titles.
Without "The Admiral", the Spurs would have not been the turnaround story of the '89-90 season, they wouldn't be playoff regulars, they wouldn't reach the plateau of NBA Champion twice and they wouldn't have anyone to teach Duncan the ropes.
San Antonio needed an Admiral to take charge. "The Admiral" put the city and franchise on the NBA map.