“I don’t feel well and don’t want to go embarrass myself” at the pre-Olympic tournament to be held in Monterrey this year.
With those words, Argentine basketball legend Emanuel “Manu” Ginobili confirmed his retirement from the national team to La Nación.
Although Manu had already stated there was practically no chance of him ever wearing the light-blue and white jersey again (he said there was a 2% chance of staying), the formal announcement marks the career’s end of the best Argentine player history has given us.
Thanks to Manu, many Argentines have sometimes changed the channel from football to watch him making his way to the top of the world’s best basketball league and becoming part of one of the greatest teams that has ever played the sport.
Interest in the NBA in Argentina started in 1999, when the San Antonio Spurs drafted a skinny tall international guy who seemed like a decent prospect. Manu Ginobili was the Spurs’ second round pick, 57th overall. Nevertheless, he did not sign with the Texan team that year and returned to Europe to play for Italian team Kinder Bologna. He led his team to win the 2001 Italian Championship, the 2001 and 2002 Italian Cups and the 2001 Euroleague. He was named the 2000/01 and 2001/02 Italian League MVP and 2001 Euroleague Finals Most Valuable Player as well.
After leading the national team to a silver medal in the 2002 FIBA World Championship, he finally arrived in the NBA in the 2002/03 season to prove himself against the best of the best, and he did. It only took him a few months to adjust to the league’s style of play and by March he was named Western Conference rookie of the Month. When the playoffs arrived, Manu was already a stable member of the Spurs lineup and contributed to win the team’s second Championship in history over reigning three-peat Champions Los Angeles Lakers.
Here’s a rundown of his historic run: 4 NBA rings, 2 NBA All-star selections, 2 NBA third team selections, 1 Olympic gold medal in 2004 (over the seemingly-unbeatable USA) and 1 Olympic bronze medal. He is also member of the playoffs highest-winning trio in NBA history along with Tony Parker and Tim Duncan.
Here’s Manu’s historic game-winner against Serbia in the 2004 Olympics. It doesn’t get any better than that. Oh wait, it does.
That’s just one tournament and the gold medal game against Italy is not even there. That’s how many highlights he has.
At age 37, Manu is on his last legs in the NBA and this will probably be his last season. He has played 14 years at the highest level and his style will surely be missed by many. It’s a given that his number 5 jersey will be retired from the national team, and the number 20 will hang tall at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. The hall of fame awaits a player who has played his way into the heart of any basketball lover in the world, especially Charles Barkley.