What got lost during Tim Duncan’s final NBA game was that another legendary player may have also donned an NBA jersey for the last time. This coming season may be the last we see of Manu Ginobili from basketball after a remarkably distinguished career.
The Hall of Fame is a virtual lock for Duncan, who’s objectively one of the greatest power forwards in league history. Tony Parker looks like a good bet to get inducted eventually also, although it’s not as obvious of a decision as enshrining Duncan.
Ginobili’s Hall of Fame credentials are the least convincing of any of the Big 3’s, with some strong obstacles to overcome in taking the plunge to elect him to Springfield.
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Obviously what stands out the most about his career is the four championships, and that he played an important role on each of them. He’s a 2-time NBA All Star and a 2-time member of the All-NBA Third Team.
Clearly he had the recognition of star status throughout his playing days, and the idea of him being Hall of Fame worthy isn’t just romanticizing a career that was never considered anything above decent.
The challenge with Ginobili is that he spent the vast majority of his career coming off the bench. Although he won a Sixth Man of the Year Award and was consistently acknowledged as crucial to the Spurs’ success, there isn’t much precedent to a second unit guy being elected to the Hall of Fame.
Ginobili had impressive scoring numbers relative to the amount of minutes he played, but it’s hard to make a case for a guy primarily known for scoring to enter the Hall of Fame if he never averaged over 20 points per game in a season and rests at a solid yet unspectacular 14 points per game for his career.
Ginobili joining the Hall of Fame with so few All Star appearances would be unusual, but not unprecedented. Dennis Rodman and Bill Walton were only All Stars twice each, and Calvin Murphy only made one All Star team. Those guys were starters for most of their careers, but it certainly helps ease that concern related to Ginobili’s lack of numerous All Star nods.
April 7, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (20) dribbles the basketball during the first quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Spurs 112-101. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Ginobili’s best bet at a successful Hall of Fame pitch is focusing on his impact on the globalization of the game. He was the best player on Argentina when they won the gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics, and quite possibly the greatest player ever from a South American country.
What makes the Basketball Hall of Fame unique is that it isn’t just a Hall of Fame for NBA achievements. Contributions to the game of basketball through the NBA, ABA, international competition, or college are weighed when determining a candidate’s worthiness.
Even if Ginobili’s NBA statistics make him look like one of the inferior members of the Hall of Fame, his contributions to basketball as a whole have been immense.
Sarunas Marciulionis is in the Hall of Fame despite averaging only averaging 12.8 points per game in the NBA and never making an All Star team. His greatest accomplishments came while playing internationally, and if Marciulionis is Hall of Fame worthy, then certainly a guy like Ginobili is.
Ginobili was an accomplished player even before making the jump to the NBA. He was a 2-time Italian League MVP and also won a Euroleague Finals MVP. When all of his feats are considered, it becomes very evident that Ginobili belongs in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The enshrinement might not come as quickly as Duncan’s or Parker’s, but Ginobili should eventually join them. The story of basketball can’t be properly told without including Ginobili, and Hall of Fame voters will hopefully realize that when the time comes to induct Ginobili into basketball immortality.