Amidst the age of player movement, San Antonio Spurs legend David Robinson takes issue with the modern-day superstar’s approach to building legacies.
Back in the heyday of San Antonio Spurs franchise cornerstone David Robinson, players took loyalty to their teams much more seriously. Well before the days of the Big Three phenomenon and the implementation of modern-day super teams, generational talents like Robinson would set up in the city that drafted them and build dynasties of their own.
It took Robinson quite a long time to build his dynasty in San Antonio, but the team finally managed to add the necessary talent around him to create a consistent championship contender. With players like Avery Johnson, Vinny Del Negro and Sean Elliott around him, Robinson turned the Spurs into a consistent playoff threat by dominating the game on both ends of the floor.
He took the traditional route: sticking with his team and building for his city. Because of this, Robinson is one of the most widely recognized individuals in San Antonio and can be considered the catalyst in the team’s sustained run of excellence since the 90’s.
Kawhi Leonard’s unrelenting escape from the Alamo City was unlike anything the franchise had faced in the past. Players generally settled in San Antonio, fitting within the system and elongating their careers under the careful watch of mastermind Gregg Popovich. The Spurs are notorious for taking care of their personnel and providing top notch medical help to ensure a sustainable future.
This made Leonard’s breakup with the Spurs all the more confusing. His quiet and curious demeanor made him difficult to gauge and his lack of accountability truly hurt the fanbase that loved him so dearly. Robinson, whose active participation in team activity is not to be understated, took the fallout to heart, as shown by his interview in Bleacher Report’s article entitled “Why NBA Legends Don’t Fully Endorse AD, KD’s Public Displays of Empowerment.”
“I always appreciated when a guy was going to kind of hang in there and fight the good fight and build a team,” said Robinson, who spent all 14 years of his career with the Spurs. “And the one thing that for me is a little disappointing is that guys don’t want to take on the challenge of building a team. … We’ve had this run for 25 years, which has been remarkable and amazing. And then you see this thing come in with Kawhi, who wants to go to a bigger market. So it’s unfortunate for a city like [San Antonio]—that wants to be competitive and has built something and really gone through all of this effort for 25 years—to lose it to this trend of players wanting to go to a bigger market.”
No, San Antonio doesn’t provide the national spotlight that many players crave, but it does provide a winning basketball situation that appeals to players around the world. Between the winning culture, expert training staff and exquisite player development, the Spurs welcome their players with affection and good intentions.
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Let’s make something abundantly clear: Leonard had every right to request a trade if he didn’t feel this situation was right. Any player that wishes for a new opportunity has the right to voice their opinion, but Leonard didn’t carry out his trade request in a respectable manner from the perspective of the Spurs and their fans. He essentially ghosted the team and left them in the dark, leaving the rest of the team to pick up the pieces and dig their way into the playoffs.
He turned on his teammates and created a media frenzy that was unprecedented for this franchise. Robinson understands the value of building something special in San Antonio, so it was especially disturbing to see how this Kawhi Leonard situation plays out.
This is the new norm of the NBA, so the Spurs must be prepared for superstars to force their way out in the future. On the flip side, San Antonio’s front office should be prepared to pounce at future chances to acquire star talents that are forcing their way to new situations.
Anthony Davis is the most recent player of that caliber to request a trade and San Antonio could build a trade package for New Orleans. The asking price is tremendously high and general manager R.C. Buford is precise in his decision making, but the time will come when a player forces their way out and San Antonio is ready to add another star.
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Who knows what would’ve been if Zaza Pachulia had allowed an inch of landing space for Kawhi in Game 1 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals?