Manu Ginobili found his way to the NBA as a longshot, being the second-to-last pick in 1999. After 1,275 games, 32,934 minutes on the court and four NBA championships, he is now in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
It’s hard to say how special the Argentinian’s basketball career was. Even if you exclude his 16 years in the NBA and just rely on his international career, he would still be outstanding. Yet with everything he accomplished on the pitch while playing, so did he for the future of the game.
Manu’s rise from an unknown prospect in the United States to a legend helped pave the way for the international takeover that soon followed. It is undeniable that he inspired dozens of foreign players who followed, as players like Giannis Antetokounmpo mentioned in a tribute video.
With over 23 years of professional basketball to cover, I’ve compiled 10 moments that made Manu Ginobili’s career worthy of the Hall of Fame and thrilled millions along the way.
Manu Ginobili’s debut came on October 29, 2002 in a road game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Coming off the bench with 3:15 left in the first quarter, it took him two minutes and 17 seconds to fire his first NBA shot.
Burying a 3-pointer from 25 feet into the left corner, Ginobili was officially in the NBA history books as the Spurs ended up defeating Los Angeles 87-82. Even in a hostile road environment in his first official NBA action, Manu showed off a bit of his full game, totaling seven points, four steals, three assists, two rebounds and a block in 20 minutes.
It was the first three of 17,097 total points he scored in the league, and Manu winning a championship in his debut season was just a sign of things to come.
Ginobili has never quite dropped a 50 piece on anyone, but he’s certainly gotten close multiple times. In fact, in a January 2005 matchup against the talented Phoenix Suns, he nearly did.
At the time, the Spurs and Suns were both Western Conference powerhouses, posting records of 32-9 and 31-9 respectively. A starting lineup including Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson and Shawn Marion took a 17-point lead in the final quarter at American West Arena in Phoenix.
Then Manu Ginobili took over.
With a furious comeback led by the rising third-year star, San Antonio built a 3-point lead with 7.3 seconds left until Shawn Marion tied the game at the buzzer. Manu then added six more points to the 42 he had at the end of regulation, and San Antonio ended up winning, 128-123. It was one of the first flashes of dominance he would show, but it was far from the last.