After a career that saw him win four NBA championships with the San Antonio Spurs and a gold medal with Argentina, Manu Ginobili has announced his retirement.
The San Antonio Spurs had hoped for one more season from the 41-year-old Ginobili, but he announced this morning he would bring to an end an NBA career that spanned 16 seasons of unblemished success.
“Today, with a wide range of feelings, I’m announcing my retirement from basketball,” Ginobili wrote in a tweet. “It’s been a fabulous journey. Way beyond my wildest dreams.”
Today, with a wide range of feelings, I'm announcing my retirement from basketball. IMMENSE GRATITUDE to everyone (family, friends, teammates, coaches, staff, fans) involved in my life in the last 23 years. It's been a fabulous journey. Way beyond my wildest dreams. pic.twitter.com/3MLCUtmd6K
— Manu Ginobili (@manuginobili) August 27, 2018
NBA championships, individual awards and a gold medal
After adjusting to the league, the young Ginobili became a phenomenon with his crafty left-handed dribble, pure shooting stroke and his wildly creative passing game. He also embodied the unselfish nature of the Spurs team, willingly becoming a bench player and proceeding to win the league’s Sixth Man Award in 2008.
He was also largely responsible for introducing the ‘Eurostep’ to the NBA. It is now a vital component of any young guard’s skill-set. As Dwayne Wade wrote on Twitter after he announced his retirement, Ginobili pushed the game forward. On Twitter, LeBron James described it as “the most swag move in basketball”.
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) August 27, 2018
In all, Ginobili played 1,057 regular-season and 218 playoff games, all with the Spurs, and finished in the franchise’s all-time top five for points (14,043), assists (4,001) and steals (1,392), though statistics don’t fully capture the unique flair and trickery he played with, nor the time he captured a live bat that had flown onto the court.
For fans in his native Argentina, his greatest achievement may have been his play in the 2004 Olympics. He led Argentina in points, steals and assists and masterminded a once-in-a-generation triumph over the seemingly invincible US team en route to the gold medal.
As a 40-year-old he was still a useful contributor, averaging 8.9 points in 20 minutes a game and playing an invaluable role as a mentor for the younger players.
With the end of his career in sight, fans started making pilgrimages from around the world to see Ginobili in action one last time. After games, he would regularly greet fans who were draped in Argentinian flags and clutching hand-made signs.
Congrats on an amazing career @manuginobili. You embody how basketball is meant to be played. With Passion, joy, and obviously a Champion through and through. Inspiration many sir. pic.twitter.com/Z86WgYFVMk
— Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30) August 27, 2018
— Scottie Pippen (@ScottiePippen) August 27, 2018
Congrats @manuginobili on an amazing career. Great player. Fierce competitor. Winner. Next stop: HOF
— Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41) August 27, 2018
NBA players react to Ginobili’s retirement
As news of his decision broke, fellow players took to social media en masse to pay tribute to a remarkable career. Two-time MVP Steph Curry wrote: “You embody how basketball is meant to be played. With Passion, joy, and obviously a Champion through and through. Inspiration many sir.”
Kobe Bryant remembered Ginobili as “one of the best I have ever matched up with”. Portland guard CJ McCollum wrote Ginobili was a “pick and roll genius” and the “Euro-step king”. He was one of many players who admitted to being heavily influenced by Ginobili. Boston Celtic Gordon Hayward said he chose the jersey number 20 partly because Ginobili wore it.
— NYT Sports (@NYTSports) August 27, 2018
Ginobili’s unique game, genial personality and ability to counter his waning athleticism with his incredible basketball IQ also made him a particular favourite among NBA media. The Ringer writer Shea Serrano wrote that Ginobili was “beloved in San Antonio: an untouchable, unimpeachable, unassailable cultural figure”.
Talking to Marc Stein of The New York Times NBA legend and announcer Charles Barkley likened Ginobili’s retirement to losing a family member.
“It was an honour and pleasure to watch you play,” Barkley said. “See you soon at the Hall of Fame.”