NBA Champ David Robinson on Why He’ll Never Forget His USO Tour

Photographs By Steve Manual

Before becoming a two-time NBA champion, former San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson graduated from the Naval Academy and served two years in the Navy. The philanthropist and businessman traveled with a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff USO tour in 2009 and serves on the USO’s 75th Anniversary Honorary Committee. 

Is there a memory of your USO tour that stands out?

Staying in Saddam Hussein’s castle. Sleeping in the same room as (former Los Angeles Dodgers manager) Tommy Lasorda. It was just a blast. I got a chance to eat breakfast one day with some of the Special Forces guys who were telling great stories. It just made life real. We were sitting in south Afghanistan where stuff is happening right outside the gates. It’s something most of us don’t get to experience here in America.

Why was it important to you to participate in the tour? 

I see what it means every day when I go to the mall or somewhere and people are so excited to see me and take pictures. If you are in Afghanistan, you’ll never get that opportunity. For us to be able to go out there and encourage those guys and let them know we care enough to come visit them and encourage them means a lot. 

How has USAA helped you over the years?

When I wanted to start a business, USAA Real Estate Company said: “We’ll be glad to team up with you and help you realize your dreams.” USAA talks a lot about honor and loyalty and really supporting the member, but the truth is, that’s what they really do.

How has your own military service helped shape your life — both personally and professionally?

They taught me how to be disciplined and how to think service first above self. I think that’s extremely valuable. When I played basketball, it got me thinking about “How do I make my team better; how do I serve first, serve my community?” I think it helped me have the right perspective.

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