Manu Ginobili entered the 2017-2018 season, his 16th and ultimately final in the NBA, at the ripe old age of 40 years old. In what became a summer ritual the last few years, I would tell myself, once he made his annual announcement to return for another season, to keep expectations modest. I can still remember just wanting him to be decent after the Spurs lost to Miami in 2013, and he returned even better at age 35 than he had been at 34.
Plenty of people, Manu included, didn’t expect him to play as long as he did. A quick Google search tells me that the average NBA career lasts about 5 years as it is. Now combined that with the number of games he played as a professional (both overseas and the NBA) and the way he played the game (100% balls to the wall energy) and it was inspiring the way he continued to come back and contribute as more than just a locker room presence. In many ways, he was better at 40 than he was at 39, from a basic counting stat perspective (A modest 8.9 PPG on 43/33/84 shooting percentages, 2.5 APG, 2.2 RPG). Maybe 40 really is the new 30?
To kick off this series, let’s take a look at some of the milestones Ginobili achieved last season. Many of these milestones speak to his longevity and prowess for the game.
November 3rd, 2017: First South American-born player to play in 1,000 NBA Games
In a game against the Charlotte Hornets in which he was a +14 and served up one of his 7 “Grandpa” dunks last season, Ginobili became the first South American-born player to play at least 1000 games in the NBA. Second on that list is Nene with 923 games under his belt. He may reach the milestone by the time he retires, but Manu was first.
Here’s that filthy slam during that game against the Hornets!
January 5th, 2018: 2nd 40-year old bench player to score 20+ off the bench
In an early January game against the Phoenix Suns, not only did Manu become only the second player ever to score at least 20 points off the bench at the age of 40 (Vince Carter was the first), he also did it in just 19 minutes of play and sitting out the 4th quarter, a double digit lead and a win safely secured.
January 7th, 2018: First 40-year old to score 20+ in back to back games since MJ
Two nights after becoming the second player to come off the bench and score 20+ at the age of 40, Manu, showing it was no fluke, went out and scored 26 points in a loss to the Blazers. He became the first player since MJ to score in double figures in back to back games and also became the only 40 year old to ever score 20+ points in back to back games coming off the bench. Oh and for good measure? His 26 points passed Vince’s for the most by a 40-year old coming off the bench AND moved him into 7th all time on the NBA’s All-Time Career Points off the bench. Not bad!
March 29th, 2018: All-time franchise leader in steals
In a game against the Thunder, Manu picked up two steals that took him past David Robinson for most steals in franchise history, with 1389 takeaways. Robinson’s previous record came in just 987 regular season games in 14 seasons, while Manu required 1056 to take over the top spot.
April 9th, 2018: Passes Michael Jordan for most double-digit scoring games at 40
Michael Jordan, Manu’s idol growing up, turned 40 in February of 2003. From that point on, he tallied double-digit scoring in 29 games. Manu came into his 16th NBA season already at that glorious age and finished the season with 30 games of double digit scoring, the 30th coming in a 17-point playoff-clinching performance against the Kings. Kareem Abdul-Jabber, who played til he was 41, has the most games with double-digit scoring at the age of 40+.