We’re continuing our David Robinson tribute week with a guest blog from Rey Moralde of The No Look Pass. The No Look Pass is home to the Chronicles of Crotty podcast and you can also catch some great Lakers, Clippers and even general NBA content there. You can also follow Rey on Twitter.
By Rey Moralde
In this article, it mentioned that there was a possibility of David Robinson going to the Lakers. Now Robinson still had to serve a two-year term at the Navy. So if Robinson ended up going to the Lakers in 1989, what would have happened?
For starters, he’d be an immediate replacement for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Vlade Divac would probably be relegated to a back-up and be traded in a few years (sooner than 1996 , that’s for sure). They probably would’ve beaten the Chicago Bulls in 1991. And even with the early retirement of Magic Johnson, the Lakers would still regularly rattle off 50-win seasons because of the presence of one David Robinson. After all, that’s what he did for the Spurs, right? I think Mike Dunleavy might have stayed longer as the Laker coach because they were winning more but the dual power of General Manager and Coach was something Dunleavy wanted, so he probably would’ve still bolted for Milwaukee. With Robinson in place, the Lakers would’ve kept the playoff streak going instead of missing the playoffs in the 1993-94 season (Remember when Magic coached? Yeah, that season.)
I don’t think Shaq goes to the Lakers with Robinson firmly in place in the middle. Shaq would’ve probably stayed in Orlando and if he were to bolt in this alternate reality, he probably would’ve gone to a big-market team like New York.
The Lakers still would’ve found a way to get Kobe Bryant on the team (after all, it was Lakers or bust with Kobe). And the team was still talented enough if Robinson got hurt on that 1996-97 season. A starting line-up of Nick Van Exel , Eddie Jones , Rick Fox , Robert Horry , and Elden Campbell was still good enough to keep the opposition honest (and Kobe would be the rookie sixth man). So they weren’t bad enough to get someone like Tim Duncan (Duncan still might’ve ended up at San Antonio but they’d have a much tougher time to build that team with Robinson not being there. Of course, Duncan could’ve also ended up with either Denver, Philadelphia or even the Clippers ). With Robinson in L.A., the Lakers were definitely talented enough to make the Finals.
Would the Lakers win as many titles with Robinson and Kobe as the main cogs of the team? Probably. Maybe even more. They might have even won during the strike season with San Antonio not in the way. Kobe was definitely capable of scoring 30 points per game when he was in his early twenties and Robinson would’ve gladly played second fiddle to Kobe. What Robinson had that Shaq didn’t was the effort on defense (well, actually, Robinson always gave it his all and stayed in shape while Shaq got lazy once in a while). Robinson wouldn’t get burned on the pick-and-rolls… and while he didn’t have the size, he owned the paint on defense (you see those numbers on blocked shots?). Plus he’ll get you a steal here and there, too (averaged 1.4 in his career… career high 2.2 per game in his third year). Even in his later years, he was a great rebounder.
Robinson retired in 2003. However, he might have stayed for one last hurrah in 2004 if that scenario of Gary Payton and Karl Malone coming to the Lakers came about. I can say that with San Antonio not in the mix , they might have won as many as seven titles (maybe six straight from the strike season to 2004) with this team (I think they still would’ve three-peated with Robinson in the middle… and they definitely had a chance during the strike season even with Del Harris on the helm). A disciplined Laker team of Malone, Payton, Kobe, and Robinson would’ve beaten the Pistons in 2004. From the strike season to 2004, two teams had a legitimate shot in beating the Lakers ( Portland and Sacramento… and the East was very weak in this period of time).
So is it safe to say that Robinson in the Lakers would’ve been a better team than the Shaq-led Lakers? Well, again, the Lakers’ biggest challenge with the Shaq-led Lakers was the San Antonio Spurs. Besides Sacramento and Portland, who was going to challenge them? In a weaker Western Conference, the Lakers probably would’ve won more titles with David Robinson in the middle. Whether they’re better than the Shaq-led Lakers is debatable, but sometimes the rings tell the story. I would’ve loved to have the Admiral in purple and gold.
If you looked at his stat line, it’s incredible . He was an outstanding scorer, from the post to the midrange game. He was a great rebounder and shotblocker. He was a very good passer for his size (averaged 4.8 assists per game in 1993-94 ). And I already talked about his steals. David Robinson was the last player to have a quadruple-double. You can’t just classify David Robinson as a center, he’s a basketball player. And that’s why Robinson, as a basketball player, is an all-time great. And that’s why he’s in the Hall of Fame.