This year the Spurs are celebrating their 50th season in San Antonio. There have been many highs and a few lows. One trademark of the San Antonio Spurs has been their culture and their consistency. The keys to those qualities lie in their players. Always noted for development as well as being ahead of the curve on scouting international players, the Spurs way has made the franchise one of the most successful of all time. As we look back on the Silver & Black, we recognize the top 50 players in Spurs history. Each day, we will move up the countdown.
Number 4- Manu Ginobili
Manu Ginobili — excuse me, Emanuel Gin-o-billy as he was known on draft day — is one of the most unique players to ever play in the National Basketball Association. His style and dedication to the game added fluidity to a league that had boxed itself within its 94’ x 50’ frame. If nothing else, Manu brought the Euro step to the big league and altered the game forever.
But more happened. Oh so much more . . .
With one of the more brilliant international careers of all time, Manu Ginobili is one of only two players to win an NBA title, a EuroLeague title, and an Olympic gold medal. As a member of the San Antonio Spurs, he won four NBA Championships alongside Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, making them the winningest trio in NBA history.
Perhaps his most Spursian trait was agreeing to come off the bench at the height of his career, taking selfless sportsmanship as well as the team’s dynamic to an entirely new level. Not only did this create a bench that strengthened the overall team, the Spurs’ team-first principles and competitive longevity was set in stone, to a point that persists today.
Honestly, any article on Manu Ginobili could be substituted for a list of bullet points highlighting his achievements and that list would run longer than most player’s career biographies, but what Ginobili has accomplished pales in comparison to who he is. The style, heart, and passion that this man brought to every single moment he spent on the court cannot be understated. Known for making a bad play and immediately making up for it was a trademark of Manu’s dedication and personal standard.
In 1999, Ginobili entered the NBA draft and was chosen in the 57th spot by the San Antonio Spurs, but it was at the start of the 2002-03 season that Ginobili finally donned a Spurs jersey. He earned Western Conference Rookie of the Month in March and was named to the All-Rookie Second Team. During the playoff run, the rookie saw his minutes increase and his role expand as the Spurs rode the wave into their second NBA title. For his part, Manu Ginobili was awarded Argentina’s sportsperson of the year, the Olimpia de Oro.
In the midst of the 2006-07 season, Manu made the transition to second string, adding a necessary spark to the bench and helping push the team to their fourth NBA title.
Heading into the 2008 season, Ginobili played a bigger role as he reached career high averages in points, rebounds, assists, and three-point field goal percentage. On February 11, 2008, he scored 34 points and recorded 15 rebounds, becoming the first guard in Spurs’ history to have at least 15 points and 15 rebounds in a game. Manu won the 2008 Sixth Man Award, winning 123 out of the 124 first place votes. In addition, he was named to the All-NBA Third Team.
Possibly his most infamous non-basketball play on the court, Manu Ginobili took out a bat with one swipe during a Halloween game against the Sacramento Kings at the AT&T Center.
With no signs of slowing down, Manu finished the 2010–11 season eighth on the NBA MVP ballot, was named an NBA All-Star for the second time, and earned All-NBA third team honors. In fact, as he aged, Manu continued to find himself competitive with the younger generation of players.
On November 9, 2016, Ginobili joined Rashard Lewis as the only second round draft picks in NBA history to score 13,000 career points and make at least 1,300 three-pointers.
And then, of course, there was a career highlight in the 2017 Western Conference Semifinals.
In the next round against the Golden State Warriors, Manu became the first player at the age of 39 to score 20 or more points off the bench in a playoff game since that stat was recorded.
Before the 2017-18 season, Manu turned 40-years-old which opened him up to numerous firsts. In back-to-back games in January 2018, he scored 21 and 26 points respectively making him the first quadragenarian in NBA history to score 20 or more points while coming off the bench.
Three weeks later while the Spurs were playing the Sacramento Kings, he scored 21 to Vince Carter’s 15 creating the first game in NBA history where two over-40 players scored more than 15 points.
In March of that season, Ginobili surpassed David Robinson’s 1,388 steals to become the Spurs’ franchise leader in steals, eventually tallying 1,392 for his career.
In the postseason, he played his 218th playoff game, passing Shaquille O’Neal and landing him fifth all time. At the same time, he surpassed Reggie Miller and took the third all-time spot in made 3-pointers during the postseason.
Game 4 of those playoffs looked to be a sweep, but Manu reached deep and carried the team he loved so dearly to their sole postseason win against the Finals-bound Golden State Warriors. He scored 16 points with 5 assists and 3 rebounds in his last game at the AT&T Center, truly leaving it all on the floor before the Spurs’ season ended two nights later.
On March 28, 2019, the San Antonio Spurs retired #20 and added Ginobili to the rafters right next to Tim Duncan, his teammate for his entire NBA career.
Manu was enshrined into the Neismith Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this month.
He is still active with the Silver & Black. Since September 2021, Ginóbili has served as special advisor to the Spurs basketball operations.
And on October 19th (my birthday!), the Spurs will kick off the season with a tribute to Manu’s Hall of Fame induction by revealing his jersey in the rafters with the HoF update. (Get PtR ticket deal HERE.)
Next up: The Iceman Cometh
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