There is no question that Manu Ginobili is one of the fiercest competitors the league has ever seen. Even more so, he has international roots and remains on a shortlist of the most talented international players ever.
Not only has he won an Olympic gold medal and multiple NBA championships, but he is inspiring the next generation in his advanced age by playing with the same heart and grit that he always has, as long as his body allows.
Coach Gregg Popovich himself wanted Ginobili to return for one more season to the Spurs when he looked as though he may retire a year after legend Tim Duncan, and his decision to stay gives fans one more year to see him lay it all out on the court.
Ginobili is not only an Argentine legend but a future NBA Hall of Famer who had humble beginnings according to former NBA player and fellow national team stalwart Luis Scola.
Scola wrote an article for The Players’ Tribune telling the world that the Spurs veteran was short, skinny, and quite average in his early years when he couldn’t even make the national squad.
“I think it’s safe to claim that Manu is the greatest basketball player our country has ever produced. But here’s the truth: When Manu was a kid, he was just average. He didn’t even make our national youth team.
Manu had a few things working against him at a young age. He wasn’t tall. He was way too skinny. He wasn’t a prospect at all. This was the golden generation of Argentinian basketball, a group that would go on to win a Olympic gold medal in 2004. Oberto. Nocioni. Pepe Sánchez. Prigioni. When we all started playing together in 1996, Manu wasn’t nearly good enough to make the ‘A’ team.
He got cut when he was 15.
While a few of us started our careers in Europe, Manu stayed home. He played for the northern Argentinian club Andino before getting traded to his hometown team in Bahía Blanca. At first, he didn’t play much, but when he got onto the court, scouts began to notice. Eventually, a scout from Italy brought him over to the second division team Viola Reggio Calabria.
By the time Manu came back to Argentina to join the national side, he was a different player. Gone were any concerns about being the skinniest player on the floor.
Instead, he came back as the ferocious competitor you know today.”
While many of those changes would’ve broken the average player, we reap the benefits of watching one of the most fierce competitors in today’s game—for one more year.