Manu Ginobili will go down in history as one of the most popular players in the history of the San Antonio Spurs.
As he is making his last run in the Rio Olympics with his native Argentina, Ginobili has been asked to sacrifice more drastically for nearly his entire career with the Spurs.
“He was like a wild colt out there,” Buford said, “Just doing crazy s—. Some of it made sense, and some of it didn’t.” – R.C. Buford On Seeing Manu Play In 1997
would be wrong to have any regrets, for multiple championships are well worth the forfeiture of a handful of points per game. Yet it’s intriguing to wonder what a player like Ginobili could have done had he been allowed to flourish with a franchise who chose to build their offense and base personnel decisions around his unique talents.
In a must read revealing piece by ESPN.com’s Zach Lowe, he writes on how Ginobili’s talents on and off the court have set the tone the Spurs franchise over the years.
San Antonio general manager R.C. Buford provided an interesting take on the first time he watched Ginobili play in 1997. He, like many others had never heard of him, but immediately was captivated by his style.
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
“He was like a wild colt out there,” Buford said, “Just doing crazy s—. Some of it made sense, and some of it didn’t.”
Buford’s revelation is exactly the kind of player that Ginobili has become.
He never got the chance to be another team’s blue-chip investment. Whether he would have paid dividends in that hypothetical scenario can only be speculated upon. His statistics from his Spurs career make the assumption of a yielded chance at further individual glory a small leap to make.
Ginobili has played 14 seasons in the NBA. In 11 of those seasons, he has started less than half of the Spurs’ regular season games. In 12 of those seasons, he has averaged less than 30 minutes per game. In limited minutes for a player of his talent level, he has managed to average 14 points in about 26 minutes per game.
Had he been playing typical starters’ minutes throughout his career, those totals would probably jump to around 18-20 points per game. Ginobili’s relegation has left him considered the “third amigo” of this team’s run. The production though may be due to opportunity than actual talent.
Gregg Popovich has assumed that Ginobili’s presence is best utilized off the bench, and it’s hard to argue with the results that this decision has helped produce. The stats need to be examined less hastily to truly recognize how great of a player Ginobili has been during San Antonio’s run.
Ginobili has spent his career as a star player posing as a backup. It has helped the Spurs reach almost unparalleled heights. He’s the player who fits the scheme of what the Spurs stand for: a commitment to team success before individual praise.