With the announcement of his retirement earlier today, it’s easy to assume that Manu Ginobili’s professional career will mostly be remembered for his contributions to the Spurs’ four championships as a member of San Antonio’s “Big Three” including Tim Duncan and Tony Parker and that’s really unfortunate. Summing his career like that is an incredibly criminal understatement because Manu was so much more. Manu was a wizard.
Let’s not even talk about Manu’s four NBA titles, the incomparable run in leading the Argentinian national team to a Gold medal during the 2004 Olympics, how everybody knows that Manu was the real 2005 NBA Finals MVP, or how his career was completely redefined in the middle of his peak as he selflessly came off the bench as possibly the greatest sixth man ever. For these reasons, he deservedly will join (eventually) Duncan and Parker in the Hall of Fame.
Manu revolutionized basketball with his style of play; perfecting the “Euro-step” into the deadliest weapon in the NBA for years. In a game designed for players blessed with physical attributes like height and size, Manu effectively leveled the field for driving, attacking guards like Harden, Westbrook, and even forwards like Giannis (who WILL be the best player in the NBA in a few years).
Growing up, I remember sitting in front of my living room TV and spending my Friday and Saturday nights watching ESPNews highlights with my dad. From those nights, there are only spots of memories that are burned into my head; watching Iverson dirty crosses like he was playing streetball and Manu’s floppy hair gracefully cutting into the paint, splitting defenders for an easy layup. I remember thinking, “how in the hell is this lanky, awkward-footed dude getting to the basket THIS much? How is he doing that with his body?” That was Manu. You didn’t know how he did it, but he did and you were amazed every time you saw it.
Remember that time he swatted a bat in the middle of a game? Yeah, that actually happened and of course, it had to be Manu.
Did Manu have his knocks? Yeah, of course. His play eventually slowed to a crawl and his constant flopping made him a punch line for critics, but you can’t say that you DIDN’T have fun watching this guy work.
I sure as hell did.