For several San Antonio Spurs fans, Manu Ginobili is their favorite player. He whips passes where they normally wouldn’t go, leaves decade younger defenders falling to the floor, steps up and takes over in crucial moments and awes fans on a game-by-game basis. Oh, and speaking Spanish doesn’t hurt either.
Aside from that he has respect from his teammates and peers around the league, and according to a recent report, via Twitter, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sees Ginobili as much more than one of the “big three.”
Messina on a dinner with Popovich: ‘He stopped the dinner we were having to toast for Manu Ginobili. Popovich said that Ginobili for Spurs has the same importance Larry Bird had for the Celtics or Magic Johnson had for the Lakers. I was almost crying’ (Ettore Messina).
While there’s no doubt Ginobili is crucial to the team’s success and has sometimes taken over as the Spurs’ best player, like he did in the 2005 NBA Finals, that’s quite the compliment. While Bird had big name players around him like Parish and McHale among others, and Magic had Worthy and Kareem, Bird and Magic were clearly the cog that made their respective teams run efficiently.
While many could argue that Tony Parker, who took over last season, could also be given that comparison and Duncan has been one of the Spurs’ most important players for over a decade, I see where Popovich is coming from.
Ginobili’s work ethic on the floor speaks volumes and he’s always been one of the best players on both ends of the floor throughout his career. And while he may not finish his career with the same milestones or be mentioned in that company, Ginobili has one thing either of the aforementioned players don’t. The combination of winning three, championships, a gold medal and several euroleague MVPs.