This is a translation of Manu Ginobili’s column, which appeared in La Nación on August 28, 2018.
I sit here writing with mixed feelings, just like I said on the tweet announcing my retirement. I’m very excited about the decision I made and for what’s coming, but also uncertain of how I’ll adjust to a day to day life that doesn’t include thinking about the next game. I’ve been playing my whole adult life, since I was 18 and left for La Rioja up to a couple of months ago. It’s going to be strange, no doubt, but I believe I’m well prepared and I’m certain I’m surrounded by the best possible people to face it.
Besides, I can’t claim this was a rushed or unexpected decision. I’m 41 years old. I really squeezed all the juice out of this whole basketball thing, right? There’s also the fact that last season was, in my mind, the last one at all times. I never made that known because it made no sense to limit my options. I wanted to leave the door open, in case I changed my mind and felt the physical and mental strength needed to face an NBA season.
When the season ended, I let a couple of months go by to see how I felt, like I usually do. In a meeting before I went to Canada on vacation, I told Pop that I thought I was more likely out than in, but we would stay in touch and talk when I got back. During our holiday, Many and I talked about the very real possibility that this was actually it, but we never dared confirm it or really believe it fully. I wanted to have the chance to return to San Antonio and see if something would awake in me, calling me back to the court. The opposite happened. I got back and started lifting weights and taking shots, watching the young guys bust their backs trying to get in shape for preseason while I was still feeling pain from two hits I suffered last season. I slowly started to convince myself of making this decision.
I had to wait a few days until Pop returned from Europe, because I wanted him to be the first one to know and the first one I talked to about it. On August 27 it was time to make my decision public. You can’t imagine how stressed I was in front of that screen before hitting “send.” I don’t really know why, since I was convinced it was the right decision for me. It was crazy. I’m certain and happy with the step I took.
It’s hard to explain what I felt. Right after, I experienced great relief and I thought I was going to be able to disconnect, but the messages kept pouring in and I couldn’t help but read them. Some made me emotional. I really should say made us emotional, because Many, my wife, is going through this with me. She’s also retiring. We’ve shared 21 of these 23 years I played. She suffered through every competition, celebrating, crying, yelling, from up close and far away. She even put up with me leaving for two months in the offseason to go play with the national team, instead of going on family vacations. She took care of the house through it all, of our kids, of making sure they didn’t wake me up early before an important game. She was the one who supported me in losses and celebrated with me in victory. Anyway, the list of what she means to me could go on for a few more pages.
I’m probably not the only one who feels this way about retirement. It must happen in every job. It’s just that, in basketball, achieving the sense of family we had in San Antonio is unusual. To play with some of the same teammates for 16 years, for the same coach, and to see the same faces year after year generates a strong sense of belonging. I don’t want to start naming people, because I’m sure I’d be unfair with some. But just like I said in my tweet, I’m immensely grateful to everyone.
I did make it clear to Pop that this is not a “bye, I’m out” situation. My kids already started school and while I’m in the city, I’m going to be close to the team and the franchise. I might not be able to help by drawing a charge or getting a steal or whatever, but I’ll try to pitch in wherever I can. I have a deep affection for my teammates, the staff and everyone around the team and I want them to do as well as possible. If I can help from the outside, I’ll be glad to do so.
I can say that I did everything I wanted to do in basketball. I played until I wanted, until I was 41, while others have to retire before their time because they get hurt or for other reasons. I have nothing I wished I could have done but didn’t. I even actually indulged in playing these past three years like you would with friends, without feeling the pressure of being solely responsible for how things went, feeling like I had already done all I could to lead us to success. I played because I liked to play and because of the respect and affection I had for the place in which I was.
I thanked everyone the way I could on my tweet, because there’s a lot of people with whom I shared time on this road. One of the things I’m the happiest about looking back is that I never had a fight with the teammates I played with, all 274 of them, or with the coaches. I didn’t have many, but with the nine coaches I had I got along great, feeling mutual respect and appreciation. And then there’s also the vast amount of people who work in the shadows, busting their backs so that we can be in playing shape. They might not be in the spotlight or have their names in the media, but they are crucial for the success of an organization.
I also have to mention that I became the player that I was only after going to Europe. Beyond just the success I had in Bologna and the growing up I did in Reggio Calabria, everything I learned there helped me later compete at the highest level in the NBA.
Everything about my career was special. It’s not common to be on a team for such a long time and it’s certainly not common to have processes in which a handful of players spend 20 years together, like it happened with the Spurs and the Golden Generation. I was fortunate enough to be a part of two groups who had incredible relevance in the sport, and on both occasions it was with a group of people of unmatched quality. As a professional to have experienced that is astounding.
I have to thank the San Antonio fans, who embraced me since day one. My Latino origin and the fact I spoke Spanish surely helped build a bond with them. We had a unique connection for 16 years, with unconditional love and support. As for my Argentine fans, I have no words. What we lived, for example, in Mar Del Plata and Rio de Janeiro is hard to forget. I can’t really describe what I experienced with the national team in a couple of sentences. I can say I was profoundly touched by the love I was showered with in Rio, on my last game. Beyond that, seeing a stream of Argentinians past through San Antonio to watch me play over the past few years was just amazing. I know the sacrifices they had to make to come and that moved me.
Well, it’s now time for me to start spending more time with my wife and kids; to enjoy quality time in Argentina with friends and family; to eat my old man’s polenta and barbecue with friends; to spend the second half of my life without so many responsibilities and take care of my body, since it’s the only one I have. I will, ultimately, enjoy this free time I have, since it’s what everyone is after and it’s available to me, at 41. Thank you all for supporting me through this long journey.