You either love his unique drives to the hoop, big heart and winning resume, or you dismiss him as just another flopper on a “boring” Spurs team that complains too much. In a weird way, this is undoubtedly a sign that a player has risen to greatness, as evidenced by the many fans that adore him (Spurs fans and the natives of Manu’s home country Argentina, in this case) and those that despise him (a lot of Lakers and Suns fans, I’m sure).
Now, much like teammate Tim Duncan, Manu is unquestionably in the midst of his last few years of his career, and many analysts and commentators will begin to bring up the question as to if Manu should be an instant lock for the Hall of Fame like Timmy.
Consider this right off the bat—he is one of two basketball players (the other being Bill Bradley) in history to win a Euroleague championship, an NBA championship and an Olympic gold medal. This is an immense feat and one that should not be taken lightly. That stat in a nutshell shows what kind of player Manu is; a true winner who has proven to be competent on every level of basketball.
Not only has he won just one NBA championship, he has won three. Not the “Oh, hey guys. I’ll just tag along for the ride” kind of rings that Adam Morrison won twice during his stint with the Lakers. Manu proved to be one of the most important players on the Spurs during each and every title they won during the '00s.
Whether it was some shocking, ballsy moves to the hoop that forced him to take a tumble each time (earning him the nickname “El Contusion”) or his big-time shots in the playoffs in 2005 that made many Spurs fans believe his dominance rested in his Samson-like locks, Ginobili’s fearlessness has never been questioned.
In addition to being a Sixth Man of the Year and All-Team NBA third-team selection in 2008, Ginobili’s name was also tossed around as a potential MVP candidate during the early stages of the 2010-2011 season.
It has almost come down to the point where you ask, “What more does he need to do?” When you look at it from a statistics and awards point of view, the man has done pretty much everything.
It is not only the history of winning he has amassed over his lengthy career that has won Manu so many fans, but it is how he has accomplished all of this. Consider the Lakers-Spurs game on March 5th, when the Lakers destroyed the Spurs on their home court. There was a brief moment where Kobe Bryant and Ginobili got into a small scuffle, instigated by a Bryant push. Instead of swatting back, Ginobili cautiously walked away from the scene. Some might consider this cowardice in the sense that “you have to stand up for yourself!” but others view it as keeping your composure at all times, even when the score is lopsided.
Let me just say from personal experience that if someone pushes you or tries to start something with you, it is almost instinctive that you do or say something back.
Some critics might claim that Manu has never been the “go-to guy” on his team and thus, he is not Hall of Fame-worthy. After all, the brightest stars should only be allowed entrance into that domed, unmistakably important-looking building located in Springfield, Mass., and Manu has mostly been a second fiddle all his career with the Spurs, right?
Nothing could be further from the truth. While the Spurs are still irrefutably Tim Duncan’s team and always will be until he hangs his shoes up, Manu has established himself as a bona fide star in the league who can take over a game just as easily as Tim can (and Tony Parker too, for that matter).
To put it simply, Manu is one of those guys you love to have on your team, but absolutely cannot stand if he is not on your team (while secretly loving the idea of him on your team). In a warped way, this is certainly a form of respect that cannot go unnoticed.
Perhaps it is the snarling and hysterical head coach of the Spurs, Gregg Popovich who said it best when asked about Ginobili’s effect on his team, saying “We would have two less championships here if it was not for Manu Ginobili. In my eyes, he’s the stud of the world.”
You will surely find a lot of Spurs fans who concur with that assessment as well.
For his on-court accomplishments, calm and cool demeanor, professionalism on and off the court, and ability to win it all at any level presented to him, Manu Ginobili should and will make the NBA Hall of Fame one day when it is all said and done.