Manu Ginobili Did Not ‘Invent’ the Eurostep

It’s become part of the primary offensive package for most NBA players. Former San Antonio Spurs great Manu Ginóbili often gets credit for the Eurostep. He brought the move to the NBA after starring In Italy in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Others cite Lithuanian legend Šarūnas Marčiulionis as the progenitor of the Eurostep. The truth is that neither invented the move. A more significant twist to the story is that the step isn’t even European.

While Marčiulionis and later Ginóbili popularized the move, which is simply gathering the ball off the dribble and stepping laterally rather than straight, it was seen in the NBA more than 60 years ago. There were practitioners of the not-so-Euro Eurostep in the old American Basketball Association in the 1970s. But because it faded for a while before players from other continents brought it back, it was as if it never existed.

Manu Ginóbili was a master of the Eurostep

Manu Ginóbili used the Eurostep to roast NBA defenders for 16 years. However, contrary to popular belief, he didn't invent the move.
Manu Ginóbili (20) used the Eurostep to roast NBA defenders for 16 years. However, contrary to popular belief, he didn’t invent the move. | Chris Covatta/Getty Images

Argentinian legend Manu Ginóbili brought the so-called Eurostep into the mainstream. Arriving in the NBA in 2002, three years after the Spurs used the next-to-last pick in the 1999 NBA Draft to obtain his rights, Ginóbili set the NBA ablaze with his unconventional moves.

Chief among those was the Eurostep. Defenders braced for a straight-line charge to the rim from Manu only to be left helpless as he weaved right by them to get to the rim.

In today’s NBA, Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo seems to cover the entire half-court when he Eurosteps his way to the bucket. It’s become a staple for many top players, particularly volume scorers like James Harden.

A 2010 article by Jonathan Abrams in the New York Times credits Marčiulionis with revolutionizing the move. Basketball minds such as trainer David Thorpe explained why the movement came from across the oceans.

“Americans tend to play in straight lines, where Europeans are craftier going around a guy,” Thorpe said.

“Crafty” is a polite euphemism for slow.

But the original purveyor of the Eurostep was neither European nor athletically challenged.

Elgin Baylor Eurostepped his way through the NBA in the 1950s and 1960s

Look at any of the old, grainy footage of Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor, and you’ll notice something on many of his impressive runs to the rim. He’d gather the ball off the dribble, move left, then move right, then lay the ball in or dunk it.

You may be thinking, “Oh, my god! That’s Manu Ginóbili’s music!” But generations before Ginóbili twisted NBA defenders into pretzels, Baylor was doing it American style.

Julius Erving didn’t just leap over defenders in the ABA. Sometimes, he’d go around them in a ballet-like fashion that looked suspiciously like a move that wouldn’t be invented for another decade or two.

It makes sense to use deception as a weapon; players do it with pump fakes, look-offs, crossover dribbles, and a variety of other moves. The Eurostep is just another tool in that box. Catch a defender committing to an attempt to draw a charge, and the Eurostep is a nifty way to dodge that obstacle artfully.

A funny aspect of Ginóbili’s role as a pioneer for the Eurostep is that he had no idea he had invented anything.

Manu Ginóbili downplayed his creativity

According to an April 2020 report from San Antonio’s Fox 29, Manu Ginóbili wasn’t trying to be a pioneer. He just did his thing the way he’d always done it.

“It seems I’ve been doing it since I was a kid, and I never knew I was doing anything original or different,” Ginóbili said. “I think it was Steve Kerr was the first one to mention it when I arrived here in the U.S. I remember he said that when I drove the lane, I looked like a squirrel crossing the street, darting from side to side, then going under two tires.”

He admitted he never practiced it. Instead, it was just something he did. He says the modern users of the Eurostep add dimensions to it he never could.

“They would do it twice as fast and twice as strong,” Ginóbili said. “It’s part of the game now, and everyone puts his stamp on it.”

An example of such a stamp is using it to go 47 feet the way Antetokounmpo can.

But it’s important to give credit where it’s due. So maybe given that Baylor was the true pioneer, we could see fit to honor his legacy. Instead of the Eurostep, let’s call it the Elginstep. It seems a fitting tribute for one of the NBA’s pioneers and one of its all-time greats.

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