Renowned for his ability to step up late in games, San Antonio Spurs legend Manu Ginobili blocked four late-game shots in his storied career.
It’s hard to rack up blocks in the NBA, even for a seven-footer. That’s why fans are so inspired when their favorite guards rise up to block a shot. Some of the most exciting moments for basketball aficionados to look back on are their favorite guards rising up to stuff a shot and San Antonio Spurs fans have been blessed with some particularly momentous blocks from future Hall of Famer Manu Ginobili.
Regarded as one of the top influential international basketball players to ever grace the sport, Manu gave his undivided attention every step of the way in his 16-year career in San Antonio. Ginobili gave his heart to the team every second that he was on the court for the silver and black, setting the tempo for his teammates while inspiring both players and supporters around the world to be the best versions of themselves.
Four specific times in his NBA career, Ginobili defied the odds by blocking a go-ahead bucket in the fourth quarter or overtime period of a game. Each of these occasions came when he was matched up against the leading scorer of the opposing team and three out of the four events resulted in a win.
— NBA History (@NBAHistory) May 10, 2017
It’s rare for a shooting guard to bring that level of intensity on the defensive end, but it’s a testament to Manu’s will as a player. Day-in and day-out, Ginobili put his body on the line for the Spurs and embodied the mentality that head coach and franchise leader Gregg Popovich wants for his teams. For as much weight as Manu’s voice held for this team, it was his competitive drive that forced everyone around him to be better versions of themselves.
To celebrate Ginobili’s competitive drive and steadfast will through almost two decades in the silver and black, let’s look back at these four blocks and the events surrounding them.
Next: Stuffing Ray Allen
Manu Saves San Antonio Spurs @ Supersonics – March 26, 2006
Historic marksman Ray Allen‘s best offensive season was with the Seattle Supersonics from 2005-06, according to Basketball Reference’s Offensive Box Plus/Minus (6.4). Being that this was the prime of his career at 30 years old, Allen brought everything he could to a team that ranked third in offensive rating and dead-last in defensive rating.
Every stop along the way this season, Allen had to fight for his life. He was the pinnacle that held his team up with only Rashard Lewis providing a bit of help, so naturally, the game flowed through him. For this game, in particular, it was a duel with Manu Ginobili that put the Sonics’ game in danger and forced Allen to elevate his play in crunch time.
Throughout the night, Allen and fan-favorite Bruce Bowen had been going back-and-forth, coming to a head when Bowen kicked Allen while the two were on the ground battling for a loose ball. As we’ve come to know the hard way in the River City, Allen isn’t the right guy to pick fights with.
With 9.4 seconds remaining and the Sonics down by two, Allen caught an inbound pass at the top of the key and beat Bowen to the basket. He contorted his body to avoid a powering Tim Duncan in the paint and went up for an acrobatic right-handed layup. Ever so softly, Manu lifted up after waiting idly near the basket and swatted Allen’s shot out of bounds, leaving under 10 seconds to go in the game.
Unfortunately for the Spurs, that invigorated Allen even more as he caught the next inbound pass, curled off a screen and drilled what would be the game-winning three-pointer to give the Spurs their 16th loss of the season.
Manu chipped in 17 points, six assists and two steals in the effort but couldn’t hold off Allen’s 33-point performance. As you can probably tell, Allen was a thorn in the Spurs’ side long before what he pulled in Game Six of the 2013 NBA Finals. Nevertheless, this was a testament to Manu’s fearlessness and will to win during clutch scenarios.
Next: Taking on the Mamba
Manu saves San Antonio Spurs @ Lakers – January 28, 2007
During the heat of Kobe Bryant‘s reign of Los Angeles, the Spurs and Lakers had a bittersweet rivalry. The two teams had a strong, innate level of respect for each other because of their dedication to the sport and the craft of basketball, but oftentimes served as a roadblock to one another in pursuit of championships. Even though he wouldn’t admit it until he’s away from the court, Bryant was a big fan of Manu’s and Manu felt the same about Kobe.
Los Angeles had put together a fantastic game defensively, smothering the Spurs on both ends of the floor and holding the Big Three to 37.5 percent shooting from the floor. However, something of the sort would never keep the Spurs down for long and late in the game, both sides were tied up at 80 apiece.
With five seconds remaining, the Spurs called on ‘Big Shot’ Robert Horry, who missed a corner three-pointer that Kobe rushed to contest. Los Angeles quickly called for a timeout, setting up a play for Kobe to take what they thought might be the game-winner. Manu had something else in mind.
Kobe jetted up to the wing, grabbing the inbound pass and pump faking, to which Bowen leaped up In the air and lost the third-place finish for MVP. Bryant took a step in and rose up for a shot that Manu, who switched over from the inbounder to defend, reached for and tapped away with the tip of his fingers, forcing the game to go into overtime.
Whether it was intentional or not, which Bryant insisted it was not, he clocked Manu on the way down and sent the Argentinian superstar to the ground, writhing in pain. After a moment of fear for all Spurs fans, Manu bounced back up and got on with the game.
Though the Lakers came out of the overtime period hot, the Spurs finally locked in and closed out the 96-94 win despite shooting a season-low 33.7 percent from the field. In the heat of the moment, we got an iconic Manu moment and a win against a bitter rival en route to a championship victory.
Next: Not showing any Love
Manu saves San Antonio Spurs @ Timberwolves – November 24, 2010
San Antonio came out of the gates rolling in the 2010-11 season with Tony Parker entering his best years and the Big Three matured with a solid cast around them. Their continuity and winning experience led them to a great start, winning their first game against Indiana in a blowout before taking a nine-point loss to the New Orleans Hornets.
This loss fueled the Spurs, who went on to win 11 consecutive games including games against some powerful foes like Chicago Bulls and division rival Houston Rockets. In this visit to the Minnesota Timberwolves for a brief one-game trip, the team had thought its streak was lost.
Led by a spy, young power forward named Kevin Love, the Timberwolves outscored the Spurs 33-18 and held firm through the majority of the game. San Antonio missed 17-of-19 triples to start the game, bringing their percentage all the way down to 31.3 percent from beyond the arch that night. Nonetheless, San Antonio rallied in the fourth quarter on the back of Manu’s will alone.
Ginobili scored 14 of his 26 total points in the fourth quarter to rally the team back and outscore their opponent by 11 in the final period of play. With just over one second remaining in the contest, Antonio McDyess blocked a seven-foot jump shot by guard Luke Ridnour to send the game into overtime. Even then, the two teams traded buckets until the final moments of the contest.
Ridnour received an inbound pass with 7.6 points remaining as the Timberwolves trailed by two. He passed to Love, who flashed up to the wing after being switched onto by Ginobili from a backdoor screen. Love took a dribble, pump-faked a shot and hoisted it up as Ginobili extended as far as he could to block the jumper. Manu tipped the jumper, which landed in McDyess’ hands as he was fouled to push the game forward.
The next game, San Antonio’s streak was snapped by the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks, but this streak ignited the team for the season and set the tone for the Spurs moving forward.
Next: No fear for the Beard
Manu wrecks Rockets @ San Antonio Spurs – May 9, 2017
Whenever division rivals face off in the postseason, it’s good cause to be excited but a Spurs vs. Rockets game is on another level. Mix in the fact that San Antonio was forced to finish the game without their leading scorer and star player, Kawhi Leonard, and we got one magical moment in Game Five of the 2017 Western Conference Semi-Finals.
By this point, the Spurs had become well accustomed to the scoring brigade of James Harden under the guidance of head coach Mike D’Antoni. San Antonio traded buckets with the division rival throughout the night without either team outscoring the other by more than five points in a single quarter.
It took a balanced effort from the Spurs, who had six players in double figures including a vintage performance off the bench from Manu Ginobili. San Antonio’s auxiliary players like Danny Green, who had seven points in overtime and 16 in the game as a whole, were forced to step up when Leonard exited with an ankle injury in the second half.
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Still, the Spurs outscored the Rockets by three-points in overtime and in the final seconds of overtime, Harden sought another three-pointer to extend his 33-point triple-double into another overtime.
Manu had something else in mind.
As Harden drew Ginobili’s coverage, he bumped the famed veteran and jab stepped before taking one step in for a three-pointer and rising up. In the meanwhile, Manu recovered and rose above Harden, swatting the triple multiple feet away as the buzzer expired, causing the AT&T Center crowd to erupt in excitement.
Though this was an instinctual recovery for Manu—A moment of second nature—it’s a lifelong memory for Spurs fans who felt an uproar of excitement and sheer happiness as their favorite team and in many cases, favorite player saved the day against all odds on the biggest stage.
Manu has two decades of basketball highlights to admire but this one ranks near the top.