Many consider Emmanuel “Manu” Ginobili as one of the best Latin American NBA players ever. He had an illustrious basketball career in both Europe and America. Not to mention, the shooting guard also had a successful stint with the Argentinian National Basketball team.
Ginobili was also one of the toughest in the game. He earned the honorable nickname “El Contusion” for frequently playing through bruises, fractures, and even broken bones. His toughness and style of play garnered respect among all those who went up against Ginobili on the court.
Emanuel Ginobili’s early career and NBA draft
Ginobili was born in Argentina to a family of professional basketball players. He spent much of his early life playing basketball in Argentina and Italy, where he had dual citizenship. In the 1999 NBA Draft, the Spurs selected him in the second round at 57th overall. However, Ginobili decided to play in the Italian league for a few years before joining the NBA.
During his three year career in Europe, Ginobili took the Euro and Italian League by storm. He was a three-time Italian League All-Star. He won the Italian League Cup in 2001 and 2002, and the EuroLeague Championship in 2002. Individual honors include two-time Italian League MVP, Italian Cup MVP, and EuroLeague Finals MVP.
San Antonio Spurs and 2004 Olympics
In 2002, Ginobili decided to join the Spurs in the NBA. He was initially the backup to veteran Steve Smith and needed time to adjust to the NBA. However, by the playoffs, he was a regular starter. During the playoffs, the 66-20 Spurs cruised to the NBA Championship, where they played the New Jersey Nets. Ginobili ultimately became an NBA champion in his first season in the league.
Ginobili was a budding young NBA prospect following his rookie year. However, he would garner international recognition in 2004. Heading into the 2004 Olympics, Ginobili was on the super-talented Argentinian Basketball Team. Argentina managed to route the historically dominant USA team in the semi-finals. And in the finals, Argentine bested Italy to become the first non-American team to win the gold medal in 16 years.
By the tender age of 24, Ginobili was a EuroLeague Champion, NBA Champion, and Olympic Gold Medalist. His Argentinian roots made him especially popular among Latin American communities in San Antonio. Ginobili was a Latin American superstar and made the game more popular among Latin American demographic. He would go on to add three more NBA Championships to his long list of accolades with San Antonio.
Manu Ginobili’s retirement and legacy
In 2018, after 16 seasons with the Spurs, Ginobili retired. He’ll go down as one of the most influential Latin American players to grace the NBA. Ginobili helped grow the game internationally, making it more popular among Latin American communities.
Another interesting tidbit about Ginobili’s legacy is he pioneered the Euro Step in the NBA. When he entered the league, the Euro step was unheard of in the NBA. Once Ginobili perfected the Euro Step, other NBA athletes soon followed suit. Today, the Euro step is common repertoire in an NBA athlete’s bag of tricks.
There is no doubt Ginobili is a future Hall of Famer; he was also a two-time All-Star and a Sixth Man Player of the Year in 2008. The Spurs ultimately retired his jersey in 2019. It will be interesting to see how many of the next generation’s players were directly inspired by Ginobili’s game.