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The AdmiralZonderKidz Biography
By Gregg Lewis Deborah Shaw Lewis
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2012 Gregg and Deborah Shaw Lewis
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMore Than a Celebrity
Imagine looking up at a man who stands seven-feet, one-inch tall—a Hall-of-Fame basketball player, one of only four players in history ever to score over 70 points in an NBA game. He played on three Olympic basketball teams. He scored 20,790 points and had 10,497 rebounds in his professional career and was chosen as an NBA All-Star ten times.
And that man stands looking right at you in front of your friends, your family, and says:
"You have the ability to accomplish great things. Nothing will stand in your way. There is nothing for you to be afraid of.
"You have everything in front of you, every hope, every possibility. I expect you to become a leader, a citizen for this country. You have support. You are well prepared to take this next step. Understand that as you go along someone will always be there to help lift you up to the next level.
"And the Lord will always watch over your shoulder as you take your next step, preparing the way for you, so that you might have good success.
"I want you to walk in that power that the Lord gives you."
In May of 2011, the sixth graders at The Carver Academy (TCA) in San Antonio, Texas, did not have to imagine that scene. They heard David Robinson tell them those things the day they graduated from TCA.
Why was a world-famous basketball star like David Robinson talking to sixth graders at a school that had 120 students? Because it was all part of a dream. His dream. A very real dream he believed in so much that he had already invested more than a decade and $10 million of his own resources to see it come true.
Now imagine that same man—one of the greatest basketball players in history, a gifted athlete who won piles of trophies and awards, earned a fortune, and became famous around the world for spending his life playing a game—decided to go back to school to learn how to do a better job in a new career. Why?
He already had a first-class college degree in mathematics and computer science from the United States Naval Academy. His three teenage sons would soon be making their own college decisions. He was busy with The Carver Academy. Now a successful business man, he partnered with large corporations and advised rich and famous celebrities on how to positively impact needy communities and people by using their fame and fortune for good. Another company he started owns and manages millions of dollars of commercial real estate—office buildings, hotels, and more.
So why would someone with all that experience and success ever think he needed to go back to school to learn anything else? For the same reason he would speak at a sixth-grade graduation. Because of his convictions and personal belief in the importance of education and learning—whoever you are and wherever you are in life.
Once again imagine that man— David Robinson, basketball legend, successful businessman— standing behind the counter of a concession stand at a high school ball game. He needs to bend over a little—okay maybe a LOT—to talk to the customers.
Many people just order snacks. Since David is someone everyone in San Antonio recognizes wherever he goes, people are so surprised to "encounter" him that some stammer out their orders. Others simply stand and stare. A few ask if he'll sign their program, a crumpled scrap of paper pulled out of a pocket, their popcorn box, or whatever else they have on hand.
David Robinson just smiles as he takes their money, makes change, and hands out soft drinks, peanuts, candy bars, and such. Along with the occasional autograph.
Why does someone like David Robinson work in a high school concession stand? Because it's the high school his sons attend. And volunteering is what parents do. This too is who he is—a parent and not just a celebrity.
David's example on and off the basketball court has inspired so many people over the years that Sports Illustrated ran a feature story about him in 1996 with a glowing, soft-focus cover photo titled "Saint David."
He's quick to say he's not a saint. Yet David Robinson does have an unusual and impressive story—one that neither begins nor ends with a sixth-grade graduation at The Carver Academy, working a high school concession stand, or going back to school to learn how to do a better job in a new career. Yet these are three recent and telling stops on one man's remarkable life journey ...
Chapter TwoA Terrible Accident
One morning in February 1966, Freda Robinson drove her husband, Ambrose, to work. An expert in sonar—a type of radar that scans things under water—Mr. Robinson was headed for South Africa aboard the U.S.S. Van Voorhis.
In the car with them were their children, two-year-old Kim and six-month-old David. Mrs. Robinson knew her husband would be gone for some time, so she had decided that she and the children would visit her sister in Rye Beach, New Hampshire, for the next several days.
The Robinsons lived in Newport, Rhode Island, only a two hour drive from Rye Beach. Ordinarily such a short trip would be no problem. But on this particular day, an ice storm was predicted.
Mr. Robinson was concerned about the approaching bad weather and urged his wife not to make the trip to New Hampshire. But once she dropped off her husband at the ship, she searched the sky and decided the weather didn't look that bad. So she packed some clothes for herself and the kids and left for New Hampshire.
The drive turned out to be uneventful, and the Robinson family had a good time visiting with Freda's sister Jessie, her husband, Mitch, and their six children. But two days after they arrived, the ice storm finally came. The storm was so bad that only emergency vehicles were allowed on the road.
Mrs. Robinson got up that morning, took David out of his crib, and laid him on her bed. She left him there while she went into the kitchen to heat his bottle. While she waited for the bottle to get warm, she talked to her sister Jessie.
David's mother noticed that he had stopped crying, but she assumed he had fallen back asleep and kept visiting with Jessie.
When David's mother walked back into the room and did not see David on the bed, she quickly searched the floor, believing that he must have fallen off the bed. But she was not able to find him.
Mrs. Robinson's mind was swimming. Maybe her brother-in-law Mitch had picked up the baby? Running to the door of his room, she called out, "Mitch, do you have David?"
"No," he answered.
"Don't kid me," David's mother told him.
Mitch came out in his bathrobe and repeated, "I don't have him, Freda."
Now Mrs. Robinson was near panic. "Well, where is he?" She ran into the living room and asked the other children, "Is David here?"
"No, ma'am," they answered.
She ran back into the bedroom and looked again: beside the bed, under the bed, on the bed. Suddenly she saw the top of his head. He had fallen between the bed and the wall and was jammed between the two. He was just hanging there, his face tightly pressed into the mattress.
Grabbing him up, Mrs. Robinson noted that he had turned blue. As a nurse she knew that babies turn blue when they don't get enough oxygen. She was standing there crying loudly and pacing when her sister Jessie ran into the room.
"Stop it!" Jessie told her sister. "He will be dead if you don't give him CPR."
"I can't," David's mother sobbed. "I've never done CPR on a human. I've only done it on a mannequin."
"If you don't want him to die, you had better try," Jessie urged her.
Mrs. Robinson laid baby David down on the mattress and started the CPR that she had been trained to do. And she began to pray—loudly. Freda had always believed that God answers prayers. So she cried, "Lord, please don't let my baby die!"
Mrs. Robinson put her fingers into David's mouth, sweeping it to see if he had anything blocking his airway. He didn't. She put her ear against his chest and listened but could not hear him breathing. So she leaned over, tipped his head back, and breathed into his mouth and nose. She paused for three seconds and then blew air into his mouth again. David still wasn't breathing.
Mrs. Robinson blew another small breath into David's lungs, then paused three seconds and blew again.
She saw his little chest rise.
Jessie was watching, too. "It looks like he's breathing," she exclaimed.
Mrs. Robinson picked David up and saw his eyes roll back in his head. She thought he was about to go into convulsions. So she ran out of the bedroom, through the kitchen, and into the garage. She knew the cold air in the garage would shock him. And it worked! David's eyes stopped rolling, and he began to cry.
Mitch called for an ambulance, but with the roads in such bad shape from the ice storm, the emergency crew took longer than usual to get to the house. While they waited, David's mother wrapped him in blankets and tried to warm him up.
Finally, the emergency crew arrived. When they saw David, he was no longer blue. In fact, he looked fine to them. He was just cold.
They took him to the hospital where he was put in an isolette to help get his temperature back to normal. Still Mrs. Robinson worried. She was a nurse, so she knew a person can go without oxygen for only four to six minutes. After that, brain damage occurs.
When the doctors asked Mrs. Robinson how long David had been blue, she couldn't tell them. She wasn't sure how long she had been in the kitchen talking and laughing with her sister Jessie. And she had no idea how long it had taken David to scoot across the bed, fall down between the mattress and the wall, and get jammed so tight that he couldn't breath.
She thought she must have been out of the room at least five minutes, maybe several minutes longer. She hoped David had not been in distress that long. But there was no way to know for sure, so there was no way for the doctors to tell if—or how much—brain damage might have occurred.
"I'll have to wait until he starts learning and talking?" David's mother asked the doctor.
"That's about the size of it," he responded.
Now Mrs. Robinson had two things to worry about. How would they cope if David had indeed suffered brain damage, and how would she tell her husband, especially since he had asked her not to go to New Hampshire in the first place?
Because her husband was at sea, Mrs. Robinson couldn't telephone him. She had to let him know what happened in a letter.
Two days later, Jessie asked Freda to drive her to a local shopping center. The roads were still icy, but Freda agreed. In the 1960s, cars were not equipped with seat belts, and baby car seats had not yet been invented. His mother laid David down on the seat beside her in the car.
On the way to the shopping center, another driver lost control of her car on the ice and slid into the Robinson's car, hitting on David's side of the vehicle. David was not hurt. But Freda then had to write her husband another letter, describing yet another near tragedy that would not have happened if she had stayed home as he had asked her to. Ambrose was particular about the car, and she hated to have to tell him it had been so badly damaged.
Finally, Freda's husband got the letters and was able to call home. "Are you all right?" he asked. "Is David hurt? Did Jessie get hurt?"
Freda explained that the only casualty was the car. Ambrose was relieved to hear that his family was safe. He did not scold her for going to her sister's house. Mrs. Robinson was happy that her husband was more concerned about his family than the car. She felt bad enough as it was.
Her husband's reaction was one less thing to worry about, but Mrs. Robinson still had to face a more daunting concern. How long had David been without oxygen? Had he suffered brain damage while he hung trapped between the wall and the mattress that icy morning?
Three years is a long time to worry about something that important. But that is how long the Robinsons had to wait for their answers.
Excerpted from The Admiral by Gregg Lewis Deborah Shaw Lewis Copyright © 2012 by Gregg and Deborah Shaw Lewis. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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