A larger than life presence on and off the court, San Antonio Spurs legend David Robinson had one of the greatest games in Spurs history back in 1994.
There have been more than a few legendary players to wear the San Antonio Spurs uniform but David Robinson has always been particularly interesting to me. I started watching Spurs games in 2000, shortly after my family moved to San Antonio, so I only really saw the twilight years of Robinson’s career. But The Admiral was giving opponents fits long before then.
It didn’t take Robinson long to establish himself as one of the most dominant players in the league. He opened up his Hall of Fame career with seven straight All-Star appearances and was a league leader in points, blocks, and rebounds at varying points over that stretch. Ever the overachiever, Robinson took home the Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and MVP Award in that same period.
As astounding as all of his accolades are, possibly Robinson’s most impressive accomplishment came in an individual game in early 1994. In an otherwise meaningless game against the Detroit Pistons, Robinson did something few NBA players have ever accomplished. On that night, he played his way into the record books, becoming just the fourth player to record a quadruple-double when he finished his 34 point, 10 assists, 10 rebounds, and 10 block performance.
The historic game came in one of the most dominant stretches of Robinson’s career. Detroit just happened to be one the teams unfortunate enough to get in his way as he tore through the league. Here’s what he did over a seven-game stretch.
- @ New Jersey: 36 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists
- vs. Washington: 31 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists, 7 blocks
- vs. Denver: 29 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 blocks
- vs. Indiana: 34 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists
- vs. Detroit: 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, 10 blocks
- vs. Miami: 19 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 blocks
- vs. Minnesota: 50 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 6 blocks
Bill Simmons has a great line about how to best describe Robinson. He was just one of those rare players that made you stop and go “whoa.” Not only was the guy over 7 feet tall with the body of a Roman god, but he had the grace of a ballet dancer and was faster than nearly every other big man he played against. Just an all-world physical specimen
Robinson’s deep arsenal of skills was on full display that night against the Pistons. He was powering through double-teams, nailing mid-range jumpers, and sending back shots with authority. One area of his game that really stands out was his soft touch on passes.
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Robinson was never an outstanding passer, he averaged just 2.5 per game over the course of his career. But watch how quickly he finds open teammates and how softly he delivers the ball. He doesn’t look like Nikola Jokic out there but his relatively low assist numbers are more of a product of the era he played in, not a lack of ability.
As sports fans, we play the “Player X would have dominated in Y era” game across almost every sport. Would Wilt Chamberlin have been as dominant now as he was when he played? How much more could Barry Sanders have done in the spread football played today? They’re all interesting hypotheticals. But I don’t think anyone can watch the tape of Robinsons quadruple-double game and doubt that he would be an absolute force in today’s game.
Shaq has compared Giannis to his younger self and I think that’s an accurate comparison for what David Robinson could’ve been if he had played in today’s wide-open game. Giannis might have a better handle, but in terms of sheer physical dominance of the game, Robinson would be right there with Giannis and Joel Embiid.
To the generation of Spurs fans who didn’t grow up watching David Robinson, take some time and go down a YouTube rabbit hole of some of his greatest games. I promise you, you will have a whole new appreciation for how impressive a player The Admiral was.