Emanuel David “Manu” Ginóbili (born 28 July 1977) is a 6 foot-6 inch left-handed Argentinean professional basketball player. Coming from a family of professional basketball players, he is a member of the Argentine men’s national basketball team and the NBA. Ginóbili spent the early part of his basketball career in Argentina and Italy, where he won several individual and team honors. His stint with Italian side Kinder Bologna was particularly productive, earning two Italian League MVP awards, the Euro league Finals MVP and the 2001 Euro league and Triple Crown championships. The shooting guard was selected as the 57th overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft and is considered one of the biggest draft steals of all time.
Ginóbili returned to Italy and only joined the Spurs in 2002. He did not take long to establish himself as a key player for the Spurs, and has since earned three NBA championship rings as well as being named an All-Star in 2005 and 2011. In the 2007–08 season, he was named the NBA Sixth Man of the Year. With the Argentina national team, Ginóbili has also enjoyed success. He made his debut with the national team in 1998, and was a member of the team which won the gold medal during the 2004 Olympics Basketball Tournament. Hailed as one of the finest European-based players to grace the NBA, he plays a high-tempo and intensive game. He is also one of only two players, along with Bill Bradley, to have won a Euro league title, an NBA championship, and an Olympic gold medal.
Argentine and Italian years
Ginóbili made his professional debut in the Argentine basketball league for the Andino Sport Club team of La Rioja from 1995–1996, and was traded to Estudiantes de Bahía Blanca the next year.++++++++++++++ He played with his hometown team until the Italian league attracted him, and in 1998 he moved to Europe, spending the 1998–1999 and 1999–2000 seasons with Basket Viola Reggio Calabria. In 1999, he teamed with Brent Scott, Brian Oliver and Sydney Johnson to win a championship. Ginóbili then entered the 1999 NBA Draft and the San Antonio Spurs selected him late in the second round with the 57th overall pick. However, he did not sign with the Spurs at this point in time. Instead, he returned to Italy to play for Kinder Bologna, which he helped win the 2001 Italian Championship, the 2001 and 2002 Italian Cups, and the 2001 Euroleague, where he was named the Euroleague 2000–01 Euroleague Finals MVP. He was also named the Italian League MVP in 2000–01 and 2001–02, and made the Italian league’s All-Star game three times during this period.
It was not until after the 2002 FIBA World Championship in Indianapolis that Ginóbili joined the Spurs. There, he made the All-Tournament team alongside future NBA star Yao Ming and established NBA stars Dirk Nowitzki and Peja Stojakovic, and helped lead Argentina to a second-place finish. In his first season in the NBA, Ginóbili played backup for veteran guard Steve Smith. He spent much of the early season injured, and found it hard to adjust to the NBA’s style of play. As his injury improved, so did Ginóbili, winning the Western Conference Rookie of the Month in March, and being named to the All-Rookie Second Team at the end of the season. Still, he only started in five games as the Spurs chalked up a 60–22 regular season win–loss record. The Spurs then entered the playoffs eager to upend the defending champions Los Angeles Lakers, and this was when Ginóbili rose to prominence.
In contrast to his regular season, Ginóbili became an integral part of Gregg Popovich’s rotational set up in the playoffs, playing in every game. The Spurs eliminated Phoenix and Los Angeles and in those games his scoring threat took opponents by surprise, giving them one more thing to cope with against the now highly favored Spurs. He helped guide them past the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals and then the New Jersey Nets in the Finals, securing San Antonio’s second championship. After the win, Ginóbili won his first Olimpia de Oro (“Golden Olympia”) as Argentina’s sportsperson of the year, and even met Argentine president Néstor Kirchner.
A gym in Bahía Blanca was dedicated in Ginóbili’s honor as well. In the 2003–04 season, Ginóbili began featuring more regularly for the Spurs, starting in half of the 77 regular season games he played in. His statistics improved in all major categories, as he averaged 12.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game. During the 2004 playoffs, the Spurs met their perennial rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers, in the Western Conference Semifinals. Following Game 5 where Derek Fisher scored a buzzer-beating jumpshot, the Spurs lost Game 6 and the series 4–2. While Ginóbili did not start in a single playoff game as he did in 2003, his playoff statistics improved significantly, with 13.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game.
After some initial issues with San Antonio over his contract, Ginóbili re-signed with the Spurs and started every game during the 2004–05 season. This was his best season yet as he was selected as a reserve by NBA coaches to the 2005 Western Conference All-Star team, marking his début in the elite mid-season showcase. During the playoffs, Ginóbili’s play was pivotal to winning San Antonio’s third championship. The Spurs first defeated Phoenix 4–1 in the Conference Finals, before prevailing in a very defensive oriented seven-game series against the Detroit Pistons. Ginóbili recorded career-highs in his playoff numbers, most notably 20.8 ppg and 5.8 rpg, and had the third highest point total in the entire playoffs. In the NBA Finals MVP Award voting, the shooting guard was a candidate but was edged out by teammate and captain Tim Duncan. The former finished the 2004–05 season as the second leading scorer on the team.
During the season, he became only the fourth person to win consecutive Olimpias de Oro, this time sharing the award with soccer star Carlos Tévez. The 2005–06 season was an injury-plagued one for Ginóbili, who suffered foot and ankle injuries that hindered his ability to play. He managed 65 games in the regular season, but saw a dip in major statistics as compared to the previous season. During the playoffs, he returned to form, but was unable to prevent the Spurs from being eliminated by the Dallas Mavericks in the Conference Semifinals. In the 2006–07 season, the Spurs lacked energy from their reserves and Ginóbili provided it by coming off the bench for most of the second half of the season helping the Spurs attain the best record in the second half of the season. Ginóbili produced numbers closely identical to his successful 2004–05 campaign despite starting in only 36 of 75 games, his second lowest since arriving at San Antonio. The 2007 NBA Playoffs saw him help the Spurs to defeat the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz, before sweeping the Cleveland Cavaliers to win his third and San Antonio’s fourth championship.
Ginóbili was to play an even bigger role for the Spurs the following season, reaching career high averages in points, rebounds, assists, and three-point field goal percentage. On 21 April 2008, the NBA announced that Ginóbili had won the 2008 Sixth Man Award; only a couple of weeks later, the Argentine was also named to the All-NBA Third Team. In the playoffs, the Spurs defeated the Suns 4–1 in the first round, Ginóbili was moved to the starting lineup in the second round against the New Orleans Hornets after the Spurs lost the first two road games. San Antonio eventually prevailed in seven games, the Argentine played another strong series, leading the Spurs in points and assists per game (21.3 and 6.0 respectively). However, San Antonio lost to arch-rivals Los Angeles Lakers in the Conference Finals in five games, and once again failed to capture back-to-back NBA championships.
The following season, Ginóbili was injured for most of the campaign, managing only 44 regular season games and missing the 2009 NBA Playoffs entirely. San Antonio qualified for the playoffs as the third seed with a 54–28 record, but with an aging supporting cast (Bowen, Michael Finley and Kurt Thomas were all in their late 30s), the Spurs were only considered fringe contenders for the championship. As it turned out, the strong play of Duncan and Tony Parker were not enough to help the Spurs avoid a 4–1 defeat by Dallas, and the Spurs were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
On 31 October 2009, in a game against the Sacramento Kings, a bat descended onto the court at the AT&T Center, causing a stoppage of play. As the bat flew past, Ginóbili swatted the bat to the ground with his hand. He then carried the creature off the court, earning the applause of the crowd. On 9 April 2010, the Spurs and Ginóbili agreed to a three-year, $39 million contract extension through the 2012–13 season. During the 2011 season, Manu was named to all-star team. He was also named to the All-NBA third team at the end of the season. In the 2012 NBA season the Spurs made it to the Western Conference Finals, but fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 6 games.
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