David Robinson, the 1987 United States Naval Academy graduate and Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year, holds 30 different school records.
A member of the original “Dream Team,” Robinson is the only male American basketball player to participate in three Olympic Games, winning two gold medals (1992, 1996) and one bronze medal (1988). “The Admiral” founded the Carver Academy in San Antonio and formed Admiral Capital Group to invest in opportunities that provide both financial and social returns.
Robinson and fellow honorees Doris Burke, Tim Brown, Kevin Johnson, Sean Payton and Amy Perko will be honored Jan. 13 during the NCAA Convention in Indianapolis. The Silver Anniversary Award honors former student-athletes and distinguished individuals are recognized on the 25th anniversary of the conclusion of their college athletics careers.
Q: What was your top academic achievement at the Naval Academy?
Robinson: My top academic achievement at the Naval Academy was graduating to be honest with you. It is a very challenging place. The academics are tremendous, you get a lot of very, very smart people that go there. As a matter of fact, when I first went I didn’t think I would graduate. There were all of these people who had graduated at the top of their class. They were valedictorians, and I was a little farther down the line in my class. First semester, second year, I was able to focus in and I got about a 3.7 for a grade-point average that semester and that’s when I knew I’m going to be OK. It’s a very tough school and I don’t think grades are everything there. You really need to be a well-rounded person and it taught me a great deal about myself.
Q: Could you describe life on campus for me. What was it like to be a student at the Naval Academy?
Robinson: Life on campus at the Naval Academy was very interesting especially when you first get there because you’re a plebe, you’re a freshman and you have no rights. They run you around from here to there where your schedule is theirs and not yours. They make sure that you understand that. I think the first six weeks you have maybe 30 to 45 minutes by yourself during the day. The rest of it is get up at 5:45, go to this function, and then come back and you have 10 minutes to shower, go to this function. It is a very busy schedule, but it’s also a very life-altering, expanding schedule. You’re learning a lot about yourself, you’re learning about how to fit into the system, but also how to have your own personality within the system. I think that’s what makes the military so special is that you can take all of these different characters of personalities and bring them together to create one solid force that is able to protect this country. It’s pretty interesting.
Q: How did you end up at the Naval Academy?
Robinson: I ended up at the Naval Academy because I thought it was a great institution. My father was in the military; my grandfather was in the military so it was something that was in our family. I thought serving our country was a great deal – being able to serve. I was able to play in the Olympics, too. That’s another thing, I felt like wearing USA on my chest meant a great deal. That I’m representing 300 million people is a pretty good deal. I was never adverse to going to the military. The five-year commitment after I graduated I thought of as a great opportunity. You get a good job, you get a tremendous amount of responsibility so you are going to be useful in any other job you want to go to after you get out of the military. There were a lot of positives, I thought, for the Academy.
Q: Explain the “Dream Team.” What was it like being a member of that? That was one of the most electric moments in history in terms of sports.
Robinson: It was amazing being a part of that “Dream Team.” It was like being a member of the Beatles for a month. It was unbelievable the level of intensity and media coverage and excitement that the team generated. And even amongst the athletes going to the Olympic Village was a circus. We had security all around us and all the athletes would come down and we would just get mobbed. In our hotel we were almost sequestered. There would be 5,000 fans outside the streets of Barcelona there every day. It was an experience. It felt like being a part of the Beatles or something for a month.
Q: How did your experience as a student-athlete teach you to be the leader that you are?
Robinson: My experience as a student-athlete really helped me with my leadership qualities because athletics is kind of a microcosm of everything else. You have a team, you have a small locker room full of 12 guys, someone has to step up or your team is going nowhere. I’m sure we have seen many teams that we feel like there is no leadership, there’s no leadership. I think my experience as a student-athlete made me realize that if you have the talent, if you have the ability, if you have the influence, you have got to step up. You’ve got to do it.
I come into this community of San Antonio and there’s great leaders everywhere, but I have a unique ability to bring together people who have known me or seen me and I don’t have the skills of some of these other leaders, but I have my own skills. I find that niche, I find that place where I’m most needed and I try to step into it. It was something I learned as a student-athlete and I try and practice today.
Q: How did the idea for The Carver Academy come up? Explain how that got started.
Robinson: The Carver Academy came about because after 10 years in the league, I looked around and I said I want to leave a lasting legacy, something in San Antonio that really speaks to who I am. My wife [Valerie] and I sat down. I’m a teacher at heart. That’s kind of who I am. I love to encourage and teach and I see my sons [David Jr., a freshman at Texas; Corey, a junior in high school and Justin, a freshman in high school), and they get tired of me telling them things over and over again, but I love when you are learning. I’m a learner.
Education just seemed like the natural thing for me and my wife and I sat down and we said let’s invest in a school. We looked around and there are a lot of great schools, but faith has always been an important thing for me. I wanted to build a school that not only had a high academic standard, much like the Naval Academy’s, some discipline, but also a strong sense of faith. That’s why we started The Carver Academy and it has those elements that I think give kids a solid foundation of the discipline, the respect for one another, and the excellence. We’ve created a platform that I think really creates fun kids that are going to be impactful in their futures.
Q: Giving back is obviously a passion. Why is it so important to give back?
Robinson: Giving back is so important for me I think because it’s investing in the next generation. It’s leaving your parts around so that you can be a part of the future. Who wouldn’t want to give back? Who wouldn’t want to build and see this tremendous monument or whatever that you’ve built, that you’ve been a part of that will impact generations to come. If I can build into the life of a young kid, or a young family, I’m a part of their life forever. I’m a part of this community forever.
It’s exciting to me that little bits of me will carry on the same way George Washington Carver still carries on today. I’ll go out and I’ll quote him. I’ll remind people that this man invented 250 uses for the peanut, 250 uses for the sweet potato. He transformed our lives and we should be inspired by his attitude, inspired by his accomplishments. There’s no excuse for us to sit on our laurels if this guy who had nothing could accomplish what he accomplished. He lives on in me and I want to live on in the next generation.