SPRINGFIELD, Massachusetts — Manu Ginobili has called many places home, including Argentina, Italy and San Antonio. Springfield, Massachusetts, is now joining that list as Ginobili was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“Highly unlikely outcome for a kid born from where I was born, but super grateful of every single person and team along the way,” Ginobili said.
Aside from his favorite players — Michael Jordan and Tim Hardaway — Ginobili knew little about basketball in the United States. He never knew there was a Basketball Hall of Fame. All he knew was the game that he loved, the game he grew up watching his family play.
“My city was a basketball city. They loved soccer too, but it’s a basketball city, but everyone talked about basketball,” Ginobili said. “We had in a city when I was born...250,000...we had 22, 20 teams, every age and we competed every single weekend.”
Ginobili was the first player from Argentina to get drafted to the NBA and had immediate success. His accolades include four NBA championships, a Sixth Man of the Year Award and an Olympic gold medal.
“My biggest accomplishments individually are not MVPs or things like that. I’m here because I played with incredible teams, I know that I value that,” Ginobili said.
Ginobili was selfless about his success. He credits his teammates like the greatest power-forward and Spur ever, Tim Duncan.
It’s a characteristic that Chris Mullin, a two-time Hall of Fame basketball player, liked about Ginobili.
“The ultimate champion, ultimate competitor and just great team player, great teammate. He’s had such a huge impact on the globalization of the game,” Mullin said.
Ginobili’s dominate play in the NBA and in the Olympics helped open the floodgates for international basketball players to be taken more seriously. Spectrum News 1 asked Jerry Colangelo — who is the chair of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame board of governors and was the former managing director of team USA Basketball — about Ginobili’s dominance globally.
“Argentina was one of our concerns, and you can begin and end with Ginobili. Just the fact that he was on the court made them a threat,” Colangelo said.
Ginobili did things like make the extra pass, dive for the loose ball and take the charge. That’s one of the many reasons two-time Hall of Famer Charles Barkley loves Ginobili.
“He didn’t get to the NBA until he was like 25, which is really a late bloomer. And to have the success after that age and to keep it to 40 is incredible,” Barkley said. “He’s been one of my favorite basketball players of all time and I got a lot of love and admiration for him.”
Even though he’s received high praise from hall of fame coaches and basketball players, it still didn’t sink in that he is a Hall of Famer.
“The dream of playing in the NBA wasn’t realistic growing up, but I did invest a lot of time with a ball, shooting, dribbling and just breathing basketball,” Colangelo said.