Four-time NBA champion Manu Ginobili of Argentina looked back with affection on a career that spanned three continents and included Olympic gold on Saturday as he entered the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Ginobili, a creative and unpredictable guard whose celebrated “Euro-step” stymied defenders, was greeted by cheers of “Ma-nuuu, Ma-nuuu” as he spoke at Symphony Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts.
He was inducted into the 2022 Hall of Fame Class along with five-time NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway, WNBA stars Swin Cash and Lindsay Whalen, NBA coaches George Karl and Del Harris and WNBA coach Marianne Stanley.
Ginobili, 45, won four titles in 16 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs.
He told the audience that playing next to Tim Duncan and Tony Parker under the guidance of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was what made his ascension to the Hall of Fame possible.
“For players like me, individual accomplishments are team honors,” he said.
“I’m not here because I was super special, I’m here because I was part of two of the most important teams of the 2000s— with the Spurs winning four NBA championships and with my Argentina team winning gold in 2004.”
Those championship runs were part of a journey that started playing basketball with his brothers in Bahia Blanca, a port town on Argentina’s coast.
From going pro in the country’s basketball league—played in the shadow of immensely popular football—Ginobili went on to a career in Europe that would net him EuroLeague Most Valuable Player honors, an experience that made him realize that the “unreachable dream” of playing in the NBA was, in fact, a “reachable goal.”
Even so, Ginobili said he thought there had been a mistake when he was told he had been drafted 57th by the Spurs in 1999.
“I didn’t even know where San Antonio was in the world,” he said.
Once there, he found “a big, strong, supportive family,” and with them won NBA titles in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014.
The trio of Duncan, Ginobili and Parker won 575 regular-season games together, with Ginobili’s willingness to change his role helping to keep the wins coming.
“We had our priorities straight,” Ginobili said.
“We never let our egos get in the way. We knew when it was (Parker’s) time, when it was my time and when it was (Duncan’s) time — which was most of the time.”
Ginobili said his international career “was as nurturing, as fulfilling, as exciting and fun as the one with the Spurs.”
“I appreciate our run together so much,” he said in remarks to his fellow members of Argentina’s “Golden Generation” of basketballers.
“The championships, of course, but the disappointments also. The conversations, the terrible trips, the late dinners, the early breakfasts, the jetlag, it was all worth it,” he said.
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