With all the talk about Duncan’s retirement, and rightfully so, the San Antonio Spurs inked Manu Ginobili for another year on Thursday.
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On one note, that is a relief personally to me, as both of my favorite players of all time are NOT leaving simultaneously. If Ginobili left now breaking my heart and Spurs’ fans hearts everywhere, in addition to the remorse we all feel already with
earlier this week, it might be too much to handle.
Secondly, Ginobili to me, has always been the catalyst of this team. Duncan was the consistent, dependable, and steady rock the Spurs championship success has been built on. Tony Parker the talented speedster, breaking down defenses, and being the Spurs’ engine. Ginobili is the guy that got us over the top or not.
Think about it. In 2003, Ginobii’s rookie season, he was a true bench guy who made the clutch plays right when the Spurs needed them. Despite being off the bench, even in his inaugural season, Gregg Popovich usually had him on the floor in the 4th quarter throughout the 2003 NBA playoffs. Ginobili hit a key 3-pointer late in Game 2 verse the Phoenix Suns with the Spurs in danger of going down 0-2 at home in the 1st round.
He was there again in the closeout game of that series making 3 pointers late in contest with Stephen Jackson, to help Duncan (who had a triple double) and the Spurs eliminate a pesky Suns team. In the Finals, he hit a floater from the baseline in Game 3 vs the New Jersey Nets to put that game on ice with the Spurs clinging to a two-point lead and the shot clock expiring in the waning moments of that game. In the closeout game, he started the 4th quarter comeback stealing the ball from Richard Jefferson and subsequently slamming it through on the other end. And to think, this was all before Ginobili and Parker were apart of the Big 3!
May 2, 2016; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Manu Ginobili (20) drives to the basket past Oklahoma City Thunder shooting guard Anthony Morrow (2) in game two of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
The next year the Big 3 kind of came into being with David Robinson retiring, Parker and Ginobili( starting now) taking on bigger roles. Now let’s look at 2004-08, and remember just how important Ginobili factored into the Spurs’ highs and lows.
2004: Derek Fisher hits the impossible shot with Ginobili right on him. Okay, lucky shot, and unlucky it was with Ginobili draped on him.
2005: a no brainer as Ginobili was incredible all the way through and was one vote away from sharing the Finals MVP with Duncan.
2006: Ginobili completes the Spurs comeback from down 20 with a go ahead 3-pointer with seconds left, and then follows that with a foul on Dirk Nowitzki who converts the basket, ties the game, and the Dallas Mavericks prevailed in overtime.
2007: Manu comes to life in the classic series with the Suns in the 2nd round (essentially the Finals that year) after a poor start in the series, scoring 26 points and 33 in pivotal games, 5 and 6. The Spurs went on to win their 3rd Championship in 5 years, and if not for two freak plays involving Ginobili it could very well have won five straight championships from 2003-07.
2008: Injured finger and leg issues against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Conference Finals.
2009: Ginobili is injured and unable to play heading into the playoffs, and despite great games and efforts from Parker and Duncan, the Spurs are one member of the Big 3 short of beating the Mavericks in Round 1.
2011: A broken arm prevents him from Game 1 vs the Memphis Grizzlies in the 1st Round. He comes back and is by far the best player on the Spurs that series even with a broken bone in his, but Game 1 haunts the Spurs who cannot get a win in Memphis.
2013: Ginobili falls apart in the Finals vs the Miami Heat during Game 6, and is a walking turnover, and has what I think is his worst game ever at the worst time.
2014: Ginobili rebounds vs the Heat in the Finals and has a fantastic series, exemplified by a dunk over Chris Bosh in the Championship clinching Game 5 that was vintage Manu!
So now it is 2016, and Ginobili again will be a bench player like he was in 2003. He isn’t the athlete or player he was in his prime, he is not even one of the go to guys anymore, but he is still a savvy player, and perhaps he can still make a key play when it matters, and be The Catalyst for the Spurs once again.