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The Pathology of Manu Ginobili

I no longer have cable television, and my computer is fritzwonkular most of the time. I'm also wading into what is supposedly the most difficult semester of pharmacy school, so watching Spurs games will likely be the rare occurrence for me. But I still plan on writing on special occasions, namely every Monday. Because Mondays are special. And because Mondays mark the beginnings of weeks, a time often devoid of fun, hope and general good feelings.

Much like my writing. So it should be easier for you to swallow.

Every Monday, 8:00 a.m. central time, like Swiss clockwork. I'll always throw something about the Spurs in there, sprinkled amongst ramblings, muffled cries for help, and whines, gripes and curmudgeonings. And Shins' lyrics.

You've been alone since you were 21
You haven't laughed since January

There won't be many photos though. They seem to take a lot of time to find, credit, and caption. And I would always feel like I'm just ripping off FreeDarko's visual non sequiturs.

While watching the Spurs / Hornets game from the anti-bowels of the Where the Spurs Play Center, Wayne commented how much faster Tony seemed in person.

I think Wayne was right.

There was one particularly telling fast break. Sean Marks, back-pedaling at the elbow, was essentially the only guy back for the Hornets. Tony ran at him full speed, went around him and then laid the ball in on the same side of the basket. All Marks had to do was turn around, take one step and block the shot. He didn't even get turned around.

Of course Tony does this every game, against all sizes of opponent. But seeing it live and realizing the guy still seems ridiculously fast when he's 200 feet away from you... it gives you a different appreciation for his insane athletic ability, like watching a cheetah chasing down a gazelle from a helicopter. Except Tony only has two legs.

And he didn't eat Sean Marks.

But my brains can make sense of Tony's greatness. The NBA is obviously comprised of world class athletes. Even amongst them, Tony's one of the fastest end to end, and few can match his quickness. He understands how to attack individual defenders on the fast break and has the ability to finish with either hand on either side of the basket. I understand why Tony is one of the 25 best players in the NBA. It's not complicated.

But I cannot figure out why Manu Ginobili is even in the top 100, let alone the top 20.

(None of what I am about to say is new to anyone who reads this blog. There's nothing left to say about Manu that hasn't been said here before. Well. Manu Ginobili wears 6" Jimmy Choo heels to bed. That would be new. Back to it: but for the grace of Manu goes PtR.)

He's not overly quick. He's not a great leaper. He's not a great shooter. What most befuddles me is how he continually, repeatedly, over and over again, ad nauseum, get wide open step-back jumpers from 18 feet. He'll face a guy up, work some hypnotizing voodoo or some shit, and wind up taking an essentially unguarded 18' jump shot. Most of the time the defender doesn't even get a hand in his face.

It's as if Manu has learned how to imbalance his opponent, how to get him shifting the wrong way. More importantly, he seems to anticipate the vulnerability and execute his step-back as the imbalance is occurring.

He ends up with all the time in the world.

(This must drive other NBA players crazy. It's one thing for a guy like Lebron to get the best of you. That's explainable. Just look at the guy. He's a freak. Dwight Howard? Freak (plus he prays and stuff). Tim Duncan? Tall (plus he's boring so he doesn't count). Kobe? Quick as hell, amazing athlete, crazier than shit. Yao Ming? Crazy communist genetic-engineering. Chris Paul? Ridiculously quick hands and first step. Etc.)

I don't know how Manu got to be this way. Maybe it's purely instinctual. Maybe he read Book of Five Rings and it all came together in a shroom-induced fury of clearheadedness. Maybe I'll take the sportswriter's easy way out and credit his time playing soccer.

I wonder if even he knows the origin, the planting of the seed. I think he does. I think he guessed the ending of the The Usual Suspects and can sense magma shifting miles beneath the surface of his earth. I think he's trying to unravel the very foundational fibers of the NBA. I think he's diabolical. I think he's formed a one-manned cabal.

The evidence is there.

He'll dribble through a guy's a leg or go around his back during a layup, but only when necessary. He'll occasionally try to dunk on somebody, but only when the situation suggests it is the most prudent course of action. He'll attempt outlandish passes and impossible shot blocks; but allow me to suggest and believe he does it primarily for the same reason Einstein attempted to quantify the universe:

Because there is joy in the attempt. And because he thought he could.

He scrapes, claws, and tosses subtle elbows as he goes to the basket, yet he does it coldly, without aggression. He rarely, if ever, makes eye contact with an opponent, but it never comes off as a lack of respect. You never seeing him talking with opponents during the game. He doesn't smile on the court, but he plays like there's no other place he'd rather be. He doesn't hype his game to the media. He downplays his own abilities and emphasizes his struggles.

This is not by accident. This is part of his game. Part of his plan.

He's won a gold medal and three NBA championships, but he's lacking something so fundamental to the NBA, to sports, to competition in general.

Manu Ginobili is entirely without swagger.

He does not strut. He does not preen. He is not there to put on a show. He does not react to hard fouls. He does not react to being booed. Manu Ginobili's performance may ebb and flow, reacting to his health, or to the situation, or to the quality of defender. But from game to game, the competitiveness never changes. Ginobili doesn't need to be pushed to achieve the paramount of his abilities, and this is why he has un(?)intentionally become a mirror that reflects the inadequacies of the NBA's world class basketball players: deep down we all know that swagger comes hand in hand with insecurity. We strut not to convince competitors of our dominance; we strut to convince ourselves.