David Adkins was born on Nov. 10, 1956 in Benton Harbor, MI to the Baptist Rev. Dr. Donald Adkins and his wife Martha. At Benton Harbor High School, the young Adkins was a member of the marching band and the math club. He graduated from the University of Denver in Denver, CO, where he lettered twice for basketball and was known as “Red Chamberlain” due to his flaming red hair and process on the court. However, his athletic career was cut short by an injury. After college, Adkins served in the U.S. Air Force as a boom operator, based at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, KS. On evenings off, Adkins often performed stand-up comedy in downtown Wichita; even competing as a comic in the USAF Talent Contest in 1981. He eventually toured with the U.S. Air Force Tops in Blue program, where active members performed shows all over the world. However, life on base was not all fun and games for the future stand-up celebrity. While serving in the Air Force, Adkins tried out but failed to make the basketball team, which sent him into a state of denial. He also kept going AWOL and exhibited a number of misbehaviors, which almost led to a dishonorable discharge. Adkins was eventually dismissed in 1983.
Having left his military career behind, Adkins went full blast with his acting career. Under the stage name Sinbad, he started making the rounds on the comedy nightclub circuit in Los Angeles, as well as competing on “Star Search” (CBS, 1983 -1995), a popular talent competition show for aspiring musicians and comics famously hosted by Ed McMahon. He won seven times, but eventually lost out to comic John Kassir in the final round. Sinbad’s exposure on “Star Search” led to a featured role on the short-lived comedy series “The Redd Foxx Show” (ABC, 1986) and a guest spot on the Golden Globe-winning sitcom, “The Cosby Show” (NBC, 1984-1992) starring Bill Cosby as Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, the patriarch of an upper-middle class family living in Brooklyn, NY. Sinbad’s guest appearance on “The Cosby Show” and friendship with its star resulted in the biggest break of his career. Cosby offered him a starring role on its spin-off series, “A Different World,” which followed his TV daughter, Denise Huxtable (Lisa Bonet), as she enters Hillman College and meets an eclectic mix of friends. (Jasmine Guy, Kadeem Hardison, Cree Summer and Charnele Brown). As Coach Walter Oakes, Sinbad essayed the big, goofy, and irreverent teacher who tries to keep order in a non-stop party dorm. His character also falls in love and becomes engaged to one of the students. To allow the show to deal with more serious issues such as sex education, teen pregnancy and drugs, Sinbad’s role eventually evolved into that of a counselor.
Just before he left “A Different World” in 1991, Sinbad started taking his comedy act across the country. In 1990, he headlined his first HBO special, “Sinbad: Brain Damaged,” which indoctrinated a new audience into his brand of comedy – clean and family-friendly. Instead of telling traditional jokes, he frenetically paced the stage as he told real-life stories and foibles. He followed that up with two more highly-rated comedy specials: “Sinbad and Friends: All the Way Live Almost!” (ABC, 1991) and “Sinbad: Afros and Bellbottoms.” From 1990 to 2005, he hosted “It’s Showtime at the Apollo” (syndicated, 1987- ), which featured live performances from predominantly up-and-coming African-American artists, and the widely popular “Amateur Night” competition filmed at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. In 1993, Sinbad, starred in yet another sitcom, “The Sinbad Show” (FOX, 1993-94), playing a computer-games inventor who raises two foster children. Unfortunately, the show’s thin premise did not give the actor much opportunity to showcase his comedic talent; instead, relegating him to selling flimsy punch lines. The show lasted only one season. Sinbad added “film actor” to his resume in 1993, when he made his film debut in the action-comedy “Necessary Roughness,” starring as a professor recruited to become a defensive lineman for a losing college football team. He then starred in “Houseguest” opposite Phil Hartman, in which he played a con man trying to escape the mob by posing as a family friend of a rich family in a Pennsylvania suburb. Sinbad butted heads with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in the slapstick comedy “Jingle All the Way,” playing a postal worker who gets into a crazy competition with a businessman to buy a hard-to-get action figure for their sons.
Despite a solid run for several years, the new millennium posed a challenger for Sinbad’s brand of comedy and G-rated appeal. Except for a guest appearance on the hit series “M sha” (UPN, 1996-2001), his appearances for most of the 2000s were confined to second-rate television shows and films. Comedy Central, however, ranked him No. 78 on its list of “100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time.” In February 2010, after more than a decade of being absent from the stage, Sinbad attempted to resurrect his career by starring in the Comedy Central special “Sinbad: Where U Been,” which was also released on DVD later that month. On the show, Sinbad discussed America’s new black president, Barak Obama, the lighter side of the recession, the dangers of falling in love and getting married, and updated the audience on where he had disappeared to throughout most of the past decade. While his comeback put Sinbad back in the spotlight, he also made headlines with news of his financial troubles that forced him to sell his $3 million California home. Reports from the Associated Press indicated that he had owed the IRS $8.5 million and the state of California another $2.1 million. That same year, real estate tycoon Donald Trump tapped Sinbad to join the cast of the third season of “Celebrity Apprentice,” NBC’s New York City-based reality competition series where celebrities compete in business-related tasks to raise money for their favorite charity.