An Admiral Challenge

Spurs.com's Ben Hunt recently had the chance to talk with Spurs legend and Basketball Hall of Fame Member David Robinson about how the Spurs are making a difference in the San Antonio Community and his visions for giving.

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Ben Hunt: David you've been in the San Antonio community for a long time helping out and giving back, the Spurs organization is also known for that. What do you see as far as the organization giving back to the community?

David Robinson: They have always been a leader in that area. I think (Gregg) Popovich has been great, he does a lot of the midnight basketball stuff which he has been doing for years. That really helps the kids and gives them something to do especially late in the evening instead of getting in trouble. I think that has had a tremendous impact, but more recently the NBA as a whole has stepped up with the NBA Cares program and has gotten a lot more teams are actively involved in their communities with some of their build court programs and some other things. They've had programs going for years. You know when I first came to the Spurs we did a community tour where we went to about 20 different towns and tried to get the communities involved and have always seen the value of the fan.

David Robinson

BH: When you were here and even now, you've been a man of very high character and represented the city and the franchise has also been known for that type of culture. Do you still see that culture existing and thriving within the organization?

DR: Absolutely. I think that, even when I was there we had Bruce Bowen who was a big time community guy here. He did quite a few things with schools and high schools talking with kids and encourage them to achieve more. He would be supportive of them to go to junior colleges or vocational schools and for them to really work on their professional skills.

Malik Rose was a great community guy. Tim Duncan's mother died of cancer and he does a lot of things for cancer. Tony Parker and his wife Eva Longoria are community folks. I know she has a sister who is a special needs, and they have a program for that here that they raise money for. So I still see a lot of great programs going on and I think they are still one of the leaders in the community

BH: You mentioned schools, what's currently going on at the Carver Academy?

DR: We are in our ninth year and we started pre-K through second grade with 60 kids, 15 kids in each class, added a grade each year up to sixth grade. Then we got accredited by Southern Association of Independent Schools - SAIS, and then we got SACS - the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. We are real thrilled with our accreditation and so now we have 120 kids, who last year our kids tested in the top 10 percent across the nation for the Stanford Achievement Test. They are doing extremely well. Almost all of our students come on scholarship, so they are needs kids and that is exciting for me because I feel that we are opening up their perspective on their life, their boundaries. They get to speak different languages and learn different cultures and just get to take their hopes and dreams to a whole another level.

BH: We all know that this is a huge passion for you. What are the similarities of the feeling of successes of winning a championship, MVP awards, gold medals, and being in the hall of fame to building a school?

DR: Wow, there are different comparisons. I think you get a tremendous amount of feedback when you're playing basketball on a nightly basis. Probably more than you ever wanted between the fans and the newspapers and everyone constantly critiquing where you are and where you're going. So you get a lot of feedback and consequently you get a lot of applause and that's pretty rewarding in that sense. Also the achievement because not very many teams get to do that, so it's an amazing achievement.

With education it's a lot slower and it's a lot less appreciated I think. By both the students, their parents and by people in general. I think that the parents are sometimes disappointed, but you're trying to help out a child who has a need so their families aren't always use to all the hard work and the time consuming homework and all those other things - so they are complaining. The kids, you're trying to get them motivated and get them excited and I think they appreciate it after they graduate but not so much while they are there.

Then when you're doing things different from the way things are typically done. Public school systems don't really appreciate it because you are really challenging the thought process and taking kids out of their system so that means they lose dollars per child. You're not really applauded by them necessarily, so you don't get so much of that immediate feedback. When you see the kids graduate, our oldest kids are now in the 10th grade and doing an amazing job. They have scholarships to different schools around the city and I see that their whole view of the world has changed. The things that they believe they can accomplish has changed. That part is extremely rewarding and you know you're impacting these lives that these kids are now leaders, they are going to go out and do amazing things and hopefully give back to their communities and impact a whole future generation.

David Robinson

BH: Both, winning a championship and seeing the students graduate, are quite different and I imagine that has to be tremendously fulfilling.

DR: Well winning a championship is a lot more temporary deal. They applaud you for a little while you know and five years later they almost forgot you even played. My own kids are looking at YouTube and are like, "wow dad, was that you?" So it's a great accomplishment winning that championship but with this, you feel like you're doing something that is here for the long term. You're doing something for eternity. You're actually giving back, you're building on the foundation of the great history this country was built on.

George Washington Carver was the namesake for our school and he dedicated his life so farmers down in the South didn't have to always be the constant underclass. They didn't have to sell cotton, they didn't have to get caught in a system where they would never move forward, they would always be just above slavery.

So I feel like we are adding to that history and we're taking kids, who the opportunities are there. There are schools all over the country, Harvard they want these minority kids. They can't find the kids that can do the work. They're out there, "we have scholarships, we have money," but that's not the problem. We need to find you guys. So the opportunities are here, but the vast majority of kids don't realize number one - the hard work it takes to get there. Number two - they are stuck in their environments, whatever neighborhood they are in and they don't realize they are looking for you if you just put forth some effort.

BH: Recently you've started the Admiral Challenge, tell us a little bit about that.

DR: It's an experiment in the micro-giving. It's about trying to reach as many networks, as many people that you can and get some of the smaller donations. When you put them in the larger - 10,000, 50,000 people giving those smaller donations it makes a huge impact.

We're trying to tap into people's individual networks and some of my celebrities, their networks, and have people give smaller amounts of money - they can give more money, but give any amount of money and it just adds on to the group and really makes an impact. It really allows us to help provide scholarships for these kids who can't afford it.

BH: If someone wanted to take part in the Admiral Challenge, how would they do so?

DR: Well the quickest way it to go to theadmiralchallenge.com and sign up and give. And if they like they can go to the pinkdingo.com and give to a bunch of different causes at whatever rate they want to. What I'm trying to create in my efforts is to create people who think about community and think about long term giving and how they are going to impact. Teaming with Pink Dingo makes perfect sense because they are trying to create people who are givers.

BH: Finally David you have another philanthropic organization, the Admiral Center, can you tell us what that is or what it will be?

DR: It is exactly what we've been talking about except it is on the level of athletes and celebrities. I've had a lot of athletes come to me and tell me they love what I'm doing with the school and they would love to start a school in their city.

I couldn't do anything but shake my head and say, "Oh my gosh, do you have any idea what you're asking me?" It's such a huge undertaking and you want to find the right partners and make sure you're planning for the long term and there is just so many things to tell them.

Now through the Admiral Center we can do more than just tell them. We've partnered up with the Living Cities Foundation which are some of the largest foundations and financial institutions in the country. You know the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Annie Casey Foundation, there are just a ton of foundations that are interested in smarter giving. They teamed up and said let's start the Living Cities and let's think of better ways to impact the community that are more efficient and better ways.

David Robinson

Now that I've teamed up with them to do this in the world of the athletes and the entertainers, to just say, there are just so many of us that try to give and some of our foundations go under. Sometimes we don't do things in the most intelligent way and then it doesn't help anyone when you fail.

If LeBron James wants to go out there and do something positive, it helps everyone if he is successful. So we are getting partners like JP Morgan to come along side these guys and help them plan projects and help them maybe even supply some resources and finances. Also to help them with their finances and have them think for the long term and being successful in their giving and build lifetime giving people in our communities that can really effect change in a massive way. So that's whats exciting about Admiral Center.

BH: I'm sure that has to be great feedback for you when celebrities, other athletes and some of these organizations are coming to you for advice or help making an organization better.

DR: Yeah, they really come to me for leadership and the Living Cities guys came to me saying they had expertise and they have money - that's not the problem. Part of the problem is getting into the neighborhoods and knowing what is going to be effective and how to reach out and bring this energy together. It's great for me and exciting for me to call someone up and tell them I love their leadership and I want them to put it on the line and maybe make it bigger than what you originally imagined.

BH: Well David I want to thank you for everything you're doing, have been doing and continue to do here in San Antonio and worldwide. And also thanks for taking the time to talk with us about it.

DR: Oh it's my pleasure, my pleasure. Thanks so much Ben, I appreciate it.