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What is the one thing you’ll always remember about Manu Ginobili?
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David Aldridge: That he played with no fear — fear of defeat, of opponent, of consequences, of Gregg Popovich. When Ginobili was on the floor, it wasn’t that he was cocky or didn’t respect his competitors. He did. But he would try anything, at any time. Score or the “rules” of basketball didn’t apply; if he was open, he let it fly. His will to compete was as good as any of the all-time greats. There is no 2005 title for San Antonio without Ginobili’s performance down the stretch in Game 7 against the Pistons, and it was a testament to the emotional makeup of the Spurs that Tim Duncan, afterward, was clear that it was Manu who won it for them.
Steve Aschburner: How he built this terrific, widely respected Hall of Fame-worthy career while starting a total of 349 NBA games over 16 seasons. That’s one-third of his 1,057 appearances, in a league where starting vs. coming off the bench is one of the most emotional and drama-filled issues players and coaches face. Didn’t matter to Ginobili, who was fine playing the role asked of him by the Spurs. He wound up with twice as many rings (four) as All-Star appearances, and per-36 stats through the prime of his particular career (age 27 to 34) that screamed all-NBA: 20.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.8 spg. He was a poster guy for the old coaching bromide that it’s not who starts, it’s who finishes – even though most players of Ginobili’s caliber would have hissy fits over his bench status.
Shaun Powell: What’s unforgettable is how Manu never cheated his team or teammates or coaches or fans or Argentina at any time. He gave his all in every game, be it NBA or international play. He stayed in great shape and showed up at tip-off. Never saw him take a possession off. If he made a poor decision with the ball, he usually followed with a better one. Ultimate teammate, ultimate competitor. There is no higher compliment.
John Schuhmann: The spirit with which he played the game. He came from a soccer nation, but had an undeniable passion for the sport of basketball, and passed that passion to to his countrymen. Two of the most memorable moments in the last 20 years of international hoops, because of the emotions that they evoked, were Argentina’s win at the 2004 Olympics and Ginobili’s farewell in Rio two years ago. He was a complete player, a terrific scorer and a solid defender. And after the retirements of Jason Kidd and Steve Nash, Ginobili had the best vision in the league, seeing passes that others didn’t (and having the chutzpah to make them). He was a joy to watch.
Sekou Smith: Manu’s fearlessness and competitive spirit always resonated with me and always will. He didn’t hit the NBA with some presumptuous game or attitude in regards to his fit after becoming a star elsewhere. He stayed true to the unique style that made him an international star and forced his way into the elite category of championship competitors in the league with repeated big time performances on the biggest stages. His work with the golden group from his native Argentina only served to drive home those same feelings I had about his fearlessness and competitive spirit. He was a true showman, a guy who played the game in an unorthodox but beautiful way that elevated the action when he was on the floor.
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