“At 45, a few years after retirement, here I am.”
That was one of the first things that Manu Ginóbili had to say on Friday, the night before he’s set to become the fourth Spurs player inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“Very unlikely outcome for a kid born where I was born,” Ginóbili said. “But super grateful for every single person and team along the way.”
Ginóbili became the first player from Argentina to suit up in the NBA when the Spurs drafted him in the second round in 1999 with the 57th pick overall.
A long shot at best, but his passion and knowledge of the game not only caught the eye of the Spurs but later the rest of the NBA following his international success that included a Euroleague Championship and an Olympic Gold Medal for his home country of Argentina in 2004.
“Tenacity” is how fellow Hall of Famer Walt Frazier described Ginóbili’s style of play. “He played always 100% and I can always see him driving, thriving to get to the hoop.”
One of the questions Ginóbili was asked during the longest media session of Hall of Fame weekend is where did that “tenacity” come from?
“Genetics or something,” joked Ginóbili. “It’s not healthy. I’m pretty sure I don’t want my kids to be as competitive as me because most of the time you are going to lose and it’s not fun when you’re like that, but that’s the way I was brought (up).”
But that’s just it, Ginóbili didn’t lose a lot. He helped lead the Spurs to four NBA Championships and was named the sixth man of the year in 2008, playing more than half of his career games off the bench.
His family, including his three boys, got to help him celebrate on Friday night as Dante, Nico and Luka awarded their father his Hall of Fame jacket and ring. It was a moment Ginóbili and his entire family will cherish.
The four-time NBA champion spent all 16 of his NBA seasons in San Antonio, partnering with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker to form a Big Three that was, and surely will remain, one of the best trios the league has ever seen.
🏀 Follow along with Greg Simmons, who is reporting from Springfield, Massachusetts, where Ginóbili will be enshrined Saturday night.