On Thursday, the San Antonio Spurs honored one of the greatest players to wear their jersey, future Hall of Fame guard Manu Ginobili.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 29, 2019
On Thursday, the Spurs hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers at AT&T Center. This was a special night for the Spurs organization and fans as they celebrated Ginobili. At halftime, the Spurs held a jersey retirement ceremony for their former guard. The fans watched as his jersey rose up to the rafters. His No.20 jersey is beside the jersey of one of his former teammates, Tim Duncan’s No. 21. Ginobili also joins Spurs greats such as David Robinson and George Gervin.
Duncan and Ginobili were two players essential to the Spurs’ success. They made the Spurs a (consistent) playoff team, won championships and are future Hall of Fame players. They also have several individual accomplishments such as Ginobili’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2008 and Duncan’s MVP awards in 2002 and 2003.
Ginobili had an excellent career before his retirement in 2018. The second round pick created his own path and legacy. The Spurs saw something in him that other teams didn’t. The Spurs took a chance on Ginobili and found an incredibly skilled player. His career arguably exceeded expectations and he became one of the NBA’s biggest international stars. His career did not start as glamorous as it ended, but he made a name for himself as it progressed. It all started with a late second round pick.
Ginobili started his professional career in 1995. He played for the Andino Sport Club of La Rioja of the Argentine Basketball League. Then, he joined Basket Viola Reggio Calabria of Italy in 1998. Ginobili entered the 1999 draft and was the 57th overall pick by the San Antonio Spurs. But, he did not join the Spurs until 2002. He remained in Italy where he won an Italian League championship and EuroLeague championship in 2001. He also won EuroLeague Finals MVP in 2001, Italian League MVP in 2001 and 2002 and All-Euro League First team. After a successful stint in Italy, Ginobili joined the Spurs in 2002.
In his first season with the Spurs, Ginobili averaged 7.6 points in 69 games. He spent part of this season injured. But, he still became an NBA champion. The Spurs beat the New Jersey Nets in a 4-2 series. Ginobili won a championship despite being out of the rotation.
His stats improved in his second season, as he averaged 12.8 points and a career-high 1.8 steals. He played 77 games and started in 38 of them. Then, he won a second championship in 2005.
The Big Three
Ginobili’s stats continued to improve as became a focal point of the Spurs. He became a part of the Spurs’ “Big Three” along with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. The trio won championships in 2005, 2007 and 2014. They beat the Detroit Pistons in a seven-game series in 2005, then the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007 in a sweep. This was LeBron James’ first finals appearance. The Spurs’ final championship was against a familiar face. They beat the Miami Heat in a 4-1 series. This was during James’ stint with the Heat. It was his final season with the Heat before re-joining the Cavaliers.
In between championships, the Spurs remained a playoff team Ginobili averaged a career-high 19.5 points in 2007-2008. He also became a two-time NBA All-Star, a two-time All-NBA Third team member and Sixth Man of the Year in 2008. He accomplished several things during the “Big Three” phase of the Spurs.
After their final championship, Ginobili came off the bench. He did not start in a single game from 2014-2018. In 2018, Ginobili became the only player in NBA history to have multiple 20-point games off the bench at age 40 or older. He averaged 8.9 points in his final season. He played his final game with the Spurs on April 24, 2018. The Golden State Warriors eliminated the Spurs from the playoffs in this game. Ginobili later announced his retirement in August 2018.
Ginobili had an amazing career and deserves accolades such as his jersey retirement. He changed the game in his own way and opened up the door for future international players. His jersey ceremony on Thursday gave fans/the organization an opportunity to thank Ginobili for his contributions. It is well deserved.
Featured image courtesy of Associated Press