NBA

MONROE: Admiral gets Final salute

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Mike Monroe

 
   
 

SAN ANTONIO

It was Father's Day, so the moment the game clock hit zero on the ' NBA championship-clinching Game 6 win over the on Sunday night ran to the stands and gathered up his eldest son, David, Jr., for a hug that will last a lifetime.

River City turned to Schmaltz City on the final day of Robinson's Hall of Fame career, and everyone who has ever cheered for the good guy to win the big race, right the horrible wrong or win the heart of the pretty girl, dabbed at his or her eyes as the sent The Admiral off to retirement in a luxury yacht.

Here's the best part of the final day of Robinson's great career: He went out having played his best game of the entire season.

We expected Robinson to grab 17 rebounds, score 13 points and block two shots, which is what he did in his final game, when he was in his 20s and early 30s. But now Robinson is 37 with achy knees and a back that two years ago threatened to end his career on terms that weren't his own.

The didn't win Sunday's game, and the title that it clinched, for Robinson. Robinson had as much to do about winning it as anyone but .

That's what made Sunday so sweet for anyone who was not a fan.

How did the energy that typified his game 10 years ago return to Robinson for one last time?

Robinson had made up his mind that Sunday's game needed to be his last. He simply willed the extra effort a performance such as Sunday's required.

"After the game was going along," Robinson said, "I was thinking, 'We can not lose this game.' I had geared my mind up that this was going to be my last game. At halftime I told the guys, 'Hey, we're not going to lose.'

"When we kept turning the ball over and gave them transition buckets I thought we needed to do something dramatic to turn this around. That was the lowest point for me, and I thought there might be a Game 7.

"But that fourth quarter was fantastic."

There will be no second thoughts for Robinson when he awakes Monday morning and begins thinking about what he calls "the next phase of my life." He and his family are totally at peace with his decision to leave behind the game that made him rich enough to become South Texas' most famous philanthropist.

"I've seen this coming for a long time," Robinson said, "so it's no surprise. Last year when we prayed about this, my wife and I sat down and made this decision at the beginning of the year. My heart was settled, so all year long I just enjoyed it and everything that came along I just swallowed up.

"My last game ... streamers flying ... world champions. How could you write a better script than this? I've had some ups and downs, but I end on the highest of highs."

"I'm just thrilled that David ends his career with a game like that," said coach Gregg Popovich, who understands he will miss Robinson's presence in his locker room as much as anything he was able to provide on the court most of the last three seasons. "His effort was really wonderful. He really dug down deep and showed how important it was to him to get this victory tonight. It was nice to see because David can't do that every night."

It's hard to believe Robinson had become little more than an afterthought on a team that Duncan now clearly defines. But the physical limitations that make back-to-back games during the regular season a major problem and 10-minute stretches on the floor nearly impossible had lowered Robinson's profile to the point became the second player that popped into your mind when you thought about the .

But how often in the clinching game of the finals has a player on the winning team grabbed 17 rebounds and not been his team's leader?

Duncan became the first player in 10 years to have a triple-double in the finals, and he was just two blocked shots shy of the first quadruple-double in playoff history.

In typical Duncan fashion, he had no idea.

"That's cool," Duncan said when a reporter informed him.

Then Duncan, the guy his critics claim needs to be more passionate, dispassionately broke down why he became a passer on Sunday, "Merely" scoring 21 points.

"Honestly, down the stretch my shot wasn't exactly there, and luckily enough I was drawing double teams and those guys were hitting shots. So I'm going to give them the ball every time they're open. Guys were absolutely open at the top of the key."

Duncan, too, knows how much Robinson is going to be missed, regardless of how far his game may have slipped because of his physical ailments.

"Dave's been an incredible part of this team for a lot of years," Duncan said. "I can't even imagine (not playing with him), honestly.

"For a second there on the court, the last couple seconds, I really thought, 'You know what, I'm not going to play with this guy again. I'm going to have to come out on this court without him.'

"It's going to be weird. I don't know what to expect."

I expect the will move on to build a team around Duncan capable of returning to the NBA Finals many times before Duncan is ready to retire.

I doubt any of them will be filled with quite the same, sweet feeling Robinson took with him from Sunday's game. Senior writer covers the NBA for FOXSports.com and can be reached at his e-mail address: mmonroe@foxsports.com.

Tagged: Nets, Spurs, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker

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