|The Admiral Salutes the Celtics||10.28.08 at 9:09 pm ET|
12 years ago David Robinson and Doc Rivers sat next to each other in the San Antonio Spurs locker room, sharing dreams of becoming NBA champions. Three seasons after Rivers retired, Robinson realized his ultimate goal and won it all. On Tuesday night, Rivers finally realized his.
Robinson was on hand to watch Rivers receive his championship ring as the head coach of the Boston Celtics. The Admiral, coincidentally, had already planned to be in Boston and it couldn’t have been better timing.
“I love Doc,” Robinson said after the Celtics defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 90-85 on Opening Night. “He’s a great guy. I was watching him through the playoffs and this is really the first chance I’ve really had to talk with him and congratulate him. It was really good to be able to get up here tonight.”
Just as many of the Celtics were overcome with emotion, Robinson felt it too. Like Pierce, it took him 10 years to win his first NBA title. He felt a sense of relief for both Rivers and the players.
“I know it was an emotional time for [Doc],” he sad. “He has a great family and they went through a couple of really hard years and that kind of redemption is super. Tonight was even kind of an emotional time just watching him and knowing what it felt like for those three guys to get their first ring. Pretty nice, pretty good.”
Robinson stepped away from the game in 2003 after winning his second championship in five years with the Spurs. He knows firsthand just how hard it is to repeat.
“Obviously we weren’t able to do it,” he said. “You’ve got to have a lot of luck along with being ready. Mentally they’ve crossed the line. They’re ready mentally. But I remember one year Tim Duncan got hurt and that changes your whole picture. If they lose Kevin Garnett, if they lose Paul Pierce, that’s stuff that you can’t control. They have the right mentality now; they know they can win games; they’re going to figure out how to get themselves ready for the playoff time; Doc is great, so I think they’re in as good of a position as you could ask.”
Health, Robinson points out, is the key to success both in a season and a career. He spent 14 years in the league and offered advice to the young Celtics big men.
“Work on your body. Make sure you’re strong, you’re healthy,” he suggested. “You get so many bumps and bruises and if you don’t spend the time to be strong, if you don’t spend the time in the weight room outside of practice and outside of the locker room, you’re going to struggle. I don’t have a huge body, I’m not a 280-pound guy, so it’s even more important to keep your joints strong. So that’s what I would encourage these guys, just work on your body all the time. Be strong, be ready, be prepared to play and hopefully that’ll keep you from injuries.”
For all the sweat and tears that go into defending a title, there are also perks to being the champs. There is that special feeling they will be reminded of for 82 games.
“One of the things that I remember the most is before every game coming out there and you’re sitting on the bench getting ready to be called up and they say, ‘And now you’re Worrrrld Champion San Antonio Spurs!’” Robinson said. “That’ the best thing and you get to enjoy it all year long.”