In perhaps the greatest NBA Draft decision of all time, the San Antonio Spurs decided to take a chance on a draft-and-stash prospect, Manu Ginobili, in 1999. Little did anyone know he'd turn out to be one of the most influential players in basketball history.
Spanning 1,275 total games from 2002 to 2018, Ginobili's unmatched heart and hustle were on full display for each of the 32,934 minutes he logged in the regular season and playoffs. Naturally, his will to win led to many epic games over the course of his Hall of Fame career, and the Spurs are four trophies richer because of that.
From his first game at age 25 to his last at 40, here's a look at one phenomenal performance from each of his 16 seasons in the league.
2003 - Manu's huge Game 4 puts Spurs on cusp of NBA Finals
Manu Ginobili's rookie season was pretty standard. He had some flashes of brilliance, some ill-advised decisions, and many growing pains throughout. Still, he was playing alongside prime Tim Duncan, who was in the midst of one of the greatest individual seasons anyone has ever had in the NBA.
Duncan's dominance allowed for Ginobili to learn on the fly, but when the Spurs had a chance to take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals, he put it all together for a breakout performance. Burying four of his five 3-point attempts, Ginobili finished with 21 points, six rebounds, and two steals as San Antonio won by seven on the road to get them within a game of the NBA Finals.
While it took the Spurs a couple more games to close out the Dallas Mavericks, the eventual toppling of their Texas rival led to a date with the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals -- and ultimately their second NBA title.
2004 - Manu pushes superteam Lakers to brink without Duncan, Parker
Just take a look at these starting lineups and tell me the result you'd expect in this game.
Los Angeles Lakers
San Antonio Spurs
This isn't meant to knock any of Manu's teammates here, but let's be real -- we're talking about four Hall of Famers against one. With Tim Duncan and Tony Parker unavailable, Ginobili's fire burned so bright that he almost helped San Antonio pull off a miracle at the SBC Center in a 2004 game.
Posting a near triple-double with 33 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists, Manu led the way as the Spurs forced the Lakers into two overtimes before falling 120-117. I have a feeling Ginobili doesn't really believe in moral victories, but the fact that this game was even remotely close just speaks to his greatness.
2005 - Ginobili's clutch Game 7 brings the Spurs title no. 3
One of the few accolades Manu Ginobili never received was an NBA Finals MVP, and many believe that shouldn't have been the case. The 2005 NBA Finals against the Detroit Pistons showcased Ginobili at his ultimate peak, and his efforts made all the difference between two teams as evenly matched as the league has ever seen.
With Game 7 of the Finals tied 57-57 heading into the final quarter, it was going to come down to which stars wanted it more in the final 12 minutes. Unsurprisingly, the answer turned out to be Manu Ginobili.
In a quarter that would decide who is crowned champions, Manu scored 11 points, pulled down three boards, and dished out two assists. At the end of the night, he had a line of 23 points, five rebounds, and four assists to seal the victory for San Antonio.
Tim Duncan took home the hardware as the NBA Finals MVP, but Spurs fans know that Ginobili was equally as, maybe even more important toward that title run.
2006 - Ginobili's 32 puts Spurs in command over Kings
Despite finishing with a 63-19 record in 2006, the Spurs had their work cut out for them when facing the Sacramento Kings in round one of those playoffs. For whatever reason, Bonzi Wells turned into prime Hakeem Olajuwon whenever he saw Silver and Black on the other side of the court, and that continued here.
Still, the Spurs managed to blow out Sacramento in Game 1 before returning to the AT&T Center three days later hoping for a repeat performance. With Tim Duncan having a rare off night after facing numerous double teams, Ginobili picked up the slack in a big way, scoring 32 points and dishing out nine dimes in a 128-119 Spurs win.
As it turned out, the Spurs needed that 2-0 lead, as the Kings fought back to tie the series before falling in Games 5 and 6.