There is a story Bruce Bowen, one of the best defenders of his era and one of Spear’s best-loved players, enjoys telling to explain the influence of his former teammate Manu Ginobili.
The year was 2012, and Bowen was in London to watch the Summer Olympics. As he walked through the historic town with Carl Lewis, who had won nine Olympic gold medals and stood as America’s most crowned track star ever, a slew of sports fans in the area ran with heavy accents to ask for pictures with the guys. .
But of the fifty people who approached Bowen and Lewis, surprisingly only five seemed interested in being photographed with Lewis. The other 45 or so photos requested with Bowen. “I looked at Carl and laughed, and told him I could get back to him in a second,” Bowen recalls, laughing. But the reality was, these were all basically the ones who knew me and wanted a picture with me because they spent so much time watching Manu play basketball.”
Ginobili, the Argentine who won the Euroleague Player of the Year award and eventually He led his homeland over the United States on his way to winning gold at the 2004 Olympics, will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday in Springfield, Massachusetts. But perhaps in the greatest nod to his playing as a star in the NBA, he would become the first foreign player to reach the hall through the North American commission, meaning his NBA play—as opposed to his international contributions—was enough to merit inclusion on its own. (Ginobili noted on Thursday that a handful of others — Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and longtime teammate Tony Parker — are definitely on the way.)
On the surface, it might seem odd that 45-year-old Ginobili, who has averaged 13.3 points, 3.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds during his NBA career, would have that distinction. However, Ginobili was much more than the sum of his San Antonio stats.
Early on, Ginobili – 57th selection in a 58-man draft in 1999 – was almost more than Spurs bargained for when he finally joined the team three years later. San Antonio, which boasted all-time greats in top players Tim Duncan and David Robinson, was arguably the most underrated team in the league. Spurs were also trained by Greg Popovich, an Air Force Academy graduate and a guy who wasn’t interested in the idea of coloring outside the lines.
In this sense, Ginóbili was a six-year-old and a scientist: someone who often went out of his way – and made occasional mistakes by taking risks at the right time – but who often tended to make it look pretty when he did things differently.
“I don’t want to say he knocked Bob out of his mind, but I’m sure there were times he did. I mean, there are those times where he’d venture a wild chance at the most inopportune moment, and you’d want to trade him or kill him,” said PJ Carlismo, who began a five-year and three-title career as a San Antonio assistant in 2002, the same year Ginobili began his career with Tottenham. “But Bob has given him more rope than anyone else, and certainly 100 times more than I would have given him. It usually pays off, which is indicative of the number of games [the Spurs] win with him.”
It was nearly impossible for Popovic or Carlissimo or anyone, really, to remain frustrated with Ginobili. He played with a never-stop engine, one that kept his long hair falling out as he sped up and down the field.
Even with his hair thinning dramatically over his 16 years in the NBA, Ginóbili’s intensity and competitive spirit have remained. “And his mind is proportional to how hard his body is working,” recalls Joe Bronte, a long-time assistant coach of Tottenham who is now with the Hawks. “I was just amazed at all the things he saw and all the things that could happen.”
Bronte talked about Ginóbili ingenuity and improvisation, detailing the amount of attack he has caused Spurs over the years. “He’s had this play with Tony every two or three games It will give us background basket like clock‘ says Bronte. ‘And It wasn’t even a stage call per se. These two were only able to read the defense and had so many counters to where the defenses really couldn’t stop them when they turned them around.”
The same was often true Eurostep Ginobili, which is probably what most people will remember on an individual level. While Ginobili is quick to admit he didn’t invent the move — Šarūnas Marciulionis is widely credited for bringing it to the NBA — there’s no doubt he popularized it in a league that now displays the smooth, long side step toward the basket multiple times per game. days.
I couldn’t explain exactly [how to do a Eurostep]” Ginobili told reporters Thursdaybefore instigating it. “Some of the basics, yes. But it was very natural. It was very instinctive.”
beloved leftist, One of the first guards in the NBA to marry with a high free throw rate and a high three-point attempt rateHe has an unmistakable quirk both on and off the court.
On it, opponents –Kobe Bryant included– They said they couldn’t decide how to defend the two-time All-Star Game, It plays the beat, changing speeds and directions in an almost meaningless way. His teammates say Ginóbili had endless fun by pulling little pranks on the bench, leaving paper cups on the players’ chairs right before they sat down.
Aside from Ginobili’s ability to speak directly to the team’s legion of Spanish-speaking fans in Texans, Tottenham supporters – and some They went so far as to have Ginobili’s face sprayed on their heads by the local barbers– Remember he played Batman on Halloween in 2009. That night, Ginobili hit with a bat that was flying across the AT&T Center Before picking up the animal and turning it over so the San Antonio game continues. (Bats flying across are a common problem in the ringwhich lies between a pair of the world’s largest bat colonies and the path of bat migration to Mexico.)
Above all, Ginobili put his ego aside to play the role that was asked of him in San Antonio. Despite having the skill, talent, and accolades abroad to be a start, when Popovic decided that he wanted to serve Ginobili primarily as a sixth manhe accepted that role and made something of it by being a magician with second units and ending games instead.
In a way, his selflessness on the field was reminiscent of something Popovich often refers to with Duncan, widely regarded as the best forward force ever. Duncan had no problem letting Popovich coach him hard at times – something that, almost by definition, forced the rest of Spurs’ players to accept coaching because Duncan, twice the league’s best player, was willing to accept it.
The trio of Duncan, Ginóbili and Parker together won 575 regular season games—More than any other trio in league history– He won four NBA titles in 2003, 05, 07 and 14. In that final round of title, in particular, Ginobili replaced himself after playing a brutal 6 in the NBA Finals ’13, a contest he was one of. It was possible that Tottenham would win the championship over the Heat had it not been for Ray Allen’s historic delay in switching. Momentum in the chain.
Ginobili had an unusually high eight turnover that night in Miami, and the next day he had an hours-long chat with Bowen about how incredibly close Spurs were to winning the whole title. The Heat then took the crucial seventh game as well, defusing San Antonio’s golden title chance, especially for Ginobili and Duncan, who were aged 35 and 37, respectively.
“Of course it was devastating for him,” Bowen says, adding that Ginobili is like a brother to him. But he realized that the only salvation he could get at that point was to return with more resolve next year. Then I saw what happened.”
The result was a rematch with the Heat in the 2014 finals, which Spurs dominated in five matches. In the closing presentation, Ginobili looked ten years younger than he actually wasincluding an unforgettable sequence where he drove through the driveway and dumped a plunging of traffic over Chris Bosh, and a play later hit a triple during the San Antonio mega-race.
Between the unpredictability of elimination and the fact that he would help Spurs in another tournament, an assertive performance that year was quintessential Ginobili.
“He seems to have no fear, and will do whatever he needs to to win,” said Popovic before Ginobili’s induction. “It was a force of nature.”
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