Manu Ginobili iwill enter the Basketball Hall of Fame next Saturday, after a wonderful career as a professional that spanned 23 years and in which he wore six different shirts: five at club level and the light blue and white of Argentina.
The southpaw had an enormous impact on the sport of the orange ball, far greater than any statistic can show. In any case, there are some numbers that explain Manu’s career, from his beginnings in Argentina to his retirement from the best league in the world. Here we review them.
two teams on the LNB. Manu Ginóbili started his professional career in the National Basketball League, where he played for two different teams. The southpaw made his debut in 1995 with Andino de La Rioja after moving from his hometown of Bahía Blanca. In his first campaign in the top flight of Argentina, he got 134 points in 26 games, for an average of 5.15.
After being named the revelation of the league, he finally returned to Bahia to play with Estudiantes, where he began to display all his talent. In his first campaign with the Bahiense team, 96/97, he played 51 games and achieved a scoring average of 16.4.
The progress was even more evident in 97/98, with 24.9 points per game in 49 games. In addition, by then, the left-hander had expanded his repertoire with contributions in various statistical facets by finishing with 4.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.3 steals.
Before emigrating, Manu won in 1997 the MVP award of the Game of Promises in Mar del Plata and also won the award for the most improved player of the LNB.
He was 21 years old when he emigrated to Italy. With few seasons behind him, Ginóbili traveled to the old continent as a promise. However, in Europe he became a real star.
As in Argentina, Manu wore two shirts. First, he had to earn a place at Reggio Calabria in the Second Division. There he achieved promotion in his first year, before establishing himself in the highest category, with averages of 17 pts, 3.1 reb, 2.4 ast, 3.2 steals and 30 minutes of play, in 30 games.
Then, he took a new leap in his career by signing with Kinder Bologna, where he won everything: two Italian Cups (2001 and 2002, being the MVP of the second), an Italian league (2001, being also the MVP of the same) and a Euroleague (2001), with the incentive of ending the MVP of the finals with huge numbers: 15.9 pts, 3.8 reb, 3.0 ast, 2.5 steals in 22 games with 28.5 minutes on average.
At Kinder Bologna he finished with averages of 20 pts, 4.4 reb, 2.2 ast, 2.5 steals in 36 games and 32.3 minutes in the 2001/02 Lega A season.
57th place in the 1999 Draft. The left-hander was selected by San Antonio despite the fact that the Texan team was not fully aware of his qualities. “If not, we would have chosen him much sooner,” franchise general manager RC Buford explained years later.
Likewise, Manu only arrived in the NBA in 2002, when he was already a much more mature player and had shown great things both with Kinder Bologna and with the Argentine National Team, with whom he finished runner-up in the World Cup in Indianapolis.
4 championships with the Spurs. The 14 points per game, with 4 rebounds and 3.8 assists in almost 28 minutes of action do not reflect how important Manu was for the city of San Antonio, where from early on they considered him one of their own.
Ginóbili was one of the legs of the “Big Three” -with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker- that left the Texan franchise four NBA titles: 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014. In addition, he was elected twice to the All-Star (2005 and 2011), once as the Best Sixth Man (2008) and was twice included in the third best quintet in the league (2008 and 2011).
On March 28, 2019, the Spurs retired his number 20 jersey as a sign of what he meant to the franchise.
2004, the most important year of his career. You can’t talk about Manu without mentioning his most valuable triumph. Ginobili won the gold medal with Argentina at the Olympic Games in Athens, leaving behind the mighty United States and beating Italy in the final.
Manu shone in that tournament, with an average of 19.3 points, in addition to contributing 4 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.4 steals, with 58% shooting from the field and 41% from the triple. In the most important game, the semis against the USA, he had 29 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 4 triples against the NBA players.
It should be noted that the left-hander always said yes to Argentina, despite the fact that the Spurs always had a way to get injured. In 2008 he won the bronze medal at Beijing 2008, before wearing the team’s colors for the last time at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
He was 41 years old when he decided to retire. It took a while but his farewell as a professional came. The Argentine did not want to leave the courts and Gregg Popovich, his coach in San Antonio, still gave him minutes as an important piece of a team that was fighting for the playoffs.
On August 27, 2018, at the age of 41, Manu put an end to his career a couple of months after closing the campaign with San Antonio. Now, at 45, it is his turn to enter the Hall Of Fame.
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