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"Robinson Continues to Make an Impact"

By Daniel Strickland on January 16, 2007.

Spurs legend David Robinson was awarded the National Civil Rights Museum’s Sports Legacy Award this evening for his philanthropy. David had this to say:

“This is truly a blessing. To even be mentioned in the same phrase as Martin Luther King is a humbling experience. But we are trying. We are at the beginning stages of our efforts to really make a change and make an impact in our society.”

Way back in 2000, David had this to say about why he’s given so much to charity in his lifetime.

“Winning a championship is so temporary. It’s fantastic for the moment, don’t get me wrong. You climb the hill. There’s no greater feeling than standing there on the podium. But eventually, there’s another hill to climb. It’s fleeting glory, but intense. Giving is solid. It lasts a lifetime. You become linked with others. It’s something that lasts forever. To be blessed enough to have something to give is unreal. It’s amazing to me that God has entrusted me with this.”

This story about David appeared in yesterday’s New York Times.

David Robinson spent a lot of time away from his children during a 14-year career with the San Antonio Spurs. But these days, Robinson can pick them up from school without leaving work.

Two of Robinson’s three sons attend the Carver Academy, an independent, faith-based school in San Antonio. Robinson not only works at the school, but he and his wife, Valerie, also founded it in 1997.

Most of Carver’s 117 students are African-American or Hispanic, and nearly all of them come from low-income families and receive scholarships. So the school must raise money, and the 7-foot-1 Robinson is its biggest selling point. About three days each week, he settles into his office around 7:30 a.m. and reaches out to all corners of the country.

“Our fund-raising, it’s so comprehensive because we’re not like any typical school,” Robinson, who retired from the N.B.A. in 2003, said by telephone from his home Friday. “Tuition is not a significant part of our income. Our parents can’t support us.”

Robinson and his wife donated $9 million to establish the school, which has helped transform a struggling neighborhood that stands in the shadows of the Alamodome, where the Spurs used to play. The school’s endowment goal is $40 million to $45 million. So far, about $6 million has been raised.

The curriculum at Carver, which has grades from pre-kindergarten to sixth, is another selling point. Each student is taught three languages, Japanese, German and Spanish. Attending chapel is a ritual, and so is learning to read music. “Just basic things that make them more of a renaissance person,” Robinson said.

“My 10-year-old takes this ballet class there that is incredible,” he added. “It’s funny seeing these little black kids dancing around in their little leotards. But they love it. It’s things that they never would be exposed to.”

Robinson says the school tries to instill six basic principles: leadership, discipline, initiative, integrity, faith and service.

Robinson has been devoted to service since his days as an officer in the Navy. “The measure of your success is going to be how you serve other people,” he said.

For his contributions to human and civil rights, Robinson will receive the National Civil Rights Museum’s Sports Legacy Award tomorrow during halftime of the Grizzlies-Suns game in Memphis. The award is presented in conjunction with the Grizzlies and the N.B.A.

“Awards, it’s nice,” Robinson said. “What does it mean, though? I’m 41 years old. I haven’t done anything.”

David is being modest, as always. A little known fact about his generosity: no other professional athlete in history has given more money to charity. His secret? He always gave at least 10% of everything he made.

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