SAN ANTONIO – Shortly after being swept by the Golden State Warriors in this year’s Western Conference Finals, all eyes were on San Antonio Spurs veteran Manu Ginobili.
Spurs fans who were in attendance for Game 4 at the AT&T Center gave Ginobili a standing ovation twice: First as he exited in the final minutes of the game, then as he walked off the court heading into the locker room.
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said he started Ginobili in Game 4 “out of respect” for him, as everyone was unsure if the four-time NBA champion was leaning toward retirement after the 2016-17 season.
“Before the game, you think it may or may not be his last game that he ever plays in, and I did not want to miss the opportunity to honor him in front of our home fans for his selflessness over the years,” Popovich said on the podium at his press conference.
Even Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry took the time to pay his respects for the Spurs star guard when he was at the free-throw line during the time Ginobili checked out of the game with 2:25 left in the fourth quarter.
When asked why he stepped off the line to join fans clapping for Ginobili, Curry simply said, “I’m a Manu Ginobili fan.”
“When the crowd is going crazy for him, I tried to do my best to give him that moment (and) take it all in,” Curry said. “You can tell how much he’s meant to this organization, to this city, obviously a true champion, and the way that he plays the game, you have no choice but to just love watching him play.”
However, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, even though Ginobili, 40, was leaning towards retirement this year, the three-time NBA All-Star plans to push back retirement at least one more season.
Manu Ginobili and the Spurs are finalizing details of his imminent return for a 16th NBA season, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 18, 2017
During the press conference after Game 4, Ginobili reiterated he will take his time to decide on his future and will have to talk to his family about returning in a silver and black uniform.
“I always said that I wanted to let it sink in for three weeks, four weeks, whatever and then I’ll see with my wife and see how it feels," Ginobili said. "Whatever I decide to do, I’ll be a happy camper.”
Scroll below to check out fans' reaction after learning Ginobili is set to return for his 16th season with the Spurs:
Isn't he like 100 already?... pic.twitter.com/HTmrC0rClc— Dalton Allen Swaim (@H_TownHipster11) July 18, 2017
GINOBLI! pic.twitter.com/4m5jGE23RI— Atlanta Falcons Tank Mode Activated! (@TheDawgzilla) July 18, 2017
Internet: *Manu Ginobili is coming back for a 16th season*— Alexander Cardenas (@Alexander_Cards) July 18, 2017
James Harden: pic.twitter.com/2IC1p2QSEY
Manu sigue un año más y vos tipo... pic.twitter.com/g074wDgyjp— Rocío S. Rubinich (@RoRubinich20) July 18, 2017
MANU IS COMING BACK LET'S GOOOOOOOOOOO pic.twitter.com/SjkklS2H8S— The Spurs Zone (@TheSpursZone) July 18, 2017
I'm convinced Manu is coming back just to haunt James Harden's dreams pic.twitter.com/7Bf3SNC7uu— Tom Petrini (@RealTomPetrini) July 18, 2017