I was recently asked to provide a word or two describing San Antonio Spurs legend Emanuel “Manu” Ginobili.
Whoa, that is a loaded question if I have ever heard one. After much reflection which included deep thought about what the perfect term should be, at least in my basketball-filled time capsule of a mind, an unexpected combination of words surfaced that would justifiably describe arguably the greatest sixth man to ever step foot onto a basketball court.
I know, you are dying to know what my brilliant mind came up with. Before we get there, I’d like you to close your eyes, be still, and envision a Manu Ginobili no look pass that has a 50/50 shot of either being awesome or disastrous and then say the following two words out loud:
Whether it was outclassing the Phoenix Suns in the playoffs time and time again during the Spurs' peak dynasty years or turning back the clock with an iconic NBA Finals dunk over Chris Bosh in Game 5 of the series-clinching 2014 NBA Finals, Manu never, ever disappointed.
Lasting images of his long hair flowing in the air celebrating the 2005 Finals win over Detroit and a classic block of a James Harden 3-point attempt during the closing seconds of a crucial Game 5 against the Rockets are just two instances that will bring chills to any true Spurs fan.
For me, that rainbow dagger three in overtime back in 2013 against an upstart Warriors team then on the rise was my personal favorite in terms of Manu playoff lore. There are so many more moments just like these. Manu gave the city of San Antonio more than just championships. He provided memories that will stand the test of time.
The real question at hand here is what sets Manu Ginobili apart from the other ballers who have donned the silver and black, which is an impressive list, to say the least. His resume speaks for itself, but Manu went beyond what makes him one of the best to take the floor, and that is what sets him apart.
Why Manu Ginobili is the most beloved Spurs player ever
The sole most important factor that goes into number 20 taking the cake for most beloved Spur of all time is not his trophy room of personal accolades, nor is it his collection of shiny diamond championship rings or the seemingly hundreds of memorable moments he blessed Spurs nation with for the better part of two decades. What sets Manu apart is one thing and one thing alone.
Loyal not only to the Spurs, but the entire San Antonio community. The pride of Argentina boasted an infectious smile and stole the hearts of Spurs fans young, old, and in between in a way that was never done before, has not been done since, and likely will never be done again.
Sure, there have been other fan favorites. Personally, for this Spurs fan, Matt Bonner, Vinny Del Negro and Avery Johnson come to mind. Even bad boys like Dennis Rodman and Stephen Jackson were popular during their stints in South Texas for some. It all depends on your flavor and type of player, I suppose.
Of course, we have Timmy, Tony, and the Iceman, obviously. Comparable to number 20 though? No, not even close. I mean, Manu caught a wild bat with his bare hands inside the AT&T center one night. Name me another player in the history of sports who can include that on a resume.
Longtime sports broadcaster Bill Schoening said it best when he coined the phrase, “Manu how do you do the voodoo that you do. so well?” Voodoo indeed. Couldn’t have said it better myself.
He would go down as the winningest player in NBA history with a win percentage of 72.1%, four NBA championships, and a gold medal playing for his country of origin in the 2004 Olympics. During those summer games, it should be noted that more than one sports bar in the 210 hosted NBA Finals-like watch parties for games that did not include team USA, but instead, Argentina.
Spurs fans rooted for another country on American soil as they cheered on Manu and his Argentina ball club in their pursuit of a gold medal. Just like proud parents attending their child’s little league game. That is what Manu meant to the Silver and Black fanbase.
Manu Ginobili gave his body to the game of basketball with a reckless yet controlled abandon and gave his soul to the city of San Antonio and its basketball team. He did so with personality unlike any other that possessed a tenacious killer instinct when it was time to ball.
He was selfless and humble. He was loyal and loved. And he's the most beloved player in Spurs History.
Manu Ginobili was thrillingly unique.
Manu Ginobili Week continues here, with a look at the most memorable game he had in each of his 16 NBA seasons.