Former Naval Academy center David Robinson, the No. 1 pick in June's National Basketball Association draft, who will not fulfill an active duty service commitment to the Navy until May 1989, signed a contract with the San Antonio Spurs yesterday that makes him the highest-paid athlete in team sports, according to the team's owner.
It is believed the contract will pay the 7-foot-1 Robinson between $24 million and $30 million over eight years, including a bonus of $1 million per year while he is in the Navy.
"It's the biggest contract in pro sports anywhere in the world. There's no comparison," Spurs owner Angelo Drossos said during a news conference at HemisFair Arena attended by San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros and about 500 fans.
The news conference began prior to Robinson's signing the contract.
"There were still a couple loose ends that had to be tied up," said Lee Fentress of Advantage International, the Washington-based firm representing Robinson. "The news conference began before we had a signed contract because Mayor Cisneros had to be in Boston later in the day."
Fentress described the loose ends as "bonus provisions -- use of a BMW now, club memberships, things like that."
Robinson said money was not the only reason he signed.
"There is no amount of money I would have signed for if they did not have a commitment of making this franchise better," said Robinson, who said he was impressed when he visited San Antonio Sept. 18-20. "This was a very tough decision for me and I had to sit down and talk with some people about it. I decided this was the place I wanted to be."
It also appears Robinson received almost exactly what he asked for.
"They didn't have any reason to sign . . . unless the considerations that were important to him were met," said Spurs President B.J. (Red) McCombs.
Fentress said the possibility Robinson may have been able to play for a team other than San Antonio if he chose not to sign for at least one year was "not a factor" in Robinson's decision.
Fentress said uncertainty about the future and the fact that the trust fund Robinson has established with the U.S. Amateur Basketball Association will be receiving payments while Robinson remains in the Navy were factors in the decision.
"You're looking at the present value of dollars and investments that can be made over the period of two years," Fentress said. "Plus, there are risks involved -- injury, disability. Also, baseball salaries have gone down in past years. Now, I don't think that will happen in basketball, but under any scenario, this contract would be pretty hard to surpass."
Robinson, who is stationed at King's Bay, Ga., said he did not plan to seek an early termination to his service commitment.
"There is no expectation on my part of getting out of the Navy right after the Olympics," Robinson said. "It's not like I'm just putting in my time. I'm learning. I have a commitment to the Navy."