“Today, with a wide range of feelings, I’m announcing my retirement from basketball,” San Antonio Spurs great Manu Ginobili said in a tweet on Monday. “It’s been a fabulous journey. Way beyond my wildest dreams.”
Ginobili played in 1,057 regular-season and 218 playoff games with the Spurs and ranks in the franchise’s top five all time in games played, points (14,043), assists (4,001) and steals (1,392).
Congrats @manuginobili on an amazing career. Great player. Fierce competitor. Winner. Next stop: HOF
In his final season last year, he averaged 8.9 points and 20 minutes a game.
“An NBA champion and All-Star, Manu Ginobili is also a pioneer who helped globalize the NBA,” commissioner Adam Silver said. “He is one of basketball’s greatest ambassadors who believes in the power of sports to change lives. And for 16 years, we were fortunate to watch a legend compete at the highest level. Thank you, Manu, for a career that inspired millions of people around the world.”
There are only two men in the history of basketball to win an Olympic Gold Medal, a EuroLeague title and an NBA championship. One is Hall of Famer Bill Bradley. The other is Ginobili, a certifiable, future first ballot Hall of Famer.
I make that point to simply illuminate something that anyone who has watched Ginobili over the years knew from the moment they laid eyes on him: the man and the things he did on a basketball court were as rare as they come.
And speaking of rare, only two players in NBA history have more than 800 rebounds, 800 assists and 300 3-pointers in their playoff careers. Their names? Ginobili and LeBron James.
basketball right now which is the “Euro Step”!!!! God bless you, thanks for the playing the game the right way and for the competition!!!
A selflessness had been ingrained in him at an early age, when as a teen he wasn’t seen as some crowned prince who had the potential to elevate Argentina’s basketball to levels never before achieved on the international stage. He was simply a wild, skinny, out of control kid on the court fighting to make the team.
One thing working in his favor, despite being short and skinny, was an unwavering support system. His father, Jorge, was a legendary hoops coach, and he had two older brothers who would go on to play pro ball overseas. Manu was the consummate gym rat, the kid who dribbled around his kitchen without looking down at the floor, wearing special gloves that allowed him to learn how to persuade and manipulate the ball’s reactions to his urgings with only his fingertips.
“There were maybe 15 kids just in our city better than him,” Pepe Sanchez, the former Temple point guard who grew up with Ginobili and played with him on Argentina’s national team, told ESPN’s Zach Lowe in 2016. “He would go to the basket, get crushed, stand up to shoot free throws, and get crushed all over again. He was so tiny. He was fragile.”
The Eurostep started with Manu Ginobili. Looking back at Ginobili’s 16 seasons in the league with the San Antonio Spurs and his influence on the game. Find more exclusive sports coverage: http://bleacherreport.com/ Subscribe: https://www.youtube.com/user/BleacherReport?sub_confirmation=1 Follow us on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/bleacherreport Like us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/bleacherreport
He might have been little, but his physical and mental toughness were undeniable. And there was also the weird factor, in terms of his game. It was just different. He was wild, yet composed, playing to a rhythm of unique percussion in his brain that only he could hear.
When he made the under-22 national team in 1996, it was only as an afterthought. Numerous players who were more lauded and had been awarded spots on the squad had scheduling conflicts and couldn’t make it.
“He was nothing special,” his teammate Andres Nocioni told Lowe. “But you could see he moved different than normal people. Like a snake.”
Fast forward to today, and anyone who watched Ginobili play such a critical role in four Spurs championship teams will tell you that he blossomed into something that was beyond special.
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Spurs general manager R.C. Buford first saw him during the 22-and-under world championships in Australia in 1997. But the executive wasn’t there to scout Ginobili. In fact, he’d never heard of him.
“He was like a wild colt out there,” Buford told Lowe, “just doing crazy s—. Some of it made sense, and some of it didn’t.”
In the 1999 NBA Draft, Ginobili was selected with the 57th overall pick and went on to enjoy more success than Elton Brand, Baron Davis, Ron Artest and Shawn Marion, the top talents in that pool. Such forgettable names as Cal Bowdler, Kenny Thomas, Vonteego Cummings and Leon Smith were among the many others picked ahead of him as well.
He stayed in Europe for a few more years, eventually earning the EuroLeague Finals MVP award in 2000-2001 and the Italian League MVP honors in back-to-back seasons before joining the Spurs in 2002.
He battled grizzled vets Steve Smith and Bruce Bowen for minutes as a rookie, and took his lumps in practice without ever complaining.
“Bruce beat the ever-loving s— out of him all season,” former teammate Tim Duncan told Lowe, “and it’s not like they were calling fouls. Manu just kept going. That’s when I finally said, ‘He’s gonna be alright.'”
GraciasManu por todo! https://t.co/8252qgCmvi
He was notorious for playing in meaningless scrimmages as if the NBA title was on the line. When first matched up against Kobe Bryant, the Mamba asked Bowen for a scouting report on ‘the white boy.’
“Oh, you’re gonna see,” Bowen responded. “He’s not a white boy, and he’s got some stuff.”
Kobe, the league and the rest of the world soon learned that Ginobili was the real deal.
Initially, he seemed to be the antithesis of a player in Popovich’s system that then stressed a slow pace offense that ran through the low post. In fact, his fancy passes, wild forays to the rim, pull-up 3’s early in the shot clock and other idiosyncracies frustrated Pop to no end.
But the coach realized he had something special and that he needed to provide his unique player with a blank canvas at times to create his unique works of art that were sometimes off script, but they elevated the team. What he brought into the game was something that could never be game-planned for, because how does one counteract combustible spontaneity and heart?
By the playoffs of his rookie year, he was bringing some heat off the bench, giving the Spurs a scoring weapon that they lacked, one that could not be scouted as easily as their predictable offense. He helped lead them past the Nets in the Finals, and the legend of Manu Ginobili began to be formed.
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Three years later, he was an All-Star and widely recognized as one of the league’s best and most exciting talents. In the 2005 NBA Finals, he averaged 20.8 points and and 5.8 rebounds per game against the Detroit Pistons in winning his second ring.
There was no fear in him, and he’s still remembered for swatting a bat to the ground that was flying around the court in a 2009 game against the Sacramento Kings. After knocking it to the ground, he picked it up with his bare hands and carried it off the court to raucous applause from the crowd.
In November of 2015, Ginobili, Duncan and Tony Parker became the winningest trio in NBA history. And he’ll forever be a national icon in his homeland after leading Argentina to a Gold Medal in the 2004 Summer Olympics.
Check out the craziest, difficult, insane shots of Manu’s career! Subscribe to the NBA: http://bit.ly/2rCglzY For news, stories, highlights and more, go to our official website at http://www.nba.com Get NBA LEAGUE PASS: http://www.nba.com/leaguepass
Ginobili was much more than a cog in the Spurs championship machine. His passion, energy and style of play forced Popovich to recalibrate that machine. Before him, the European baller was seen as a spot-up shooter or a big man that played in the paint.
Manu introduced an entirely different layer to the equation. He brought a unique flair that had never been seen before, and we’re all the better having seen and experienced it in all of its recklessness, beauty and splendor.
In Manu’s 16 NBA seasons, we were treated to something very rare and special in him and what he gave to the game. He gave it his all. And in his own unique way, he gave us something we’ve never seen before, and will likely never see again.
Thanks Manu. You’ll be missed.