The highly entertaining Argentine guard Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs announced his retirement Monday, continuing the exodus of pillars from one of the most successful franchises in N.B.A. history.
The decision was announced by Ginobili on Twitter:
Ginobili, 41, decided against returning to the Spurs for a 17th season, opting instead to walk away just weeks after his longtime backcourt mate, Tony Parker, joined the Charlotte Hornets in free agency — and, of course, after San Antonio’s blockbuster trade that sent the superstar forward Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors.
The departures of Ginobili, Parker and Leonard, along with the July 2016 retirement of the Hall of Fame-bound big man Tim Duncan, mean that the longtime San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich has outlasted all of the key members of the Spurs’ last championship team in 2014. When the Spurs open training camp in late September, it will indeed be the first in Popovich’s 22 full seasons in charge without Ginobili, Parker or Duncan present.
The TNT broadcaster and Hall of Fame forward Charles Barkley, whose drawn-out screams of “Ginobili” on “Inside the N.B.A.” have been a league fixture for years, told The Times upon hearing the news: “Today my Manu retired — it’s like losing a family member. It was an honor and pleasure to watch you play. See you soon at the Hall of Fame.”
Ginobili, like Duncan, is another certain future Naismith Hall of Famer and will be remembered as a serial winner, thanks to his numerous club successes in Europe before helping the Spurs win four championships and his many honors with Argentina’s national team.
The Spurs selected Ginobili with the 57th (and second-to-last) pick of the 1999 draft. Ginobili’s subsequent emergence as a key difference-maker, whether coming off the bench or starting, has long been regarded as perhaps the prime example of San Antonio’s ability to find gems in the lower reaches of the draft. But team officials have privately conceded for years that they would have drafted Ginobili much higher had they known what they had.
Ginobili stayed in Europe for three more seasons after the Spurs drafted him, winning Euroleague Most Valuable Player honors in Italy before finally jumping to the N.B.A. for the 2002-03 campaign. The Spurs won a championship in Ginobili’s first season and added titles in 2005, 2007 and 2014 with Ginobili — a two-time N.B.A. All-Star — often serving as Popovich’s go-to game changer when it came time to shake up the lineup.
Fresh off his third title, Ginobili averaged career highs in points (19.5) and rebounds (4.8) in 2007-08 and took home the league’s Sixth Man of the Year Award.
On the international stage, as the biggest star from a golden generation in Argentina, Ginobili led his country to a silver medal at the 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis and gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens — stunning results for what was not known as a basketball nation until the likes of Ginobili, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and Carlos Delfino emerged. Argentina failed to qualify for the Sydney Olympics in 2000, then stunned a United States team that featured a young LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony en route to gold four years later.
Ginobili appeared in 218 playoff games for the Spurs over his 16 seasons and will retire ranked in the club’s top five in total games played (1,057), points (14,043), assists (4,001) and steals (1,392).
Popovich, who turns 70 in January, has one year left on the five-year contract he signed after the 2014 title run. He joked with reporters for years about being the first to follow Duncan out the exit door, but Popovich has stuck around to try to launch a new era of winning basketball in South Texas, with the newly acquired DeMar DeRozan and the holdover All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge as his new franchise cornerstones.