The Step Back Q&A: David Robinson on bigs, the draft and the Spurs

David Robinson knows a little about the draft, having been selected No. 1 overall by the San Antonio Spurs in 1987. He’s on the road this week, checking in on the draft and repping Verizon. He took a few minutes out of his schedule to talk with The Step Back about the draft, this year’s unbelievable bigs, and how he sees the Spurs.

Robinson will be streaming the draft on Verizon because they have the best and most reliable network and I don’t want to miss a second. Fans can stream the Draft wherever they are – with the best and most reliable network of Verizon and won’t have to worry about buffering or slow loading times.


The Step Back: Having gone all the way through your career, starting as a No. 1 pick through all your accolades, what is it like to watch the draft now?

David Robinson: Watching it now is a lot of fun. I’m watching guys that my son is playing with at Duke. Watching these guys where basically their life is changing overnight. They went from the college player to the pro guys, the pressure is going to change, everything is going to change. I’ve gotten to know a lot of these guys, so it’s still pretty exciting.


The Step Back: The general assessment of this draft is that there are several elite big man prospects. As an elite big man yourself, do you have any of thoughts on guys like Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter Jr.?

David Robinson: I’m happy for them, but at the same time it’s tough. There is a lot of pressure being put on them through this process. You get drafted high these days, there is just incredible pressure on these guys to perform. And even for the best of these guys, it’s going to take some time. I mean, you look at Deandre Ayton — he’s such a young guy. He’s got a long way to go just to figure out who he’s going to be and how to play at that level. It’s going to take him a few years.


The Step Back: What do you think about the way the center position has changed over the past few years?

David Robinson: I think it cycles, just like everything else. Now that shooters are kind of in favor, everyone wants to come out and shoot 3s. Even big guys want to shoot 3s. You know, when I was playing, we wanted to get stops. Big guys wanted to protect the rim and block shots and do those sorts of things. So it’s changed a bit. But I think it will go back to big guys protecting the rim. Because I think that’s what wins championships. I mean you look at a team like the Warriors, those guys defend, those guys get after you. So if you can find a big guy who can block shots, run the floor and score, that’s a pretty big weapon.


The Step Back: In your career you were kind of famous for your athleticism. Do you ever think about what it would be like to play in this era? How things would have changed for you in a modern 3-point happy offense?

David Robinson: I definitely would have loved running up and down the floor with guys nowadays. The pace is high, the scores are high. It would have been fun for me to try and play at this kind of pace. But it’s hard for me to complain, I kind of enjoyed playing during the era I did. Having so much competition, going against Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon, and then Shaquille O’Neal. It was just nonstop big guys. From Rik Smits, and then you go to all those Shawn Bradleys and Manute Bols. I got the chance to play against some great big men. It would be fun to run up and down, but I enjoyed the competition.


The Step Back: If you were offering advice to the big men coming in next year, what’s the first thing you’d tell them to start figuring out?

David Robinson: If I’m offering some unsolicited advice [laughs]? I’d tell them to be patient. It’s hard, you can’t dominate like you did when you were in high school. Everyone is big and strong and fast like you. Take your time and get better as a player. That’s what’s going to lengthen your career and give you real success. It can be frustrating thinking you’re supposed to come in and dominate, but it’s pretty tough to do on a night-to-night basis.


The Step Back: Do you have any thoughts on the Spurs at No. 18?

David Robinson: Wow, at No. 18 you have to be pretty smart because there’s a lot of interesting guys and you know there are some real gems. Obviously, with the Spurs guys we keep it under the hat about what we’re going to do. But there’s a bunch of really interesting guards at that level, guys who can shoot and show some speed. For us, we really need some help with our aging backcourt. We’ve got some good talented young guys, but we can use some help all around. I expect they’ll keep all their options open.



The Step Back: I’m curious if you have any thoughts on what’s been going on with Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs over the past few weeks?

David Robinson: It’s been interesting to watch how the media handles all that. I mean, it would be a pretty big deal if he leaves obviously, but we have a pretty good track record of kind of managing our business down there and actually talking to people, not going through the media. You know, I like Pop and I like R.C. [Buford] and I think they’ll probably figure that one out.