There have been a lot of great international players that have had the chance to play in the NBA and Manu Ginobili is one of them. The San Antonio Spurs were lucky to have the greatest sixth man in NBA history play for them his entire NBA career.
With a storied career spanning over 16 seasons, Ginobili immediately became a fan favorite around the league. I still remember playing pickup basketball with my best friend back then and trying to master the Euro-step. We weren't able to master it, though. It just made us realize how great of a player Ginobili was.
One of the reasons he's loved all across the globe is how he impacts the teams that he's been on. I'm not only talking about his NBA career. I have also considered his influence internationally, which is still celebrated to this day.
Of course, he's not the only international player that has had incredible success in both the NBA and other leagues. There has been a plethora of international talent that has graced the NBA courts over the years. Back in December 2021, HoopsHype released their list of the 75 greatest international players ever. It's a pretty decent list, and I agree with how they've ranked the players.
Looking at the list, they have both Spurs legends at the sixth and seventh spots. Tony Parker and Ginobili are both ranked pretty decently, but, there's still room for improvement on the all-time list.
Breaking down Manu Ginobili's basketball career
To have a better view of his professional playing career, we have to go back to 1995. That year, he debuted as a professional basketball player for the Andino Sport Club in the Argentine basketball league. He only spent a year there and got traded to his hometown. Playing for one's hometown is always a great opportunity, and Ginobili played for his home city until 1998.
Ginobili joined the EuroLeague in '98 and experienced his first taste of basketball success. Up until 2002, Ginobili's stint in Europe proved to be extremely helpful. Ginobili was part of Viola Reggio Calabria from 1998 to 2000 before moving on to Virtus Bologna, where he collected a ton of hardware.
In the Italian league, the two-time All-Star blossomed into a winner. He won an Italian championship, the 2001 and 2002 Italian Cups, and was named the Finals MVP for 2001 in the EuroLeague. Back in the Italian League, he was the season MVP for back-to-back seasons from 2000-2002. Additionally, he was named All-Star three times for the Italian League. All of this was before his iconic 16-year NBA career with the Spurs.
Although he was originally drafted back in 1999 with the 57th pick, he spent a couple of seasons in Europe. We all know what happened with Ginobili's fruitful years with the Spurs. But just in case you forgot, here's a refresher. Manu is a two-time All-Star, four-time NBA champion, 2008 Sixth Man of the Year (the greatest!), two-time All-NBA, and finally, a Hall of Fame player.
Oh yeah, he was also an Olympic Gold medalist back in the 2004 Summer Olympics. Also, he led the Argentinian national team to finish as the Bronze medalists in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Manu Ginobili should be a top 5 player on the all-time international list
Looking back at the list, I'd tweak it just a bit. Hakeem Olajuwon and Dirk Nowitzki both take the first and second spots. Coming in the third place is the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo. That's where I would make the adjustment. I'd put the Greek Freak in sixth place, and I mean no disrespect. He's obviously one of the best international players in the league right now.
Antetokounmpo has a chance to take the first spot from Olajuwon by the time his career is done. The 2021 Finals MVP is just 27 years old and he has a ton of great years ahead of him. The reason I'm putting him at the sixth spot is all of his accolades are from one league. When comparing that to the others on the list, especially Ginobili, his achievements are a bit one-dimensional.
With that said, I'd put the Spurs legend at the fifth spot right after Pau Gasol. Of course, this is my list. Some of you might have him at the number one spot, and there's really no issue with that. The success that Ginobili has gained ever since 1995 is impressive. Some players don't even get a chance to dominate one league, and here's a 6-foot-6 shooting guard from Argentina who became a champion in two basketball leagues.
Well, there you have it, folks. When looking at the totality of international basketball on top of the NBA, Manu Ginobili should be firmly in the top five.
Manu Ginobili Week continues here with the 10 funniest moments of his legendary career.