The San Antonio Spurs can make many a claim about having the greatest ever as a part of their family. Greatest coach? Yup. Greatest power forward? No doubt. Greatest mascot? You bet. Best Sixth Man ever? Abso-fricken-lutely.
All of those are definitive statements. I try to deal with facts, and when I present an opinion, I admit that some folks may disagree. This is not one of those times. If you have any other take on the standings of those all-timers, you’re nothing but wrong.
Rudy Jay is the morning host at SA Sports Star on weekdays, and apparently, he likes to stir the pot. I can’t blame him. I enjoy attention as much as the next person, but at least I have a limit. There are some things you just don’t say, and suggesting that the 2004 Olympic gold medal Manu Ginobili and the Argentine team won is grossly overrated is one of those things.
To Jay’s "credit", he doesn’t just say Manu doesn’t deserve his flowers. He gives several reasons as to why his stance has merit. I documented 11 points made in the five-minute tirade that explain exactly why Manu’s crowing accomplishment is overrated in his mind.
Breaking down the problems with this statement
First, Jay says there were five NBA players on that Argentine roster. That’s patently false, and it’s not the only time he makes things up during his rant. There were seven players on that roster who documented an NBA minute. Manu is joined by Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni, Fabricio Oberto, Carlos Delfino, Ruben Wolowyski, and Pepe Sanchez.
Granted, some had incredibly forgetful NBA careers, playing only a handful of games, but a single NBA minute is more than either I or Rudy Jay could ever hope for.
Seven NBA players is a lot for an Olympic roster. Team USA had 12 NBA players travel to Athens. Team Argentina had a total of two All-Star appearances. Team USA had 81, as well as seven MVP awards coming from LeBron James, Tim Duncan, and Allen Iverson.
Speaking of Tim Duncan, it was suggested that the ‘04 Olympics should hurt his legacy. After all, if a win boosts Manu, a loss should hurt Duncan, right? Duncan played poorly in the Olympics, and I have to say, yeah, it does hurt his legacy. It’s the one stain on an otherwise perfect career. Does it move him down a spot in the all-time power forward rankings? No, but it wasn’t his best performance. I’m a big enough person to admit that.
The next point made was that Team USA had no chemistry. I find that laughable. Yeah, Stephon Marbury and Allen Iverson did not like each other, but James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwyane Wade all have a well-documented friendship. Plus, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant put aside their differences to win, as did Shaq and Kobe. Tony Parker reportedly was inappropriate with Brent Barry's wife, but they won two championships together. The worst of enemies should have made light work of that Argentine team with such an advantage. Again, 81 All-Star selections vs. two.
Perhaps the worst point he made was that Team USA could not shoot the three-ball. This took a bit of number crunching to disprove, but it was well worth the effort. In 2004, the average NBA team shot roughly 5/15 per game for a 35% clip. I figured that in 2022, the age of the long ball, that average would be up. Nope, the average team in 2022 shot 12/35 for another 35% average. Guess how well Team USA shot in 2004? Did you guess 35%? Winner! And they did it on slightly more attempts, averaging 16.6 per game, one and a half more than the rest of the league that year.
So I guess Argentina was just loaded with deadeye shooters, right? That would make sense to me, except they shot 6/21 during the summer for a slightly lower 30% average. Granted, when USA and Argentina met up in the semifinals, the South Americans rained, landing 50% of their 22 shots while the Americans couldn’t even crack 30%.
It only gets worse from there
The final few points he made were just funny. Apparently, after beating America, Argentina went on to beat Finland in the final game. A simple Google search reveals that they wiped the floor with the Italians, not the Finns. Another question he raised was why Argentina didn't repeat in 2008.
Well, by that point, Team USA had “woken up,” as Jay himself says. Also, by then, Australia, China, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Serbia, Russia, Slovenia, Brazil, Czechia, and even Germany were taking the Olympics seriously, so a more senior Argentine team had less of a chance. Plus, they already made their mark.
The last point he made was just crazy. He kept saying that Team USA, the American Olympic committee, and fans as a whole did not care about the ‘04 Games. He later went on to say that he’s still “bitter” about the loss, but I digress. Anyway, not caring is not the excuse you think it is. When you have a job, saying, “well, I didn’t care about it anyway” is not a way to take the blame off you. The Argentines and Italians cared, and they took home the hardware.
All things considered, the 2004 medal should be the icing on the cake that cements Manu as the best Sixth Man ever. He was a winner at every level of competition, an innovator, a fierce competitor, and a selfless teammate. Jamal Crawford won less than half of his games. Manu has the greatest individual winning percentage ever.
Every now and then, a local writer or talk show personality decides to go rogue and make a name for himself. No press is bad press, right? I mean, Rudy Jay tricked me into spending my Wednesday night writing a 1016-word article about him, so clearly he must have gotten my goat, right?
Well, I have news for you. My time is not that valuable, and I would do anything to defend my GOAT.