If not for two all-time great American leaders, head coach Gregg Popovich and former MVP David Robinson, the San Antonio Spurs dynasty wouldn’t exist.
On the Fourth of July, the United States of America celebrates the anniversary of its independence with fireworks, cookouts and gatherings with loved ones. It’s also a particularly exciting time for NBA fans, considering it falls right in the heat of free agency, but the league’s suspension in March dramatically changed that timeline. Now, San Antonio Spurs fans have more time to ponder what’s to come for this year’s free agency class.
Based in Military City, U.S.A., the Spurs organization has been home to some incredible individuals. The top names that come to mind are the two men who were most influential in laying the foundation for San Antonio to become home an NBA dynasty: Head coach Gregg Popovich and Hall of Famer David Robinson.
It’s fitting that these ambassadors of the game planted roots in San Antonio as they’re both renowned patriots. They each began their careers in the military — Robinson in the Navy and Popovich in the Air Force. Now that they’re retired from the service, they’ve each continued to speak publicly about issues beyond basketball; utilizing their platforms to help build what they conceive to be a better version of this country.
If not for their tireless work for the Spurs organization, they wouldn’t have the platform of a perennial title contender to speak on. Long before there was a “Big Three,” a Kawhi Leonard or a DeMar DeRozan running the show for the San Antonio Spurs, it was these two gentlemen who paved the way for San Antonio to earn the respect of the basketball community.
Spurs fans tend to be thankful for having these great men in positions of leadership for the team.
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Before he was the league-MVP for the San Antonio Spurs, David Robinson was just a young man working his way through the United States Navy.
You don’t just get handed a nickname like ‘The Admiral,’ you have to earn it and David Robinson did just that before taking the league by storm for the San Antonio Spurs. One of the most commendable men to walk the face of this planet, Robinson is beloved in the River City for his contributions both on and off the court. He’s a man of faith with an unwavering devotion to philanthropy and growth in San Antonio.
As a young man at Navy, Robinson never expected that he could be an NBA player, but after sweeping all six National Player of the Year honors in 1987, it became clear that D-Rob could be one of the all-time greats. He was made eligible for the NBA Draft after his senior campaign and was picked No. 1 overall by the San Antonio Spurs, but instead honored his active-city obligation after attending the Naval Academy.
He unexpectedly grew from about 6-foot-7 to a true 7-footer, which dwindled his hopes of becoming an unrestricted line officer. Through some workarounds due to the unexpected situation, he served as a staff officer for the Civil Engineer Corps. Robinson moved to the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in St. Marys, GA before joining the Spurs in 1989.
When he arrived, Robinson was an instant All-Star, averaging 24.3 points, 13 boards and 3.9 blocks as a rookie. He went on to star in a Hall of Fame career that saw him win Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Most Valuable Player, Scoring Champion and a plethora of other accolades along the way.
All the while, Robinson planted the seeds for a championship dynasty by harboring a culture in San Antonio that would follow through for the next three decades. That culture was the same one that made a perfect fit with a young Tim Duncan, who sparked the team’s 22-year playoff streak including five titles and more superlatives than you could count on your hands.
He’s worked on many ventures to bring opportunities to San Antonio’s youth including the Carver Academy, a public charter school aimed toward inner-city children. Robinson has been a leader for social justice and philanthropy so much so that he has an award named after him. The NBA’s Community Assist Award recipient is given the “David Robinson Plaque,” which has “Following the standard set by NBA Legend David Robinson, who improved the community piece by piece” carved into it.
David Robinson’s name will always be remembered amongst the greatest individuals to every participate in professional sports and because of him, San Antonio has built its noble dynasty.
Next: More than just a coach
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has always been a role model.
Even those who don’t like Gregg Popovich’s outspoken nature have to admit that he always has the best interest of people at mind. First and foremost, before being a veteran or a basketball coach, Popovich is an earnest, caring person who wants to see the best out of people. This philosophy was integral to building the San Antonio Spurs’ culture. It’s one that’s earned Pop a reputation as one of the single greatest coaches in the history of sports.
Popovich majored in Soviet Studies at the Air Force Academy, a skill that served him well as a satellite operator who spied on Soviet missile launches and tests. It helped him to build the patience, thoughtfulness and attention to detail that he used as both as a player and coach.
During his four years, Popovich toured the world as a member of the Air Forces’ basketball program. It’s what inspired his great understanding of international basketball, especially in Europe, which translated into the Spurs’ top-notch scouting later down the line.
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He eventually took on an assistant coaching position for the Air Force, working his way up the coaching ranks and landing a gig at Pomona-Pitzer, which is now better-known as Pomona College. That gig was his last in college sports as his friend and mentor, Larry Brown, hired him to be the lead assistant for the San Antonio Spurs in 1988.
Pop wore many hats in his time with the Spurs, even getting laid off in 1992 just to get rehired two years later in 1994 as general manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations when the Holt Family purchased the team. It was at that point when he truly began laying the groundwork for what would eventually become the Spurs dynasty.
Besides his on-court impact, Popovich is a wonderful humanitarian whose done work with the San Antonio Food Bank, the Innocence Project and J/P HR, just to name a few. He’s outspoken about U.S. Politics with strong moral convictions about civil rights and justice for all. More recently, he’s taken on the role of head coach for Team USA basketball to represent his country yet again.
There’s never been a professional coach with such an important, historical impact on his country.