The San Antonio Spurs are known for many things. Success, culture, and consistency are among some of the most notable characteristics that come to mind, but their willingness to bring in players worldwide is iconic. As one of the most forward-thinking organizations in the NBA, San Antonio has been able to find many diamonds in the rough. The latest international player to join the roster took a slightly different path, attending Seton Hall, but the Spurs still found him a home in the 210.
Sandro Mamukelashvili, or "Mamu", was born in New York but raised in Tbilisi, Georgia. Like many European-raised basketball fans, Mamu was a fan of the multicultured San Antonio Spurs, so landing with SA after a stint with Milwaukee was perfect for him. After his recent contract extension, he expressed pure elation in an interview with Basketnews.com in Lithuania, declaring, "I am very excited and happy. My words cannot describe this."
Mamu's major NBA moments
At six-foot-ten, Mamukelashvili has shown versatility in his game that makes him a valuable cog in a well-put-together system. He has the athleticism to embarrass players who take him lightly at the basket and the touch drain shots from distance. That skill level is probably what gave him the confidence to trash-talk Giannis Antetokounmpo while a member of the Bucks. Giannis responded by posterizing him in practice. James Harden repeatedly roasted Mamu like s'mores over an open fire in his first game vs. the Brooklyn Nets and Seton Hall's own found out quickly what the NBA was about.
These great moments are part of the discussion in Sandro Mamukelashvili's interview, but his place in San Antonio alongside Coach Popovich is what is special to him. He explained how big of an impact Pop had on him from the day he walked into the gym. The trust given, minutes expanded, and teachings from a legendary coach played a major role in Mamu's confidence and production boost in a silver and black uniform.
His desire, he explained, was to play European-style basketball with an American swag, mentioning guys like Toni Kukoc and Dwyane Wade as major influences. That combination is not unfamiliar to Spurs fans.
Manu Ginobili had a flair to his game, emotion, and presence that rivaled any American-born NBA player. But many of those American-born players don't have Popovich. "He is an unbelievable guy and definitely impacted me, and I am happy to be around him," Mamu stated. As a new fan favorite, the Spurs faithful could say the same about you, Mamu.