By John Hareas

Watch Video
Global Leaders
of the Game

吉诺比利(Manu Ginobili)淋漓尽致的表现助马刺队步步走向成功
Manu Ginobili’s Freier Stil Hält das Team der Spurs in Bewegung
El Estilo Audaz de Manu Ginóbili Enciende a los Spurs
曼努‧基諾比利 (Manu Ginobili) 的自由打球風格讓馬刺不斷前進
O Estilo Sem Barreiras de Manu Ginobili Leva os Spurs ao Topo
マヌ・ジノビリの自由奔放なスタイルがスパーズを活性化 Manu Ginobili et Son Style Atypique Ont Conquis San Antonio
He may be the greatest draft day steal in modern NBA history. Fifty-six players were selected ahead of Manu Ginobili on June 30, 1999 and in a little more than two seasons, the 27-year-old Argentinean has not only made a lot of NBA General Managers regret their decision but he has emerged as one of the NBA’s premier players while making a run at his first NBA All-Star appearance. Think the Spurs predicted such greatness? Think again.

Glenn James/NBAE/Getty Images
“The draft came along and it was in the 50's [late in the second round],” said San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. “And there was nobody who was going to make our team there anyway, and this guy was the most athletic, so we said, 'Let’s draft him.’ But we did not know he was going to become what he is today. That would have been a real stretch.”

What isn’t a stretch is Ginobili’s value to the Spurs, especially this season. After filling a valuable reserve role in his first two campaigns, Ginobili is now starting for San Antonio, serving as the team’s secondary scoring threat alongside two-time NBA MVP Tim Duncan. Ginobili is enjoying career numbers in points, field goal percentage, three-point percentage, assists and rebounds and playing with the same frenetic, fast-paced style that continues to befuddle opponents, coaches and, yes, even amaze his teammates.

“A very different game,” said Brent Barry. “He is so awkward and just takes bizarre steps. Nothing seemingly fundamental...but it works. He is so effective.”

Even Ginobili can’t pinpoint the loosey-goosey style of play that has been instrumental in the Spurs' recent success, including their march to the NBA championship over the New Jersey Nets in the 2003 NBA Finals.

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
“Oh, I have no clue,” Ginobili said. “I always played kind of like this, crazy and unpredictable. But it turned more like this while I was 18, 19. Before then I wasn’t like this. When I was 19, I was worse than this. My coaches, they used to get so upset. Sometimes happy, but sometimes so upset. I don’t know, but it comes from somewhere. It is probably how I feel the game.”

Ginobili’s road to NBA success was far from traditional. After being selected by the Spurs in 1999, the 6-6 guard played three more seasons in the Italian League where he earned league MVP honors twice and in one season, led Virtus Bologna to the championship and Euroleague Finals where he also picked up MVP honors. In 2002, Ginobili helped his native country, Argentina, to the silver medal in the World Championship.

In a career full of honors and accolades, perhaps the greatest was when Ginobili, who averaged 19.3 points and shot .576 from the field, led Argentina to a gold medal victory in the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.

“Winning an NBA championship is the biggest thing that can happen professionally,” Ginobili said. “But representing your country with more than 30 million people cheering for you and then seeing you up there on top of the podium … it’s hard to find any words [for] that.”