“The Block.” Two weeks ago, so many of us in South Texas just couldn’t stop referencing it.
One of your friends probably shared a photo, video, or a meme of San Antonio Spurs’ Manu Ginobili leaping up in the air to block Houston Rockets’, James Harden. Taken as a play itself, which came at the end of overtime, where Harden had the chance to force a double overtime, was thrilling on its own accord.
Ginobili’s highlights from Game 5 on May 9
As great as that play was, what really makes it special is everything that surrounded it. Here is James Harden, who is considered one of the favorites to walk away with the MVP award for the 2016 – 2017 season, getting blocked by 39-year-old Ginobili who is near the end of his basketball journey.
Harden, one of the most lethal offensive players in basketball today, got shut down by a player that has heavily influenced his style of play. Ginobili, in that brief moment in time, still had a thing or two to teach Harden in those final seconds.
It also might be remembered as the last great moment in Ginobili’s Hall of Fame career.
Ginobili was part of what I (and many others) consider to be the greatest trio in NBA history. Along with fellow Spurs players Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, the three became the winningnest trio in NBA history, winning 575 times during the regular season and an additional 126 more during the postseason. Those are numbers that may never be broken. Because of salary, injuries, job opportunities, ego, and sometimes just plain life, accomplished players like these three don’t play together for this long. Duncan retired in 2016 and Parker’s future is currently uncertain.
Highlights of the trio in Game 4 of the 2007 NBA Finals.
“I’ll remember how we felt together, and we cried together, and what you said after the games,” Manu Ginobili talking to Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Gregg Popovich about what he’ll remember after they leave basketball in Champions Revealed, which was filmed after they won the 2014 NBA Championship. “What you communicated, what you felt, is really strong [to me]. I think that togetherness is what I’ll remember.”
Ginobili, Parker and Duncan celebrating their 2014 Championship together
After that now iconic block on Harden, the Spurs eliminated the Rockets in Game 6 to advance to the Western Conference Finals to play against the Golden State Warriors.
Unfortunately, things haven’t been too fun as late for us Spurs fans. We are down 3 – 0 after losing Kawhi Leonard in Game 1 when the young star injured his ankle. The Spurs were up by 23 points when Leonard was still in the game, and they just couldn’t keep that lead without his superstar presence after he left. Ginobili didn’t give up in that game though, managing to put up 17 points in that brutal loss. Game 2 wasn’t a kind one to our hero from Argentina, but in Game 3 we saw something beautiful.
With a squad that was missing starting point guard Tony Parker, our only All Star in Leonard, and backup David Lee, Ginobili still believed in himself and gave everything he had left on Saturday night. His body has suffered so many injuries and he’s 39 years old but he still wants this badly. He had an incredible 21 points on 7 of 9 shooting, leading the way as best as he can against a super team full of All Stars. Just so competitive, so fierce, even at this late stage of his career. But it wasn’t enough, and the Spurs still fell to the Warriors by 12 points.
Ginobili highlights from Game 3, May 20.
If the Spurs lose again tonight, this will probably be the last time we ever see Ginobili in a Spurs jersey. The man who played a major role in bringing the Spurs four championships (2003, 2005, 2007, 2014), a man who could have been the Finals MVP in 2005, the man who led the Argentina National Basketball Team to the Gold Medal at the 2004 Olympics, could very well be saying goodbye tonight.
Ginobili hitting a buzzer beater to beat Serbia in the Olympics in 2004.
Manu Ginobili’s highlights from Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
I’ve said this before, and it’s something I will continue to say: I don’t think anyone outside of Argentina, San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley will ever truly appreciate or love Ginobili quite like we do. Every star player is special in their own way, but Ginobili was just so special to us.
He could break our heart with a bad pass and then make us fall in love with him all over again with a clutch three-pointer, all in the span of a minute in the 4th quarter or overtime.
Ginobili hitting a clutch shot to beat the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Semi-Finals in 2013.
“I went from wanting to trade him on the spot to wanting to cook breakfast for him tomorrow morning,” Popovich told reporters, referencing Ginobili’s struggles early on before winning the game. “That’s the truth. When I talk to him and say, ‘Manu,’ he goes, ‘This is what I do.’ That’s what he’s going to tell me. I stopped coaching him a long time ago.”
Year after year, he sacrificed so much for our enjoyment as Spurs fans. Hall of Fame basketball player Charles Barkley may have said some problematic (or problematique, as I like to say) things at times, but let’s not act like we didn’t scream right along with him for years when seeing those Ginobili highlights on NBA on TNT: GINOBILI!!!!!! GINOBILI!!!!!! GINOBILI!!!!!!
If tonight is the end, and the Spurs go down 4 – 0 against the Warriors, I’m going to try to look on the bright side to all of this. We got to enjoy Ginobili for one more season, and we got to experience his unique brilliance one last time. No man like Manu. No man like Manu.