Manu Ginobili will always be famous in San Antonio, but nothing he does here can ever match his stardom in his homeland of Argentina. Not only is he a favorite son of the Basketball City of Latin America (also known as Bahia Blanca), but perhaps no foreign athlete has drawn more fans into NBA arenas than the Spurs guard.
He’s his own tourist attraction. Fans in Argentina can pay up to $4,500 per person for a round trip to the US to just for a glimpse at Ginobili. The package includes the flight, hotel accommodations, game tickets and meals. Some fans will do anything for the opportunity, including sell everything they own.
However, it’s not just who he is as a player that makes him so popular, it’s what he means to fans off the court as well. Per ESPN:
Ginobili has emerged as an idol in Argentina because he’s a genuine product of effort and sacrifice. He has broken down the barriers and rewritten books since he was a teenager. Manu is an extraordinary athlete, but also his work ethic, his reliability, his altruism and his sports values have made him the perfect example within an imperfect Argentine society.
Manu owns a foundation that has collaborated with other charitable trusts through the years. “We prioritize established organizations that also are, at least at the beginning, from Bahia Blanca (since that’s my native town and I feel I owe them a lot),” says Manu on the website for the organization. “The ones we chose back then were the National Children’s Council and the Mama Margarita Home. After that, we also extended our help to different entities of Argentina.”
The Spurs have always been lucky to Ginobili as part of the team, but Argentinians may be the luckiest of all. I’m sure they all join is in saying, “Uno mas Manu!”