Manu Ginobili is one of the most beloved Spurs of all time, and that won’t change anytime soon.
The future Hall of Famer was in Las Vegas last week helping the Argentinian basketball team prepare for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics when he bumped into some Spurs fans and showed the charisma that made him a fan-favorite for so long.
Maury Vasquez, a former San Antonio news reporter, was with his family celebrating his sister’s birthday at a famous steakhouse and spotted Ginobili dining there with Team Argentina. He caught Ginobili’s attention by shouting “San Antonio loves you,” to which the former Spur took notice and walked over to greet him. According to Vasquez, Ginobili wished his sister a happy birthday and proceeded to take some photos with his family.
Even in retirement, Ginobili continues to touch the hearts of Spurs fans. All I can say is: never change Manu, and San Antonio will love you forever.
Manu’s 2004 Olympic performance
Since Ginobili was in Las Vegas meeting with the Argentinian basketball team, it gives us the perfect excuse to look back at his 2004 Olympic performance.
The most memorable moment from that tournament was Argentina’s win over the US, which largely overshadows the events that led up to that game. There’s no doubt that Ginobili was instrumental in helping his country pull off the upset by scoring 29 points, but the South Americans might not have even made it to that point had it not been for his heroics during their opening match.
Down one with less than four seconds remaining, the Argentines were all but guaranteed to lose their first game vs Serbia and Montenegro. Miraculously, Ginobili was able to pull off some Manu Magic by banking in a wild floater with less than a second remaining on the clock.
After barely surviving their opening game, Argentina lost by double digits to Spain before bouncing back and blowing out China. They then squeaked past New Zealand and dropped their final group stage match by one point to Italy after Carlos Delfino blew a wide-open layup at the buzzer.
Even though his team had an inconsistent start to the tournament, Ginobili was spectacular the entire way; he averaged 19 points shooting an absurd 57% from the field during the five group stage games while knocking down 42% of his threes as well.
In the quarterfinals, Argentina was matched up against a scrappy Greek squad in one of the lowest-scoring games you’ll ever watch, as the South Americans won 69-64 and Ginobili chipping in 13 points on just seven attempts.
However, it was the following game that cemented Ginobili and Argentina’s place in history. They were up against the Americans who featured another former Spur who you might’ve heard of: Tim Duncan. As usual, the U.S. was heavily favoured in the tournament, but their lack of chemistry was exposed when the Argentines played some beautiful team basketball and pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history. As mentioned before, Ginobili played one of the best games of his career by dropping 29 points on 9/13 shooting from the field. To this day, the 2004 Olympics is still the only time that the Americans didn’t take home gold in men’s basketball since NBA players returned to the world stage in 1992.
In the finals, the Argentines faced Italy once again. Only this time, they had found their footing and cruised to an 84-69 victory. Ginobili finished with 16 points and six assists and led his country to a gold medal while cementing his status as arguably the great South American basketball player of all time.
17 years later, Ginobili continues to contribute to Argentine basketball. More importantly, he’s among a short list of players who made a huge impact on the sport internationally, as the talent in the NBA is more diversified than ever and basketball’s popularity will continue to rise on a global scale.