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The symbolism behind Manu Ginobili’s block of James Harden

Two similar players who took different career paths that collided in one defining moment.

Houston Rockets v San Antonio Spurs - Game Five Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It could arguably be called the last “big” play in Spurs playoff history. It was also voted as Manu Ginobili’s top block of his career and second-best play overall by Pounders in The MANU Tournament. If you haven’t figured it out yet, we’re talking about Manu Ginobili’s block of James Harden in Game 5 of the second round of the 2017 playoffs.

In one of their many amazing Deep Dives, Secret Base took a look back at the play from five years ago, but it’s not just about the block itself, but also the symbolism behind it. Although the two players are nearly a generation apart from a sports standpoint and complete opposites in many ways, they also have more in common than many think.

On one hand, Ginobili was an unknown foreign prospect who was drafted late in the second round and entered the league with little fanfare, while Harden was a heralded player out of Arizona State who was drafted 3rd overall ten years later. On the other, both were large, left-handed guards who would go on to change the game in their own ways but began their careers as glorified sixth men, coming off the bench for their championship-contending teams that were led by star forwards and soon-to-be star point guards. For both these reasons, Harden idolized Manu and modeled his game after him in several ways.

However, their career paths veered apart after their initial bursts onto the scene. While Ginobili ultimately agreed to stay with the Spurs and come off the bench, sacrificing money — and arguably some of his legacy — for the sake of winning, Harden was ready to move on and become the star of his own team (who can blame him?) and made the move over to a Houston Rockets club that was trying to move on from the underwhelming Yao Ming — Tracy McGrady era.

He would bring them back to being a relevant playoff team in the West, and after an unusually long playoff drought between to two Texas teams, the two former faces of The Sixth Man squared off for the defining play of the series. It’s an amazing deep dive, so be sure to check it out and subscribe to Secret Base for more amazing content. (My personal favorites are their Beef History videos about longstanding sports feuds, such as David Robinson vs. Shaquille O’Neal.)

Watching this got me to thinking about that amazing game and all the Spurs had to overcome to win it and the series, such as losing Tony Parker for the season and Kawhi Leonard for some of Game 5 and all of Game 6, and it’s a moment in Spurs history I love revisiting. Just re-watching the final moments of the fourth quarter and overtime stresses me out and is a reminder of how intense that game really was.

The block itself also triggered some hilarious memes at the time

And of course my personal favorite: the James Harden Shooting Star video (which refuses to embed but click the link to check it out),

During the doldrums of the All Star break, it’s always fun to take a walk down memory lane.