Manu Ginóbili in the NBA Hall of Fame: portrait of the man who is compared to Maradona and Messi

Manu Ginóbili in the NBA Hall of Fame: portrait of the man who is compared to Maradona and Messi

Manu Ginóbili became the first Argentine to enter the NBA Hall of Fame. This is his story, from when his mother did not want him to be a basketball player until he was at the height of Maradona, Messi, Fangio and Guillermo Vilas

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Manu Ginóbili in the NBA Hall of Fame: portrait of the man who is compared to Maradona and Messi< /p>Manu Ginóbili entered the NBA Hall of Fame | Photo: AFP

Manu Ginóbili He is almost two meters tall and practically no one in Argentina is at his height, although of course, Diego Armando Maradona and Lionel Messi – several centimeters smaller – are just as big as him. Today the three sit comfortably at the same table, but they are not alone: ​​Juan Manuel Fangio and Guillermo Vilas also accompany them. At that table, the debate on who is the best Argentine athlete in history is absurd. The five give the size for that label. And for that, they are eternally compared to each other.

Of course, with whom they most often equate Manu is with Maradona and Messi, the Argentine kings of the beautiful game. However, for these two cracks there is really no point of comparison: the 1.98 meter giant is better, in their opinion.

“Manu Ginobili is above everything. It's like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in football, let's not count Manu. Manu is a total phenomenon. I think he is the best athlete in the history of Argentina, he deserves it. It happens that there is another who played with the ten that is hot on his heels”, once assured ‘Pelusa’ in an interview with TyC Sports.

A similar thought is shared by Messi, but we'll get to that point. Meanwhile, it is worth doing a small portrait for an athlete as gigantic as those who praise him.

A difficult start

The football atmosphere you live in every corner of Argentina, but Manu grew up in a purely basketball family. Infected by the passion of his father Jorge, the older brothers of the household, Leandro and Sebastián, forged their own path in this sport as professionals. Mother Raquel wanted, however, that the future of her youngest child be different. She didn't make it.

'Gino' learned to play in the club of his native Bahía Blanca that was in charge of his father (coach). Nothing, then, could stop him. But in the same way, he had to fulfill all the study requirements that his mother imposed on him.

There was a time, of course, when his mind played against him. And it is that many times negative thoughts take over athletes, especially in their beginnings. The Argentine basketball player was no exception.

Upon descending with his father's club, he pondered that perhaps, in reality, he should listen to his mother and leave the sport in the background. “That's not in me, I can't win”. It wasn't until he was 19 years old that he hit the growth spurt, that's why in the minors he didn't stand out as he would have liked.

NBA Draft

His sports debut in the National Basketball League came in 1995 with Andino SC, when he was just coming of age. It only took three years in Argentina for Manu to embark on his first adventure in Europe, precisely in Italy.

The first turning point had passed before in his career: the Junior World Cup in Australia 1997. Beyond the painful elimination at the horn in the semifinals against the locals, 'Gino' shone in the Argentine team. His excellent performance caused R. C. Buford, at that time chief scout for the San Antonio Spurs, to point him out as a possible prospect, without anyone knowing.

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It was thus that the following year (1998) he packed the Viola Reggio Calabria of the second of Italy. After achieving promotion and achieving excellent performances with this team, the 'Albiceleste' team leader surprised him with news that was impossible to believe at first.

In 1999, while Manu was in Macapá, preparing for the South American Championship in Bahía Blanca, he found out that he had been chosen as number 57 in the NBA Draft for the San Antonio Spurs. The Argentine shooting guard thought that was false until he found out that Gregg Popovich, coach of the Texans, had called his father to notify him directly.

The decision he made was the least expected. The forward agreed to an extension for his arrival in the NBA, he preferred to go to Kinder Bologna and spend two more years in Europe. Finally, he ended up getting it right. Manuhe emulated the exploits of Maradona in Naples, revolutionizing the Bolognese city with the 2001 Euroleague title, where he was the MVP of the tournament. He also won two Italian Cups and an Italian league.

Furthermore, in 2002 he faced the Indianapolis World Cup, where he led a historic Argentina faced the United States in the semifinals. In the definition of the title, he could only participate for a few minutes, since he suffered a sprained ankle, and could not avoid the defeat against Serbia and Montenegro.

Be that as it may, he was already established as a figure not only in the 'Old Continent', but worldwide. So, after that runner-up finish with his national team, Manu finally began his adventures in the NBA . The rest is history.

A legend of the NBA and Argentina

Ginóbili was injured for the first time with the Spursand earning a place in the team, at the beginning, was quite complicated. Adapting to a new world was very difficult, but he – always disciplined and self-sacrificing – knew how to overcome any barrier.

In fact, in his rookie season (rookie) he managed to become champion with his team. It was his first season and he already had a ring on his hand. Although coach Gregg Popovich used him more as a substitute in the regular season, everything improved for the Argentine in the playoffs, becoming a fundamental player for the Spurs to achieve the second championship in their history.< /p>

Then… another turning point. In 2004, Manu traveled to Athens with great enthusiasm along with the rest of the Argentine delegation that had been left with a thorn in the side of not having won the World Cuptwo years before. Now it was time to climb to the top of the podium.

Manu Ginó; bili in the NBA Hall of Fame: portrait of the man who is compared to Maradona and Messi

Argentina's Emanuel Ginobili (C) jumps to score as Spain's Juan Carlos Navarro (L) tries to stop him during the preliminary Group A round for the Olympic Games at the Helliniko Indoor Hall, in the Hellinikon Olympic complex in Athens 17 August 2004. AFP PHOTO/Aris MESSINIS OPSE 2004AUG21 GREECE SPORTS ATHENS 2004 OLYMPICS ATHENS 2004 OLYMPICS BASKETBALL 2004AUG21 AFD/

The Spurs forward, then, guided his team to glory. In the debut against Serbia and Montenegro, the rival that deprived him of the gold in Indianapolis, Ginóbili emerged as the hero of the Argentines with a 'popcorn' on the last play of the game to win the match in an agonizing way by just one point. That was the best double of his career.

Manu Ginóbili in the NBA Hall of Fame: portrait of the man who is compared to Maradona and Messi< /p>

Later, the 'Albiceleste' once again prevailed over the fearsome 'Dream Team' of the United States in the semis and managed to hang the Olympic gold medal by the first time in its history, beating Italy in the final.

'Gino'He was always the protagonist in the course of that glorious history with an average of 19.4 points, which earned him the MVP of the tournament. Later, he was unable to repeat the feat with his national team: in Beijing 2008 he was the closest he came to achieving it, winning the bronze medal.

Yes, in the NBAthere was still much to prove. After the Olympics, Manu won three more rings with the Spurs (2005, 2007 and 2014) apart from the first. He played a total of 1057 games, reaching an average of 13.3 points, 3.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.32 steals and achieving the highest winning percentage in NBA history among players with more than a thousand games: 72.1% (762-295).

The Argentine established himself as the highest scorer of triples (1495) and steals (1392) in the history of the Spursand, in addition, it ranks third in regular season games played in the NBA, fourth in assists (4,001), fourth in free throws made (3,380), and fifth in points (14,043).

As if that were not enough, Manu was selected for the All-NBA third team in 2008 and 2011 and was a two-time All-Star (2005 and 2011). He also won the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2008. Along with Bill Bradley, they are the only ones in history to have an NBA ring, a EuroLeague trophy and a gold medal.

You can even boast of having always played in the Playoffs. Not even LeBron James or Michael Jordan can boast of the same. The Argentine, with his exploits, inspired James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant… an entire generation.

Manu Ginóbili in the NBA Hall of Fame: portrait of the man who is compared to Maradona and Messi< /p>UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT – SEPTEMBER 09: Manu Ginobili poses for a portrait during the 2022 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Tip-Off Celebration & Awards Gala at Mohegan Sun on September 09, 2022 in Uncasville, Connecticut. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP/

With the peace of mind of having achieved everything he achieved, in August 2018 the Argentine forward put an end to the successful career for him. He said goodbye as a legend and his mom is surely proud that she couldn't stop his dream when he was younger. He is happy now and she with him.

After an impeccable career that few can emulate, other legends such as Magic Johnson or Larry Bird asked that the Argentine have a place in the Hall of Fame. That personal wish, that of his closest colleagues and also that of strangers, ended up being fulfilled on September 10. He earned it by hand.

That night in Springfield (Massachusetts), dressed in gala and accompanied by his family, Manu Ginóbili received the highest distinction and became the first Argentine – fourth South American player – to enter the Hall of Fame. And, of course, he rumbled with joy.

But the ending had to be more perfect. Then, unexpectedly, the ceremony was marked by a special message from Messi, which somehow summarizes what Ginóbili represents for Argentine sport. “It makes me very proud to hear a journalist say that Manu is the Messi of basketball. In fact, they should say that I am the Manu of football”, sentenced ‘La Pulga’.