Known throughout the league as “Truck,” Leonard Robinson used his rugged body, intelligent playmaking, and sure shot to become one of the game’s best forwards in the 1970s and 1980s. Fundamentally sound in every area, he had the strength and physical attributes of a power forward along with the mobility of a small forward. He delivered a consistent cargo of offensive firepower and uncanny rebounding for 11 years in the NBA. A two-time All-Star, Robinson had his finest season with the New Orleans Jazz in 1977–78, when he averaged 22.7 points and led the NBA with 15.7 rebounds per game.
After starring at Tennessee State University, Robinson was taken by the Washington Bullets in the second round of the 1974 NBA Draft. As a rookie in 1974–75, Robinson had to wait his turn behind Elvin Hayes and Mike Riordan and averaged just 5.8 points in 13.1 minutes per game. He made small contributions on a Bullets team that reached the NBA Finals that year, losing to the Golden State Warriors in four games.
Robinson’s playing time doubled in his sophomore season, and his scoring and rebounding numbers improved accordingly. But it wasn’t until the 1976–77 campaign, when the Bullets sent Robinson to Atlanta for Tom Henderson and a draft choice, that Robinson established himself as a star. In split duty between the Bullets and Hawks, Robinson averaged 19.0 points and 10.8 rebounds.
Prior to the 1977–78 season Robinson signed as a free agent with the New Orleans Jazz, and the Jazz sent the Hawks’ Ron Behagen as compensation. In his only full season with the Jazz, Robinson turned in the finest performance of his career. At just 6-foot-7, he became one of the first non-centers ever to lead the league in rebounding, grabbing 15.7 boards per game. He also notched his career-best scoring effort (22.7 ppg), made his first All-Star appearance, and was named to the All-NBA First Team at season’s end.
The Jazz, under Coach Elgin Baylor, went 39-43 but missed the playoffs for the fourth time in their four-year history. Robinson started well in 1978–79, averaging 24.2 points and 13.4 rebounds through the first 43 games. But on January 12 the Jazz traded Robinson to the Phoenix Suns for two players and two first-round draft picks. The Suns boasted a deeper roster than the Jazz, and over the season’s final 26 games Robinson averaged just 16.0 points in 29.1 minutes per game. Phoenix won 50 games that year and advanced to the Western Conference Finals before losing to Seattle in seven games.
Over his next three seasons with the Suns, Robinson averaged at least 17 points and 9 rebounds each year. Following the 1981–82 campaign he was traded to the New York Knicks for Maurice Lucas. In 1982–83 Robinson suffered through the worst slump of his career, averaging just 9.5 points and 8.1 rebounds. Fans began complaining about their “truck with four flat tires.” He played another full season for New York—with similar results—before retiring in 1984–85.
In 11 NBA seasons Robinson amassed 11,988 points and 7,267 rebounds.
Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday salutes …Leonard “Truck ” Robinson.
|1977–1979||New Orleans Jazz|
|1982–1985||New York Knicks|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NBA statistics|
|Points||11,988 (15.5 ppg)|
|Rebounds||7,267 (9.4 rpg)|
|Assists||1,348 (1.7 apg|