Though it wasn’t unexpected, the basketball world suffered a huge loss when it was announced that Manu Ginobili – the tenacious left-handed Argentinian shot-maker, and career San Antonio Spurs man – would be retiring.
A player not just vaunted for the numbers he put up but for the way he played the game, Ginobili was beloved both by San Antonio and rival fans alike. His play resonated with observers due to the passion he showed every time he set foot on the hardwood, and because of how relatable he felt. How could anyone not enjoy watching some gawky guy, who looked more like your favorite childhood uncle than an NBA star, put up 17 a night against the best competition in the world?
Ginobili, a two-time All-Star and two-time 3rd Team All-NBA member, undoubtedly deserved more personal accolades throughout his career. He likely would have gotten them, too, if not for the selflessness he showed to come off the bench for the overall betterment of the Spurs.
Nevertheless, for the duration of his prime, the Argentinian lefty put up starter-like numbers anyway. Over a seven-season stretch between 2004-05 and 2010-11, Ginobili averaged 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.7 three-pointers per contest, shooting 45.4 percent from the floor, 37.4 percent from deep and 84.4 percent on 5.3 nightly free-throw attempts.
In that time frame, Ginobili led the Spurs in regular-season Win Shares on two separate occasions. (Yes, you read that correctly: Manu Ginobili, on a team with arguably the greatest power forward of all time on it, actually bested Tim Duncan in accumulated Win Shares over a season – and he did it more than once.) More importantly, San Antonio won two championships over that stretch, one in 2004-05 and another in 2006-07.
Those weren’t the only titles of Ginobili’s career, either.
The 6-foot-6 2-guard was also a part of two other Spurs’ championship teams in 2002-03 and 2013-14, to go with one Euroleague championship while at Virtus Bologna in 2000-01 (where he was named Finals MVP), as well as multiple gold medals while wearing the No. 5 jersey for Argentina, the most memorable one coming at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
During that gold-medal run with his country, Ginobili and Co. needed to get past the American squad in the semifinals. He did just that, making it look easy in the process by going for 29 points and three assists against Team USA in what was an 89-81 Argentine victory. It was the game that firmly and without a doubt put Ginobili on the map, proving that he wasn’t merely some decent player, but an unquestionably great one. Unsurprisingly, Ginobili earned the first All-Star bid of his career the season following the historic summertime achievement.
That Olympic title, in addition to the various NBA championships and the lone Euroleague trophy, gave Ginobili one of the most unique resumes in basketball history: only he and Hall-of-Famer/New York Knicks legend Bill Bradley can claim to have earned titles in those three very distinct theaters.
How’s that for a career?
What helped Ginobili find all that ludicrous team success was that throughout his prime and even late in his playing days, he possessed an otherworldly ability to make outcome-changing impact in extended stints off the bench. That trait is best exemplified by the fact that the ball-handling maestro’s career Box Plus/Minus (+4.9) is the third-best mark since the inception of the three-point line among qualified players with fewer than 400 starts – and the two players ahead of him are current full-time starters who just haven’t crossed the requisite games-started threshold yet.
You might say that’s making a decent impact.
Overall, Ginobili finishes his Spurs career ranked fifth in points (14,043) and rebounds (3,697), fourth in assists (4,001) and first in steals (1,392), while also placing fourth in career Box Plus/Minus and fifth in career Win Shares (106.4).
The next time we see Ginobili doing anything basketball-related, other than at his jersey retirement in San Antonio, will likely be for his enshrinement into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Even without his unforgettable international career, he likely would have made it in – after all, contributing to four championships while earning multiple All-Star and All-NBA bids along the way is nothing to scoff at. But that, coupled with of all the achievements he had with his country and in Euroleague, makes him a surefire lock.
Ginobili’s legacy – that of a fearless gunner with unlimited creativity as a playmaker who seldom ever shied away from big moments – will not be forgotten; he was the type of flashy-yet-never-flamboyant player basketball aficionados all over the world will miss watching suit up.
At the end of the day, that’s not bad legacy to leave behind for a skinny dude from Bahia Blanca, Argentina.
You can follow Frank Urbina on Twitter @FrankUrbina_.