It has been a long, slow offseason for Spurs fans, but that is about to change. Not only is training camp approaching, but an even bigger event is coming up first. In just 48 hours, Manu Ginobili will be enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. And no, it’s not the “NBA” Hall of Fame like some detractors like to claim; it’s the BASKETBALL Hall of Fame, and Ginobili has contributed more to the game than many outside of San Antonio and Argentina may realize.
Isaac Levy-Rubinett of The Ringer has an excellent piece about how the unknown name from the back end of the 1999 draft would bring a new style and flare to the game that not only helped transform the NBA, but the game of basketball as whole.
Manu won four NBA championships and an Olympic gold medal, became one-third of one of the winningest trios in NBA history, and left an indelible mark on the NBA. He popularized the Euro-step, revolutionized the role of the sixth man, and played with a singular style that transformed the champion Spurs—and eventually, the rest of the NBA.
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Manu, on the other hand, was known for nutmegging fools. He was smooth yet disjointed in a way that made him difficult to defend. Raja Bell once said he was the hardest player he ever had to guard. “I made a living studying offensive players,” said Bell, now a Ringer podcaster. “I couldn’t figure him out.” Manu was un-figure-out-able; he seemed to have a slightly different relationship to space and time than everyone else on the court. The flow of basketball isn’t necessarily predictable, but it does proceed with a certain cadence and rhythm. Good players understand how to operate within the flow; great players dictate it. But Manu had his own way of subverting it—of operating outside the flow without disrupting it.
But perhaps most impressively, Manu was able to get the stubborn ol’ GOAT Gregg Popovich himself to change his own view of the game. While he rode Manu hard early in his career for his perceived recklessness and taking shots outside of the system, Pop would eventually learn he had let go of some of his desire for perfection and system ball and just let Manu be Manu, because as Manu once said, “That’s what I do.”
But eventually, Popovich realized that Manu being Manu worked more often than not—that the occasional turnover or contested shot was a small price to pay for his brilliance. He recognized that Manu’s game was fueled by a profound desire to compete and that it would be a mistake to temper that down. “He’s a freaking winner,” Pop said. “I came to the conclusion that it had to be more his way than my way.”
The whole thing is worth a read, so be sure to check it and few more links below out!
The Five Legacies of Manu Ginobili — ESPN (subscription required)
Manu Ginóbili vs. Tim Hardaway: Battle of the Signature Moves — Sports Illustrated
The Best of Manu Ginobili — NBA.com
And of course, no Manu piece is complete without highlights: