At some point during his Naval Academy career, David Robinson was lectured on valor.
As a cadet, Robinson surely learned American history, which is full of examples of training and discipline overcoming superior force, of intellect beating strength.
Robinson was certainly drilled on defending the homeland at all costs.
Well, as the Admiral learned in San Antonio, what applies to the Navy does not necessarily apply to Shaquille O’Neal.
With less than a minute remaining in the ‘96 All-Star Game, the East’s Juwan Howard saved the ball under the West hoop, slinging it to Grant Hill. Hill eased the ball upcourt and nonchalantly bounced it to the trailer—a steady-rolling Shaq Diesel—at the free-throw line.
With a quick burst of speed, Shaq took one dribble and launched himself at the basket. Only the hometown hero stood between him and the hoop.
Most people would have run for cover. Robinson went straight up with both hands extended, doping exactly what he was taught to do.
Let’s pause for a moment with Robinson in the air, Shaq filling the lane. Shaq Diesel actually grew up in San Antonio, so this was really his homecoming. And while Robinson spent four years at Annapolis learning tactics and honor, Shaq spent three at LSU learning that he couldn’t be stopped by anything short of a cruise missile. His stay in the NBA has only reinforced that simple lesson. And somewhere along the line, it came to pass that these two guys were not to be the best of friends.
Back to business: Ball cocked in his right hand, the still-rising Shaq pushed Robinson back and down before throwing down hard enough to bring the entire East bench to their feet.
His hands still waving like a drowning man going down for the last time, Robinson staggered out of bounds. Shaq strode to half-court, gettin’ props from his teammates as the crowd hushed for a second and then exploded into a roar, despite their fallen hero.