Remembering the two-decade-long career of Argentine basketball legend Manu Ginóbili
~Matthew Morhiser, Sports Editor~
On Sep. 17, 1968, Hispanic Heritage Week was signed into law by then President Lyndon B. Johnson. Its legislation was sponsored by California Representative Edward R. Roybal, and it was scheduled to take place every Sep. 15 and 16 of each subsequent year. Almost 20 years later, former President Ronald Reagan promoted the week into an entire month through the use of law. After sponsorship from California Representative Esteban Edward Torres and amendments from Illinois Senator Paul Simon, the law came into effect on Aug. 17, 1988. Now, and still to this day, the period of reflection lasts from Sep. 15 to Oct. 15.
Over the passing years of celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, Hispanic athletes across every sport are honored and remembered for their commitment to their crafts and innate ability to perform at the highest of levels. One such example of a Hispanic athlete who earned recognition for breaking records and molds during their tenure in their chosen sport is former National Basketball Association (NBA) player and All-Star, Manu Ginóbili.
The Argentine and Italian Ginóbili is a four time NBA Champion as a member of the San Antonio Spurs, and he won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award, the award given to the most consistently outstanding player to primarily come off their team’s bench, in 2008. Additionally, Ginóbili is, as mentioned earlier, a two time NBA All-Star in 2005 and 2011, and his no. 20 jersey was retired by the Spurs organization in 2019, only one year after his official retirement.
While Ginóbili is on the short list for the most preeminent Hispanic, or European for that matter, basketball players to ever play a game in the NBA, he is also, perhaps, the greatest professional Latin-American basketball player in history, as well.
Ginóbili made his professional debut for the Andino Sports Club of Argentina’s Liga Nacional de Básquet, which translates in English to “National Basketball League.” The Andino Sports Club, which is now defunct, saw Ginóbili compete for only one year, and Ginóbili would eventually travel to Italy in 1999 to play for Viola Reggio Calabria and Virtus Bologna of Lega Serie A. Ginóbili played a total of three seasons in Italy. During his time in Lega Serie A, Ginóbili averaged 18 points, 4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 3.5 steals and shot a .505 field goal percentage off of an average of 11.9 field goal attempts per game. With Virtus Bologna, Ginóbili won the EuroLeague Championship in 2001 where he was the Finals’ Most Valuable Player, and he was listed to the All-EuroLeague Fist Team the following year in 2002.
After the 2001-02 season, Ginóbili finally became an NBA player by joining the Spurs for the 2002-03 season after being drafted by the team in 1999 in the second round with the fifty-seventh overall pick out of 58. In addition to the accolades referenced above, Ginóbili averaged 13.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and had a free throw percentage of .827 off a career 4,089 attempts.
However, Ginóbili’s greatest achievements perhaps lie in his Olympics and International Basketball Federation (FIBA) careers. At the 2002 FIBA World Championship, or today known as the FIBA Basketball World Cup, in Indianapolis, Ginóbili led Argentina Men’s National Basketball team to a silver medal finish behind FR Yugoslavia, the national basketball team for both Serbia and Montenegro. Ginóbili competed against the likes of Germany’s Dirk Nowitzki, China’s Yao Ming, Spain’s Pau Gasol, the United States’ Paul Pierce and FR Yugoslavia’s Peja Stojaković on route to a second place finish. He joined Nowitzki, Ming, Stojaković and New Zealand’s Pero Cameron to make up that year’s All-Tournament team.
Still, Ginóbili’s crowning achievement came during the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. Along with fellow NBA player and current Lega Serie A player Luis Scola, Ginóbili led Argentina to a gold medal victory. On their path to the gold, Argentina beat the likes of Serbia and Montenegro with Vladimir Radmanović and China with Ming, but their biggest hurdle came against the United States in the tournament’s semifinals. Leading the team with 29 points, Ginóbili and Argentina eliminated a United States team led by Allen Iverson and Tim Duncan by a final score of 89 to 81. Ginóbili led his country into a gold medal match against Italy, and they made quick work of the Italian National Team by sending them packing with a final score of 84 to 69. This period in Argentinian basketball history is now referred to as “The Golden Age.”
Outside of being the most decorated Hispanic basketball player of all time, Ginóbili continues to work with the “Mama Margarita House” in his hometown of Bahía Blanca, Argentina through the assistance of his own charity, the Manu Foundation. The non-profit organization provides food and shelter to poverty stricken children from the ages of six to 14. In addition to the Mama Margarita House, Ginóbili’s foundation is also a frequent donor to the Bahía Blanca Municipal Hospital. This Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate the accolades and accomplishments of future Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Ginóbili, but we also celebrate the world he has made better for other Latin-Americans.
All statistics and award information obtained from: https://www.basketball-reference.com/players/g/ginobma01.html and https://www.basketball-reference.com/international/players/manu-ginobili-1.html
Hispanic Heritage Month information obtained from: https://www.loc.gov/law/help/commemorative-observations/hispanic-heritage.php
Andido Sports Club information obtained from: https://www.facebook.com/ANDINO-BASQUET-ASC-119302334821474/
FIBA information obtained from: http://www.fiba.basketball/pages/eng/fa/event/p/sid/3118/tid/237/_/2002_World_Championship_for_Men_/index.html
Olympics information obtained from: https://www.olympic.org/athens-2004/basketball/basketball-men
Information on Ginóbili’s charity efforts obtained from: https://www.mysanantonio.com/sports/spurs/article/Manu-s-foundation-aids-Argentine-poor-11237189.php
For more information on the Mama Margarita House, visit: http://www.mamamargaritafoundation.org/