Spurs legend Manu Ginobili may be retired, but his name will continue to reverberate around NBA circles for years to come, and not just because he will be a Hall-of-Famer. Along with his eclectic style of play, he popularized a move the league initially saw as a travel: the Eurostep.
ESPN’s Jordan Brenner wrote an excellent piece on the history of the move, where it began, and how it is still evolving. While Ginobili wasn’t the first player to bring the move from Europe to the NBA, he came at the right time, with the right technology and a high enough profile for it to catch on.
Unlike his predecessors, Ginobili arrived from Italy at the right time to start a revolution. Suddenly, he was Eurostepping on national TV, with Charles Barkley shouting “Ginobiliiiii!” back in the studio. He was doing it in the NBA Finals, year after year. And before long, he was doing it at a time when a fan could post a clip on social media for all the world to see. It’s no surprise that the first reference to a “Euro Step,” according to a LexisNexis search of publications, occurred in a 2007 article that mentioned Ginobili.
He developed moves and countermoves. He could change direction off either foot or fake as if he were going to step across his body and continue in a straight line to the basket. He could set up the Eurostep with a crossover or a hesitation dribble and protect the ball by covering it or wrapping it around his back. Although the flashiness of his Euro captivated the basketball world, Ginobili says it served far more utilitarian purposes.
”It was more a survival tool, trying to avoid guys like Shaq, Karl Malone, because if not, I was going to get hurt,” he says.
Players since then such as Dwyane Wade, James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo have adapted the move and put their own spins on it, but they continue to credit Ginobili with bringing the idea of taking two steps in different directions to the league. It may not seem like such a complicated issue today, but many of us probably remember when it was just ten years ago. To Ginobili, it’s all baffling.
Ginobili shakes his head when considering the move’s evolution. “I was shocked when it started to be mentioned because it was the most common thing,” he says. “It was just two steps the way we always learned it.”
Two steps, in whatever direction he desired. It’s such a simple concept, honed on the playgrounds of Argentina, that it was almost impossible for Ginobili to imagine that the move would end up altering the very balance of power between penetrator and defender. That it would inspire actual drills taught by top coaches. That it would lead to thousands of highlights on YouTube.
Of course, Ginobili is only part of the article. The entire thing is an amazing read with much more detail, so I encourage you to check it out. (Just make sure you have time; it’s pretty long.)