When the San Antonio Spurs drafted David Robinson with the No. 1 pick in the 1987 NBA Draft, they weren't exactly a "model" franchise.
San Antonio won just 28 games during the 1986-87 season — only the New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers won fewer contests — but they also didn't adhere to any particular code of ethics. Robinson's teammates enjoyed the NBA lifestyle, save for the basketball part.
According to Robinson, whose nickname "L7" (loser for those who didn't know) pertained to his mundane personal life, many of his teammate came to practice inebriated.
The way hall-of-famer David Robinson tells it, the atmosphere permeating the San Antonio Spurs wasn’t always one of professionalism and accountability.
Back in 1989, when the U.S. Naval Academy graduate nicknamed the Admiral joined the National Basketball Association franchise that’s become synonymous with selflessness, fundamentals and excellence, players routinely showed up for practice reeking of booze.
“How much do you have to drink to sweat alcohol?” asked Robinson. “It was a bunch of total foolishness.”
San Antonio shuffled through seven coaches (Larry Brown, Bob Bass, John Lucas, Jerry Tarkanian, Rex Hughes and Bob Hill) in Robinson's first seven NBA seasons before Gregg Popovich supplanted Hill for the head coaching position. The Spurs netted the No. 1 pick in the 1997 Draft shortly after, and the rights to Tim Duncan, the consensus top selection. With Duncan and Popovich on board, Robinson finally didn't have to worry about lackadaisical teammates.
The new San Antonio regime, still largely in place 16 years later, didn't tolerate players with character issues. Robinson finished his career with two NBA titles, and he left an organization that still reciprocates his mentality — winning is paramount, but so is winning the right way.