David Robinson vs. Shaquille O’Neal: The story of how the Admiral won the scoring title with a game of 71 points
In 1993, after winning his third consecutive championship and seventh consecutive goalscoring title, Michael Jordan abruptly retired.
This was a game-changer and left new questions for the 1993-94 NBA season:
- Who will win the 1993-94 NBA Championship?
- Who will win the title of top scorers 1993-94?
It was an interesting subject because Michael Jordan was the firm holder of both titles for so long.
In 1993-94 there were a lot of good scores in the game. You had Hakeem Olajuwon, Dominique Wilkins, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing, to name a few.
The players I named were the third to sixth (in order) top scorers this season. So who were the top two scorers?
The top two scorers of the 1993-94 NBA season were Shaquille O’Neal of the Orlando Magic and David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs.
The scoring title was on the line until the very last regular game. That’s how close this race was.
Shaq led “The Admiral” David Robinson by just 0.06 points per game and 33 points overall.
First off, Shaq and his Magic played against the New Jersey Nets. Shaq didn’t just “go over the moves” he played an incredible game, dominating the Nets, as he always seemed to do.
Shaquille O’Neal scored 32 points while grabbing 22 rebounds in a 120-91 win.
Not a bad way to end your season. Shaq’s score average would increase by a hair’s breadth of his performance by 32 points.
Then it was David Robinson’s turn. His San Antonio Spurs faced the Los Angeles Clippers draws.
There was no doubt that not only did ‘The Admiral’ want to win the top scorer title, but his coach and teammates wanted the Spurs center to win it as well.
So when the ball tipped that night in April 1994, the game plan was simple: hand the ball over to David Robinson and get out of the way.
From the first play, the ball was thrown to the “admiral” in the post. He immediately took a turn around 15 feet.
It was not a fluke, the ball would continue to find Robinson on every descent. “The Admiral” scored the first 18 points of the game for Spurs.
The Spurs quickly took a huge lead against the Clippers, and there was no chance for a Clippers comeback.
So what did the Spurs do? Exit Robinson in the insane last game of the regular season? It was an explosion anyway, right?
No, the Spurs did the opposite. They kept Robinson inside and continued to give him the ball.
At this point in David Robinson’s career, his strongest game was 52. Would “The Admiral” eclipse his career high?
You know he would. David Robinson would go on to score 71 points, setting the team record for most points.
The Spurs’ most significant previous game was George Gervin’s 63 in 1978. “The Admiral” shattered that record, but he didn’t do it alone.
Robinson’s teammates started messing up the Clippers’ players to get back on the offense faster, even as the Spurs blew up the Clippers.
It would be seen as an insignificant and cheap way to win the top scorer title. In fact, when asked about Robinson’s performance, Shaquille O’Neal said this:
“I heard they pass every piece to Robinson. If that had happened here, I would also have 70 points. I did not care.
Shaq added: “It would have been nice, but 50 wins was more important to me than the scoring title.”
When Orlando Magic head coach Brian Hill heard about the Spurs game, he called it “derision of the game.”
Shaquille O’Neal and David Robinson had a history of beef even before this title race happened.
It all started in the 1994 NBA All-Star Game. Dominant veteran centers and league big men like David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon and Karl Malone, to name a few, wanted to send a message to the LSU product.
Why were these other great men in the NBA conspiring to shut down Shaq? It goes back to other great men thinking Shaq was a brash young star.
Shaq became the league’s most popular player after Michael Jordan retired. In addition to playing in the NBA, he released rap albums and starred in films like the Blue Chips of the 1994s.
The big men of the West, along with their coach, Seattle Supersonics coach George Karl, have hatched a plan to shut down Shaq.
Coach Karl sent double and triple teams to Shaq the entire game. It was unheard of in an All-Star Game. George Karl’s tactic worked. Shaq was held to just 8 points on a dismal 2-12 shot from the field.
“A few of them at the All-Star Game said it was the player’s decision (three teams), and a few of them said it was Coach Karl’s decision. I collect them all, one by one.
Shaq’s targets were George Karl and the Supersonics, Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone and, of course, David Robinson.
Two games after the All-Star Game, Shaq and his Magic would face George Karl’s Supersonics and Shaq would take revenge.
The Magic would win 124-93 behind Shaq’s 38 points and 20 rebounds. Shaq was a monster, hitting 16 of his 19 punches. The first name on the revenge sheet was marked firmly.
How would Shaq fare in his first post-All-Star Game encounter against “The Admire” David Robinson?
The date was March 6, 1994, which was precisely Shaq’s 22nd birthday.
The game took place in San Antonio, Texas. Shaquille O’Neal definitely showed up with revenge in mind.
Shaq scored 32 points on an 11-20 shot. He also caught 11 boards in the game. Not bad huh ?
That night, however, the game belonged to David Robinson. “The Admiral” rushed against Shaq.
He scored 36 on 14-26 shots. He also took 13 rebounds, distributed 7 assists, while collecting 6 blocks and 3 steals.
Shaquille O’Neal wouldn’t get his revenge that night. “The Admiral” led Spurs to a 111-113 victory.
Shaq certainly resented the San Antonio Spurs center after that, including making up a story about how Robinson was rude to him as a teenager. Shaq would end up apologizing to invent history.
So, on that night of April 1994, did David Robinson take it personally against Shaq? Or was he just a gamer playing the game to try and achieve something special?
After his 71-point game, David Robinson said this about his performance:
“It was amazing. My team has been behind me all year. They always push me to do a lot of individual things. As a leader I’m just trying to win games but tonight they really wanted me to shoot him. When the match started, they were looking for me on the pitch almost every time.
If you observe David Robinson throughout his career then you would know that “The Admiral” is one of the nicest guys to ever play in the NBA.
Robinson didn’t want to “eat” with anyone, so that night in April 1994, Robinson just wanted to play, and he did.
“The Admiral” won this scoring title and his performance is still one of the greatest in NBA history. Well deserved, David.