A True Artist in the Game: Manu Ginóbili
If you ask me, the game of basketball is an art. 75 years of NBA basketball and we have all watched the game evolve. The evolution of the game is always pushed forward by players who either pioneer a style of play or a specific move. Those pioneers are synonymous with artists, and this is no more evident when looking at what Manu Ginóbili has done for the NBA and the game of basketball as a whole. With his first ballot induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame approaching we take look at what Ginóbili has meant to the game.
Ginóbili is one of those players who inspired a generation of hoopers. The 6'6 lefty shooting guard hailing from Argentina entered the NBA as the 57th overall pick of the San Antonio Spurs in the 1999 draft. Ginóbili wouldn't grace the NBA hardwood until October 2002, three years after he was drafted. From then until 2018, Ginóbili managed to carve out a career filled with accolades and highlights. Away from the NBA, Manu was a legend in international play and helped promote the game of basketball globally through his play.
Ginóbili was a bucket. Most importantly, he was a winner. His contributions to the Spurs Dynasty can never be overlooked. His career numbers will never fully convey the story of what he meant to the Spurs during his 15-year career. He ended his NBA career averaging 13.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.8 assists with 44-37-82 shooting splits. Those don't jump out at you as Hall of Fame-worthy stats but attach his accolades and awards to those box score stats, and the first ballot hall of fame induction all makes sense. In 15 years, he never missed the playoffs. Add four NBA championships, two all-star appearances, a sixth man of the year, and two All-NBA third-team selections. Outside of the NBA, Ginóbili collected more hardware and accolades to add to his legend.
The pinnacle of his international career occurred at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. America had long dominated the basketball scene in all international tournaments. After the Dream Team of 1992, it felt as if every Olympic basketball competition was predetermined. That was until Argentina and Manu Ginóbili shocked the world in 2004. Behind the leadership of Ginóbili, Argentina beat the USA 89-81 in the semifinal to advance to and ultimately win the Gold Medal game. That victory showed the rest of the world that basketball didn't only belong to one nation. At that moment, basketball became a global game.
Accolades Outside of the NBA
Olympic Gold Medal (2004 Athens)
Olympic Bronze Medal (2008 Beijing)
EuroLeague Finals MVP
All-EuroLeague First Team
50 Greatest EuroLeague Contributors
Manu Ginóbili has an everlasting impact on the culture of basketball. I'm 23, and I can tell you that Ginóbili was the first player I remember who made it cool to come off the bench. That was something he did for his whole career. He was more than good enough to start for the Spurs and any other team in the league, but he put winning above all else. He starred in his role, which caused a trickle-down effect for the hoopers who came after. The likes of Jamal Crawford, Lou Williams, and even James Harden at one point; all starred in that sixth-man role. On the court, Ginóbili popularized the euro step and made it his signature. His deceptive change of pace and crafty finishes made his euro step one of the most effective moves in the league. Players like Dwayne Wade and James Harden took that move and ran with it. Today players at all levels are practicing and executing the euro step.
Today the NBA is flooded with foreign-born players. Players such as Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Joel Embiid are all foreign-born players who rank among the best players in the game today. Ginóbili among other foreign players in the early 2000s, helped pave the way for all the others to follow. What he has done in Europe and the NBA is worthy of all the praise and recognition. A lot of people don't realize his significance to this game. The first ballot hall of fame induction is well deserved. Manu Ginóbili is a legend in the game of basketball.