Manu Ginobili Stats
A few names have dominated the last two decades of NBA basketball. LeBron. Kobe. Shaq. Curry. Durant. Duncan. Garnett.
These stars have received a lion's share of attention for the league's rise in the early 2000s. And deservedly so.
But one name we can’t forget is Manu Ginobili, who retired at the end of the 2017-18 NBA season after a 16-year career with the San Antonio Spurs.
In 50 years, when we look back on the greats of the game, reflect on their achievements and marvel at their skills as players, we should not overlook the greatness of Manu Ginobili. Stats and numbers aside, Ginobili made an impact well beyond the court.
"Argentina's Flying Man" was one of the key contributors in making the NBA as popular around the world as it is today.
Full Effort at All Times
Coming off the bench for virtually his entire career, Manu Ginobili did not take one minute of his playing time for granted.
Only twice did he average more than 30 minutes per game in a season (2008 and 2011, the latter year being one of his two All-Star appearances), but over 12 years in his prime, he put up a stat line of 16.8 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds.
He was a two-guard that didn’t just hover around the perimeter, or fall into the trap of a 3-and-D role player. Ginobili was involved in all aspects of the Spurs offense, and regularly created for role players with constant penetration.
Would he have worn down given more minutes? It’s impossible to say, but his full-attack mode at all times was perfect for the role he played in San Antonio.
He's From Where?
Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see a player from South America creep into an NBA lineup. Players such as Nene, Tiago Splitter, Leandro Barbosa and Luis Scola all have played contributing roles on winning teams.
But before Ginobili, the list of players with even a cup of coffee is razor thin.
The talent in South America had not been taken seriously as a potential hotbed for NBA talent, until Ginobili blew that notion out of the water.
Ginobili broke down the door for South American ballers, and Argentina’s gold medal at the 2004 Olympics forced the league to take notice.
Ginobili is still the best that’s ever laced them up from Argentina, Brazil and the like.
And his NBA organization, the San Antonio Spurs, also played a role in the league's international evolution, as they had a record 10 internationally born players on their 2013 opening night roster, which led to another championship.
Out of the Spotlight
No attention? No problem. Manu Ginobili was never the star of the Spurs. Tim Duncan lived on that corner.
Manu was never in the tabloid headlines. Tony Parker, his modeling (and brief singing) career and relationship with Eva Longoria placed him on that corner.
That left Manu Ginobili, not the star of the team and no interest in becoming a TMZ target like Parker.
Ginobili just balled. That’s the best part of his career.
The outpouring of love and admiration after his retirement announcement was borne out of a shared love of basketball. Almost anyone who covers or writes about NBA basketball does it from a pure love for the game, and there exists an obvious kinship with Ginobili.
When a player just loves the game, it’s not hard to spot. Ginobili never went through the motions. He competed. He loved it. He was born to do it.
We were blessed to witness that passion without interruption for 16 years.
He Whacked a Freaking Bat
More impressive than his championships, more impressive than being a game-changing talent off the bench and even more impressive than his gold medal is the time he whacked a bat. Out of the air.
Full disclosure, I love animals, do not eat animal products and am a proponent against animal cruelty. With that being said, my general rule is if you’re in my house, I’m gonna do whatever is necessary.
Ginobili took this philosophy to the next level in a 2009 game against the Kings (on Halloween), when the game was halted because a rogue bat was flying around the court near players.
Next thing you know. Ginobili knocked this rodent out of the sky with his bare hand. It was as if the ghost of Bruce Lee took over his body and karate chopped the game into resumption.
Ginobili later would regret the move, after a series of rabies shots.
Same position. Same conference. A combined 36 seasons in the league. Nine of the last 18 titles between the two of them, and Kobe Bryant and Manu Ginobili could not have been more different.
Bryant, of course, given his usage and his general Kobe-ness, has the individual edge statistically, totaling 26 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists in games head-to-head. Compare that to Ginobili’s 14.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists. Ginobili had a career edge over Bryant in head-to-head record, with the Spurs coming out on top 32 of the 53 times they played.
Ginobili was never intimidated. As a rookie, he was part of the Spurs team that took down Bryant’s Lakers in six games in the Western semifinals, and the next time they met, early in the 2003 season, Ginobili and Bryant had a duel that put Ginobili on the map.
The Lakers topped the Spurs in double overtime, but Ginobili did everything he could to keep that from happening, posting 33 points and 12 rebounds. Bryant’s 37 points led the Lakers to a win, but Ginobili made it clear, he was not afraid to challenge the Mamba.
There also was that time he smacked Ginobili in the face for blocking his shot. Mamba out.
The Bench Is Not a Demotion
By now, plenty have seen the video of LeBron James talking to his son’s team before a game about roles. Everyone on a basketball team has a role. That is the only way to be successful on the court. As we’ve seen time and time again, players can often become tired of the role they’re asked to play, which is when teams begin to squabble and seasons fall apart. *Cough cough @DwightHoward.*
Manu Ginobili never (at least publicly) voiced displeasure with being the fire-starter off the bench. Credit his character, understanding of his skills and overall basketball knowledge for this ego-free approach.
Imagine if James Harden had told the Thunder he was cool with being the spark plug who came in when Russell Westbrook was tired or during crunch time to close teams out. That was Manu Ginobili.
He knew when the game was on the line, he would be one of the five guys on the floor, and that is all that mattered. If you’re an NBA player, what else is there?
The Dream Team met its nightmare in 2004 against Ginobili’s Argentina squad, which also featured NBA players Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and Carlos Delfino Dysfunction and questionable roster selection aside, talent-wise, the U.S. team still was the squad to beat, and Argentina did just that.
In the semifinals at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Ginobili dropped 29 points on the American squad, leading the team to an 8-point victory. Argentina then took the gold medal game over Italy by double-digits, and Ginobili's greatest accomplishment was in the books.
Beyond the NBA titles, beating the Americans on the way winning gold was the ultimate showcase of his skills, leadership and competitiveness.
Nobody outcompeted Manu Ginobili.
James Harden — Manu 2.0
The game of James Harden, the euro-steps, the subtle athletic moves, and the unbelievable ability to draw contact and whistles for easy points, owes its origins to the emergence of Ginobili. Harden’s entire game is Ginobili’s taken a step further, as the focal point of a high-octane offense.
Harden’s talent is undeniable, but since he is not perceived as one of the better athletes in the sport, it’s the level of detail and skill in his moves that makes him such a threat.
Ginobili was the first to do this, overcoming better athletes with savvy and creating points where there previously were none. It’s an interesting window into what it might have looked like had Ginobili forced his way out of San Antonio.
Ginobili admirers always will wonder what could have been in that respect, but in many ways, we are seeing it right now. Where Ginobili wanted to stay with the team and sacrifice, the disastrous Harden trade for the Thunder never allowed Harden that opportunity, and we now get to see what it looks like as the star of the show.
It’s a beautiful thing.
The modern NBA move. Over the years, moves have emerged in varying eras to signal the evolution of the sport as a whole.
The 1980s featured the windmill dunk, which led to Michael Jordan and Vince Carter.
The 1990s signature move was the crossover, giving us Allen Iverson and Gary Payton.
In the early 2000s, the euro-step stood out.
The not-quite-a-travel move was once a niche skill that some players showcased, but that changed with Dwyane Wade and Ginobili, who made the move a must-have for NBA guards.
The ability to master this move allows for easy baskets either at the rim, or at the free-throw line. Both Ginobili and Wade demonstrated how effective this move could be, and the new generation is taking it to the next level.
Clutch Until the End
Manu Ginobili made a career out of stepping up when it mattered the most.
As a 25-year-old, the previously unknown Ginobili was a key cog in the Spurs hoisting the 2002-03 Larry O’Brien Trophy. He was the first man off the bench for the champion Spurs, averaging more than 28 minutes per game in the finals as a rookie, notably about the same amount of play as reliable veteran Bruce Bowen.
The championship-level contributions from that rookie season no doubt allowed Ginobili’s confidence to surge going into the following season, when he nearly doubled his statistical production across the board.
Over the next 16 years, he added 10 game-winning shots and countless other moments that showed he was always up to the challenge.
Fittingly, he sunk the Celtics as a 40-year-old with a dagger 3-pointer last December.
Respect Your Elders
As NBA stars age out of their athletic primes and minutes begin to dwindle, the adjustment typically can go three ways.
The first is denial, which is what we saw in Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson and others. The inability to dominate like they once did makes them salty and difficult to play with.
The second is transition, in which players who formerly played key roles on great teams slide down the bench and resemble more of a coach than a player, picking up more DNPs than minutes per game. Tim Duncan can be included in this group, as he ceded control to Kawhi Leonard for much of the Spurs' most recent runs.
The final and rarest one is appreciation. A player, whose skills have aged but did so gracefully, and who has such respect around the league and with the team, that they keep their spot and also bring the young guys along. Ginobili fits here, nurturing the younger Spurs talent while still playing as key a role as ever.
In the 2017-18 season, without Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs went 47-35. Ginobili’s contributions were instrumental in bringing this team, who did not have a top-15, top-20 or top-30 player in the league, back to the playoffs.
One Team the Whole Way
In the era of player movement and into the evolution of player-orchestrated player movement, Ginobili was a Spur from start to finish. He wraps his 16-year career as a loyal soldier of the Spurs army, a feat that few players before and almost none going forward achieve.
This fact has more to do with circumstance than anything else, given he was on a team that endured one of the best runs in NBA history.
Would that have changed had Tim Duncan left for Orlando when we was rumored to in 2000, two years before Ginobili arrived to a stagnant team in need of reinforcements?
There are a million hypotheticals, but Manu Ginobili’s achievement still stands as a testament to the franchise, to Duncan and to Gregg Popovich. Even on championship teams, the in-fighting and glory hounds tend to defeat themselves from the inside. Maybe that is due to meteoric success, success that San Antonio never fully reached.
Even still, to simply tolerate basically the same people each day for nearly two decades is no small task.
To be consistently great (as Manu Ginobili’s stats prove) during that stretch is even more impressive.