What if the Spurs Passed on David Robinson in 1987?

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers
San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers / Focus On Sport/GettyImages
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San Antonio Spurs
Charles Barkley, David Robinson / TIM ZIELENBACH/GettyImages

1991-92 Season

The Spurs remain forgettable, and I don’t blame these fans. Their best player is fringe All-Star Sean Elliott. They are a ship without a rudder or a captain. “You need a captain, and also a rudder,” remarks David Robinson when asked what he learned at the Naval Academy. “Without that, you’re just on a raft waiting for help. And if help doesn’t come, you just float forever.”

San Antonio Spurs
Christian Laettner / Jonathan Daniel/GettyImages

1992-93 Season

After a horrible season in ‘92, the Spurs managed to crack the top three in the NBA Draft. Between Elliott and Gilliam, who are still the “core,” the Spurs need some size. They miss out on Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning but manage to take an all-time great basketball player.

Thus begins the Christian Laettner era.

Laettner quickly establishes himself as a player with excellent promise, and his instant impact allows Gilliam to settle into the third-option role, and he immediately gels in that spot. The trio averages 50 points a night by themselves, and Elliott makes his only All-Star game appearance. Shaq still takes the cake as the best rookie, but the future looks bright in San Antonio for the first time in a few years. The Spurs make the playoffs and actually make it past the first round before running into David Robinson.

The Suns are another story. They still manage to pair David Robinson with Sir Charles Barkley, and easily sweep the Western Conference to match up with the mighty Bulls, seeking their third title in as many years. Barkley is contained by Jordan and Pippen, but the Bulls have no match for Robinson at all. Chicago manages to light it up with their insane offense, but at the end of the seven-game series, the Valley of the Sun is the Valley of Champions. 

San Antonio Spurs
Michael Jordan / Tom Smart/GettyImages

1993-94 Season

The Spurs again make the playoffs as an eight seed but lose to the Houston Rockets, who are emerging as a real threat in the West. It appears as if the Spurs are once again peering into mediocrity. Free agents forget they exist despite the talent they have on the roster. Teams don’t pick up the phone when the Spurs call because they see a 210 phone number and forget that there is a team in south/central Texas. Trades are impossible, so the Spurs are stuck. 

Robinson and the Suns run into the top-seeded Rockets in the Western Conference Finals, and Hakeem and Robinson have a battle for the ages. Charles Barkley breaks the draw, however, as he was the turning point that resulted in the Suns returning to the Finals for the second time in two years.

The Suns run into the Bulls. Micheal Jordan didn't retire, since he wanted to go out on top. Fueled by last season, Jordan averages 48 points in five games and the Bulls easily reclaim the throne as the best team in the league.

1994-95 Season 

This season, the Spurs do horribly. Gilliam demands a trade, and the Spurs abide by sending him to the Philadelphia 76ers, who need a forward to fill the gap left by Charles Barkley. The Spurs lose their pick this season in exchange for the Sixers' pick in 1996 and Elmer Bennett, who you can forget about now. This season is a wash, but it doesn’t matter. Next season, things get interesting.

Oh, and Micheal Jordan retires so David Robinson has a clear path to another Finals victory after beating the Rockets again. People start to compare Robinson to Kareem, although he brushes aside the comparison in a modest fashion.