Manu Ginobili found his way to the NBA as a longshot, being the second-to-last pick in 1999. After 1,275 games, 32,934 on-court minutes, and four NBA championships, he's now in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
It's tough to put into words just how special the Argentine's basketball career was. Even if you excluded his 16 years in the NBA and only went by his international career, he'd still be exceptional. Yet, with everything he accomplished on the court while he played, he did just as much for the future of the game.
Manu's rise from an unknown prospect in the United States to a legend helped paved the way for the international takeover that soon followed suit. There's no denying he inspired dozens of overseas players that came after, as players like Giannis Antetokounmpo mentioned in a tribute video.
With over 23 years of professional basketball to cover, I compiled 10 moments that made Manu Ginobili's career Hall of Fame worthy and thrilled millions of people along the way.
10. Ginobili introduces himself to the NBA with a corner three
Manu Ginobili's debut happened on October 29, 2002 in a road game against the Los Angeles Lakers. Coming off the bench with 3:15 remaining in the first quarter, it took him two minutes and 17 seconds to fire up his first shot in the NBA.
Burying a 3-pointer from 25 feet in the left corner, Ginobili was officially in the NBA history books as the Spurs ended up defeating Los Angeles 87-82. Even in a hostile environment on the road in his first official NBA action, Manu showcased a bit of his all-around game, tallying seven points, four steals, three assists, two rebounds, and a block in 20 minutes.
These were the first three out of 17,097 total points he scored in the league, and the fact that Manu would go on to win a championship in his first season was just a sign of things to come.
9. Manu torches the Phoenix Suns for 48 points in overtime win
Ginobili never quite dropped a 50-piece on anyone, but he certainly got close several times. In fact, in a January 2005 matchup against the talented Phoenix Suns, he came within a bucket of doing so.
At the time, the Spurs and Suns were both powerhouses in the Western Conference, boasting records of 32-9 and 31-9 respectively. A starting lineup including Steve Nash, Amar'e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, and Shawn Marion took a 17-point lead into the final quarter at American West Arena in Phoenix.
Then Manu Ginobili took over.
With a furious comeback led by the third-year rising star, San Antonio built a 3-point lead with 7.3 seconds remaining until Shawn Marion tied the game at the buzzer. Manu then tacked six more points onto the 42 he had at the end of regulation, and San Antonio ended up coming away with the victory, 128-123. It was one of the first flashes of dominance he would showcase, but it was far from the last.