“It has been an incredible era,” Ginobili said. “It is something very important in your life that is ending, and that means a lot, so you’ve got to think of so many things, and well. Makes me feel a little emotional. This is my 20th year since my first game with the national team. I’m very proud. And at the same time, I’m happy – sad and happy because having the opportunity to play this game at 39, it’s not something that happens often.”
“I’m very happy that I took part in an historical cycle. This was unthinkable to me,” Nocioni said. “I thought about being in the Olympic Games once, and now I’m retiring with four, there is no way to explain this rationally. When I was a little kid everything I just wanted was to defend this jersey and play a South American (championship). It’s incredible, it just has been an incredible career.”
Manu Ginobili’s emotions were jumbled as he tried to put his Olympic journey into words. Long after his last game inside the rings ended, the balding forward who once again had done all he could in defeat returned to the floor and was handed the game ball. Ginobili tucked it under his left arm and looked like he would never let it go. The golden trip for Ginobili and Argentina is over. “It’s been an amazing run,” he said, with his eyes watery and his voice strained.
So both Krzyzewski and Team USA veteran Carmelo Anthony, who was just a 20-year-old on the roster in 2004, made sure not to leave the floor without letting Ginobili, now 39, know how honored they were to scrap with the Argentines for all these years. “I’m not going to say the exact words [they told me],” Ginobili said. “They were just very cool and important displays of affection and respect.”
If not your heart, Ginobili and Scola and their countrymen always won your respect with how hard they played, how together they were, how proud they will forever be to have worn their country’s colors. The nation responsible for plunging USA Basketball into the deepest of self-examinations, resulting in a total overhaul of the program and, yes, the hiring of Krzyzewski as coach, is irresistible to a hoops lifer. “First of all, we beat an outstanding … not just a team,” Krzyzewski said. “They’re what I call a program. An amazing culture. “Congratulations to Argentina and the magnificence they’ve shown the world for the last almost two decades.”
“It was an Olympic gold medal. And you’re talking about Argentina. You’re not talking about the U.S. or Serbia or Lithuania or Russia. It’s Argentina. We don’t have any basketball history. We never thought we were going to be able to say that,” Scola said. “Our goal in 1999, we get together in Puerto Rico, our whole goal for our whole career was to get to the Olympics and play there. Not winning. Not making it to the quarterfinals, not make it to the semifinals. Not making the medal. Just be there. That’s all we wanted. And that’s ’99. That was five years before we won the gold medal.”