San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is not surprised one bit when Manu Ginobili got the Hall of Fame call. After all, he knew the Argentine icon is headed there given the legendary career he had with them.
On Sunday ahead of the Spurs’ showdown with the Portland Trail Blazers, Popovich spoke publicly for the first time regarding Ginobili’s Hall of Fame induction. The two-time NBA All-Star headlines the 2022 class as a first-ballot inductee, and Coach Pop couldn’t be prouder of his former player.
“It was expected and deserved,” Popovich said, per Jeff McDonald of San Antonio Express-News. “We’re thrilled for him, just like everybody here in San Antonio (and) in Argentina is thrilled for him. It’s a wonderful thing.”
The Spurs drafted Manu Ginobili in the second round of the 1999 NBA Draft as their 57th overall pick. However, it took him three years before joining the team as he chose to play overseas despite getting drafted earlier. It was worth the wait, though, as Ginobili provided immediate impact to the San Antonio franchise.
As for his first impression of Ginobili, Gregg Popovich admitted that they knew they had someone special in the then young Manu–which is likely the reason why they were really patient in waiting for him.
“I think we knew we had a wild, competitive young man who was in love with basketball,” Popovich added. “He was quite athletic and just fierce.”
Ginobili went on to become a two-time All-Star and Sixth Man of the Year winner. He was a crucial cog for the Spurs and formed a unique partnership with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker to help San Antonio win four NBA titles in the process. He spent 16 years in the NBA–all in San Antonio–and averaged 13.3 points,3.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists.
The 44-year-old also spoke on Saturday about getting the Hall of Fame nod, and he was particularly complimentary of Popovich and the Spurs. He shared that he was able to thrive and have a legendary career because of the environment he found himself in, and without those people who pushed him to be great, he wouldn’t be in the position to be part of an elite few basketball legends.
“I never won a scoring championship, an MVP, even First Team. I’m here because of my surroundings. The players I played with, the coaches, and the organization. I don’t take it as an individual achievement. I’ve been in the right place at the right time,” Ginobili said.
There is no doubt that Manu deserved the recognition. While he played majority of his career as a Sixth Man, he made use of every opportunity he can get to make a difference for the Spurs. Moreover, who can forget about the signature move that he popularized in the NBA? The eurostep is now widely used in the league, and had he not brought it to the NBA spotlight, perhaps players today wouldn’t be using it as much.
As Popovich said it, getting into the Hall of Fame was expected. Not every basketball player who made it to the NBA can get to the Hall of Fame, but Ginobili has the individual and team accolades, numbers and global impact to warrant such honor.
The 2022 Hall of Fame class that also includes George Karl and Tim Hardaway will be enshrined in Springfield, Massachusetts, on September 10.