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Mike Downey

The Spur of the Moment--and the Future

November 08, 1987|Mike Downey

Way to go, Alamo. Nice going, San Antonio. We don't know how you did it. We don't know why he did it. But the National Basketball Assn.'s Spurs and Ensign David Robinson, United States Navy, have achieved an accord, as they say at the Pentagon, and now it's full speed ahead. This pro basketball stuff, it's not just a job, it's an adventure.

I feel like calling up Henry Cisneros, the mayor of San Antonio, who may very well be the first Latino President of the United States someday, to express my best wishes. I'd vote for you, Henry. If you can sway Robbie the swabbie, you can sway anybody.

I feel like calling Angelo Drossos, the head ramrod of the Spurs, the owner, to say, "Well done, Angie, well done. Now you don't have to move your franchise to Toronto or Kansas City or someplace. You can stay right there, deep in the heart of Texas, and your Spurs can jingle, jangle, jingle."

I doubt if Jerry West feels like calling Drossos. I doubt if Red Auerbach feels like calling him. They wanted Robbie the swabbie for their very own. They wanted him to wait another year or so, fulfill his military obligation, peel all them potatoes, swab all those poop decks, then hustle his buns over to Boston Garden or the Fabulous Forum to make a great team that much greater.

Alas, the big one got away. For some reason, known only to him and those close to him, the biggest thing to come out of Annapolis since bell-bottom trousers has decided to do an honorable thing after his honorable discharge in two years. He has decided to forgo the tinsel of Hollywood and the green scenery of Boston to conduct his basketball career with the team that drafted him. It's the greatest save in Texas since they pulled that little girl out of the well.

Man, did San Antonio ever need David Robinson. With one stroke of a ballpoint, this considerate 7-foot kid has saved the owner's sanity, saved the franchise and saved the day. He just became a hero in San Antonio the likes of which hasn't been seen since Davy Crockett and George Gervin. The way the Spurs had played since Gervin left, well, let's just say that Texas was in danger of becoming the no-star state. Now, though, yahoo, pardner.

David Robinson could have played center for Earvin Johnson or for Larry Bird or for Michael Jordan. He could have asked Patrick Ewing to slide on over to forward. He could have owned a piece of one of the great cities of Western civilization, and been up to his eyeballs in endorsements to boot. With the Spurs, he'll be lucky to do commercials for armadillo food.

That's all right. Like the serviceman he is, David Robinson feels a sense of honor. He feels the need to do what's right. He's a stand-up guy. And, perhaps more importantly, Robinson figured out that he had better get those millions of dollars guaranteed right bloody now, before he breaks his stern aboard ship, or gets sent into dangerous waters. At least this way, he's covered for life.

You probably could fry an egg on Jerry West's forehead right now. On Red Auerbach's, too. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is on his last legs, and Robert Parish's first legs had bad knees. The team hotshots, though, Magic and Larry, are still fairly young and spry. With the big midshipman in the middle, these guys could have kept those 60-victory seasons coming year after year, guaranteed.

Or, imagine Michael Jordan with an honest-to-God center to work with, as opposed to what he has now, which is Dave Corzine, who couldn't jump over a crack in the sidewalk, and Artis Gilmore, who has spent the last few seasons in San Antonio, lumbering up and down the floor as if he were wearing Frye boots for sneakers.

As much as I might have enjoyed watching Robbie the swabbie enlist with one of those teams, I am absolutely tickled pink that San Antonio has convinced him to sign. This is good news for the little guys of this world. This is a juicy bone for every dog who never expects to have his day. Who's to say the little guys shouldn't get lucky once in a while?

This is good for San Antonio, and good for basketball. Think about it a minute. Forget your selfish motivations about wanting Robinson to play for your own favorite team, and think about it. Think about all the times you have complained about CBS showing the same old teams on television. Think about all the times you watched a game between two anonymous teams and wished they had more to offer.

The NBA is in its greatest shape ever. It's like the whole league has gone to a health club. Where Chicago was once boring, it now has Jordan. Where Atlanta was dull, it now has Dominique Wilkins. Detroit's a killer these days. So's Dallas. Houston's got two big heroes. New York has Ewing. Washington's got tall Manute Bol and small Tyrone Bogues and Mr. In-Between, Bernard King. You don't have to wait for Boston or Philadelphia to be in town to see a good game anymore.

I know I'm different from most people, but I don't go to a basketball game just to see the home team win. I go to see a good basketball game. With four new NBA franchises being created soon, we're going to need all the decent teams we can get.

So, be thankful that Robbie the swabbie did what he did. Here's to you, Mr. Robinson. Welcome aboard. And here's to you, Spurs. Scrape that armadillo stuff off your soles, and kick up your heels. I know this is what Davy Crockett once heard, but this time it's true. Help is on the way.

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