Even as the San Antonio Spurs prepare to retire Manu Ginobili’s jersey you can still see the impact that Manu had on the game on a nightly basis. There is no better example of his influence than the reigning MVP, James Harden.
The San Antonio Spurs will be raising Manu Ginobili‘s jersey into the rafters of the AT&T Center on Thursday night, adding another honor to a Hall of Fame Career.
Even though Ginobili has retired, his impact can still be seen all over the league. One of the prime examples is James Harden, who has improved on his MVP performance of last season.
When James Harden was drafted in 2009, Manu Ginobili was already seven seasons into his career with three championships to his name. As a star sixth man for the San Antonio Spurs, Ginobili made a name for himself as a big-bodied scorer and playmaker. Coming out of Arizona State, Harden was frequently compared to Ginobili throughout the pre-draft process.
In his two seasons at Arizona State, Harden had certainly shown that he was worthy of the comparisons. He had a feel for the game and flair for the creative that was quite like the Argentinian sensation.
Manu’s influence on the game is displayed night after night in the signature move he and James Harden share, the Euro step. From the very beginning, Ginobili was using the Euro to evade bigger players and sneak to the cup. His drives to the rim were adventurous bordering on reckless but you knew that he would always find some new way to get a shot off.
It’s the move he’s most known for and an integral part of his legacy. Harden has taken that signature move and made it his own.
Where Harden has really seperated himself from Ginobili in his use of the Eruo step is his ability to draw fouls. Per 36 minutes, Manu only averaged 5.5 free throw attempts while Harden currently averages 9 attempts per 36 minutes. Along with the step-back three, the Euro step is a key part of Harden’s offensive game.
Another similarity between their style of play is their shared appreciation for creative passing. The San Antonio Spurs have always been a team known for their ball movement, but Manu took that passing to a new level. His no-look and cross-court passing frequently found open Spurs for easy looks.
As the lead ball handler for the Houston Rockets, Harden has the ball in his hands more than Manu ever did. In the Rockets’ spread pick-and-roll offense, Harden is the engine that powers the three-point barrage. His ability to swing the ball out to open shooters is an essential part of the Rockets’ nightly strategy.
In transition, they’re both nearly unstoppable. When Manu had a defender on his heels, he was at his most dangerous. Harden is the same way.
When running with teammates they’re quick to give the ball up for a better look, but just like Manu, Harden knows how to wait until the last moment to dish out an assist. When either one is running alone at a defender or two with a full head of steam you can bet it’s ending with a bucket or a foul or both.
To be fair, Harden is a better player now than Manu ever was. But even he has been open about the respect and admiration that Manu deserves. Manu is a legend of the game, an international icon, and one of the most beloved players in league history. But he was never able to set the individual records that Harden has.
— James Harden (@JHarden13) July 26, 2016
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Unfortunately, we will never know what could’ve been. We never saw Manu as the alpha dog on his own team.
Would he have put up Harden-like numbers? I think he could have.
From the 57th pick in the 1999 draft to a four-time NBA Champion, Manu had a historic run with the San Antonio Spurs.
Even after he’s retired, you can still see the impact that he had on the game. You see it every time Giannis Antetokounmpo or Harden euro-step by a defender, you see it in the creative passing of D’Angelo Russel, and it’s still there within the culture of the Spurs organization.
Manu was a one of a kind player, an icon.
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Even now, as his jersey number is hung in the rafters, you can still see players replicate his style as lefties all over the league pay homage on a nightly basis to one of the greatest of all time.