Manu Ginobili and the 10 Greatest Guards in San Antonio Spurs History
If you have been following the NBA at all this year, you know by now that the San Antonio Spurs have reminded everyone once again that they are not going away. They are 44-8, which is the best record in the league at this point. The reason they are off to such a fast start has been credited to their depth at the guard position.
Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are irrefutably one of the most explosive backcourts in the league, while players like George Hill (who almost made this list; I had him at No. 11) and Gary Neal have provided solid play off the bench. Now it is time to take a look at the top 10 guards in San Antonio Spurs history
No. 10: Mario Elie
Elie only spent two years with the Spurs (1998-2000), but there is no denying that he made his mark with the team. He was a capable shooter from outside whose wide frame and likable personality fit well with the Spurs, which were looking for a seasoned vet to give them some toughness on both sides of the court in their pursuit for a title.
Elie rarely took over games or commanded the ball, but he had a knack for hitting the big shot when it mattered. Think of him as the guard version of Robert Horry.
No. 9: Stephen Jackson
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Known by most Spurs fans as “Action Jax”, Jackson provided a burst of energy whenever he was on the floor. Spurs fans fell in love with Jackson during the 2002-2003 season, when he became a starter and a lethal three-point shooting threat whose one-of-a-kind follow through was hard not to like.
While his stats alone do not really make him a top ten guard in Spurs history, the big moments that Jackson shined in made him unforgettable. Whether it was nailing back to back three’s against the Mavericks in Game 6 of the Conference Finals in 2003, or three pivotal three-balls in Game 6 of the 2003 NBA Finals against the New Jersey Nets, Jackson was a huge reason as to why the Spurs won the title that year.
It is too bad he left the team after they won the title in order to pursue more money, where he has been a very good player wasted on pretty unmemorable teams ever since.
No. 8: Willie Anderson
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His career was obviously short-lived considering that he did not even last a decade in the league, but Anderson irrefutably made his mark on a then promising Spurs squad which had just added David Robinson. He was not a knock-down threat from outside but Anderson was one of those players who could do everything you asked, whether it be scoring, or getting four or five assists and rebounds a game.
He was an all-around type of player, whose size (6’7, 190) made him capable of playing both the shooting guard and small forward positions. He proved to be a capable wingman for Robinson during the early stretches of his career, and his consistent double-digit ppg average over seven seasons with the Spurs is what earns him a spot here.
No. 7: Avery Johnson
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Although he was never a great outside shooter and never averaged more than 14 ppg at any point in his career, Avery Johnson was still one of the best guards to play for the Spurs. His ability to distribute the ball amongst his teammates, especially during the middle years of his career, is what allowed the Spurs to make such an aggressive championship push in the late 90’s to begin with.
Most importantly, the “Little General” commanded each one of his teammates respect, and he always got it. He possesses one of the most unique voices in the game of basketball (just ask the team Johnson coaches now, the New Jersey Nets), and this is what always made him watchable and lovable.
His late corner shot against the Knicks in Game 5 of the 1999 NBA Finals is what helped clinch the title for the team, and you can bet not one Spurs fan has forgotten the little man for helping the team win its first title in franchise history.
No. 6: Alvin Robertson
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It is a shame that Robertson’s off-court antics have taken front stage, including recently when he was embroiled in an underage sexual assault and trafficking charge. He only played five seasons with the Spurs, but Robertson certainly made his mark on a then slowly improving Spurs squad during the mid to late 80’s.
The four time All-Star and one time NBA Defensive Player of the Year winner was a menace on both sides of the court thanks to a wily 6’3 frame that was always quick. He was also the second player in NBA history to record a quadruple double.
So, while legal troubles have plagued Robertson after his career concluded, the man was still one of the best guards to don a Spurs uniform.
No. 5: Johnny Moore
While possessing a less than stellar outside shot as well as only four seasons averaging double-digits in points per game, Moore earns a spot in the Top 5 thanks to his shrewd passing and ability to get his team-mates involved. He was basically the 80's version of Avery Johnson, someone who looked to get his team-mates the ball first, while possessing the ability to create his own shot when called upon.
Moore's jersey now hangs in the rafters in San Antonio, mostly due to the fact that he ranks 2nd in Spurs history in assists. He was never the most athletic and did not command attention, but this sort of player is what the Spurs tend to crave in order to give their teams the "glue guys" needed in order to compete for a championship.
No. 4: James Silas
A perennial scorer who saw his team shift from the ABA to the NBA, Silas may be one of the least talked-about stars in NBA history. A career 19.5 points per game player who could also dish a little, Silas also averaged a ridiculous 49.5 percent from the field. Quite simply, the guy knew how to score.
With the exception of two seasons, Silas remained healthy throughout a good bit of his career. He was also a player who you did not want to foul, as he shot 85.5 percent from the foul line for his career. He was also the first player to have his jersey retired by the team in 1984.
No. 3: Tony Parker
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Known for his blinding speed and lethal floater inside the paint, Frenchman Tony Parker has remained a force to be reckoned with for close to a decade now (hard to believe, I know). His ability to pump-fake and hit the brakes on his defenders with such deft skill have made him a deadly penetrator. Not only that, the hard work he has put in with shooting coach Chip Engelland has made him a capable mid-range shooter as well.
Most forget that Parker won the NBA Finals MVP award in 2007 for his stellar play against the Cleveland Cavaliers. At 28 years old, he’s only now beginning to approach his prime years of playing, so the best we see from him may still be a year or two away. If he can add a consistent three-point shot to his offensive arsenal, the guy will be virtually unguardable.
No. 2: Manu Ginobili
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Already known as being one of the most unique players to ever play the game of basketball, Ginobili is also one of the greatest winners in all of sports. He is the sole winner of a Euroleague title, NBA championship (three) and Olympic Gold Medal. The guy really has nothing left to prove.
At 33 years old, it is almost absurd that he is still playing at an All-Star level considering the amount of hits, broken noses and damaging falls he has suffered over his career. It will not be surprising to see both Manu and Tim call it quits together when age finally gets the better of these two stars.
Manu is one of the most beloved foreign players to ever play in the NBA, and Argentina has a right to be extremely proud of their native son.
No. 1: George Gervin
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As much as people in San Antonio love Manu, there is no denying that George Gervin was the best guard in San Antonio Spurs history. Already inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1996, Gervin averaged 25.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.0 blocks for his career.
“The Iceman” is most well known for his silky-smooth finger-roll layup that drove opponents mad. A nine- time NBA All-Star and seven-time member of the All-NBA team, Gervin is also known as a cool guy both on and off the court. He has remained a lovable figure who is seen supporting his Spurs frequently.
He is seen as an important figure in Spurs history thanks to his phenomenal play when the Spurs were just starting to play in the NBA (after transitioning from the ABA).
He is, without question, one of the best players to ever play the game.