Whether the total worth is $24 million, $30 million or somewhere in between, the contract David Robinson signed Friday with the San Antonio Spurs -- which reportedly will pay him $4 million a season before it expires -- has staggered the family of the former Naval Academy basketball center.

"If you had told me a year ago that this would happen, I wouldn't have believed it. I wouldn't have believed it six months ago, even two months ago," said his father, Ambrose Robinson, an engineer who does subcontracting work for the government. "I manage $17 million a year in my job -- I work with these numbers every day -- but this is just unbelievable to me."

According to published reports, Robinson will receive $2 million this year -- half of it as a signing bonus -- and another million next year. That money will be placed in a trust fund administered by the ABA-USA, the governing body for amateur basketball in the United States.

The 7-footer, on active Navy duty, won't begin playing for the Spurs until the 1989-90 season. Starting then, he will be paid $2 million for each of three seasons, with a raise to $3 million for the subsequent two years. In the final two seasons of the 10-year deal, it goes to $4 million per year.

During the eight seasons of actual play, the contract averages out to $3.25 million a year.

"That's what we really felt it would take to make sure we got David here," said Spurs General Manager Bob Bass. "It's obviously a lot of money, but we felt, how often do you get the No. 1 draft choice in America, a great center? There were just too many things that were pluses."

When the Spurs selected Robinson with the first choice in June, there was speculation that he would bypass the Spurs and reenter the draft trying to hook up with a better team.

"There was all sorts of speculation about what might happen and we didn't even want to address that or add to the conjecture," said Bass. "Nobody thought we had a chance, but they failed to convince David."

According to Ambrose Robinson, the biggest question wasn't the money, but "whether or not he really wanted to play with the Spurs. Lee Fentress {of Advantage International, the management firm that negotiated the deal} asked him that and David said he'd think about it for a few days. When they talked again, he'd decided that he could play for them."

From that point, Bass said, the contract took nearly 30 days to work out. Jeff Austin, an Advantage representative who helped Fentress negotiate the package, said, "We honestly didn't know what would happen. We wanted to evaluate every possible option and make a decision based on that.

"David had no idea what to expect, he had no picture at all of what San Antonio looked like, but he was impressed. There was a theory that we could have waited {for him} to become a free agent but you're also taking the chance of him being injured or of salary cap problems at some later date. There were a lot of uncertainties with that {waiting}."

Ambrose Robinson said, "David is someone who's dedicated to his commitments. "He could have said, 'No, I want to play with the Lakers or I want to play with the Celtics,' or with whomever. But he told {Spurs owner} Angelo Drossos that if he met his requirements he'd play with the Spurs, and that's what they did."

The day after the signing, Robinson and son were guests at the Spurs' 130-106 victory over Dallas, a win that impressed Ensign Robinson but left him frustrated.

"The hardest thing of all for David is the waiting," said Ambrose Robinson. "He wants to play now, so he's very edgy. He thinks he's out of shape but he was saying he could step out there now and average 20 points and 10 rebounds a game."

All this for a man who his father said nearly died before he reached his second birthday.

"I remember he'd fallen between the beds in his room," said Ambrose Robinson. "His face had turned blue. But his mother gave him mouth-to-mouth respiration until the paramedics arrived. When they did, they said that if she hadn't done that he probably would have died.

"We've felt that David might have been put on this earth for some reason, now this. The Lord certainly does work in mysterious ways."