This weekend was a rare eventful one for early September in the NBA thanks to the 2021 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which included NBA legends Chris Bosh, Paul Pierce, Ben Wallace and Chris Webber, as well as Toni Kuboc, Lauren Jackson and Yolanda Griffith. The class also featured Bill Russell, who became the fifth person to be enshrined both as a player and a coach.
Now, it’s time to start looking forward, and the Spurs are looking at a very real possibility at being represented in the next two classes. Players who retired in 2018 will become eligible for the 2022 class, and that would include none other than Manu Ginobili. In fact, he might even end up being the headliner in an otherwise relatively weak class, at least in terms of NBA players becoming eligible for the first time, which also includes Joe Johnson, David West, Zach Randolph, Jason Terry, Richard Jefferson, and Al Jefferson.
Among that group, the next closest thing to a lock would be Johnson — NBA.com actually gives him a much higher probably of making the class than Ginobili based on individual accolades, although it’s arguable that Manu is the bigger headline-drawer — but no one else from that group screams “first-time Hall of Famer”. That could give a boost to players who have been finalists before but not voted in — like 2021 finalists Tim Hardaway, Marques Johnson and Michael Cooper — or other recent NBA retirees with notable resumes such as Shawn Marion, Chauncey Billups, and Amar’e Stoudamire.
While Ginobili also doesn’t have the statistical NBA resume of your typical first-time Hall of Famer, with just two All-NBA and All-Star selections and 14,043 career points, this is the Basketball Hall of Fame, not NBA. He brought a whole new style of play to North America that can be seen throughout the league today, was an invaluable member of the Spurs’ last four championship teams, unselfishly came off the bench most of the time for the sake of his team and not personal gain, had a competitive heart hardly matched by any other player, and he is one of the most decorated international players in basketball.
His EuroLeague resume was standout prior to joining the NBA. He was a three-time All Star and two-time MVP with the Italian League’s Kinder Bolagna while leading them to both the 2001 Italian League and EuroLeague championships. He was also the best member of Argentina’s Golden Generation, leading them to silver medal in the 2002 FIBA World Cup, gold in the 2004 Athens Olympics, and bronze in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
As previously mentioned, Ginobili could very well be the headliner of this class, which interestingly enough could not be said of David Robinson and Tim Duncan, whose classes featured Michael Jordan and the late Kobe Bryant, respectively. He should be lock for the 2022 class, and after that it will be time to watch for 2023, which will likely receive much more notice with Tony Parker, Dwayne Wade, and Dirk Nowitzki all becoming eligible, but that’s a topic for another day.
In the meantime, here’s to hoping Ginobili gets the recognition he deserves. While many fair-weather NBA fans already seem to be dismissing the greatness of the Big Three, both individually and as a whole, basketball purists know the truth, and that’s all that matters.