Manu Ginobili retired at age 41 Monday after a “fabulous journey” in which he helped the San Antonio Spurs win four NBA championships in 16 seasons with the club.
The left-handed guard with the quick move and sure shot had a pro career that lasted 23 seasons in all, starting with stints in Italy and his native Argentina. He came to San Antonio in 2002 and formed what was a “Big 3” with the Spurs, alongside Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.
That era is now officially over: Duncan has retired, and Parker elected this summer to sign with the Charlotte Hornets.
Ginobili, the No. 57 pick in the 1999 draft, averaged 13.3 points and 3.8 assists in 1,057 regular-season games. He was a two-time All-Star and was the league’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2008.
“Today, with a wide range of feelings, I’m announcing my retirement from basketball,” Ginobili wrote on Twitter in making the announcement. “IMMENSE GRATITUDE to everyone (family, friends, teammates, coaches, staff, fans) involved in my life in the last 23 years. It’s been a fabulous journey. Way beyond my wildest dreams.”
The image Ginobili chose to accompany that tweet: a photo of him walking off the floor, away from the camera, with four fingers aloft — signifying his four titles.
Today, with a wide range of feelings, I'm announcing my retirement from basketball. IMMENSE GRATITUDE to everyone (family, friends, teammates, coaches, staff, fans) involved in my life in the last 23 years. It's been a fabulous journey. Way beyond my wildest dreams. pic.twitter.com/3MLCUtmd6K— Manu Ginobili (@manuginobili) August 27, 2018
Ginobili leaves as an absolute Spurs legend: He teamed with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich for 135 playoff wins, the third-most for any player-coach combo in NBA history.
The only two with more? Popovich and Duncan won 157, and Popovich and Parker won 137.
And Ginobili, even though he was often coming off the bench, has a resume of postseason production like almost no one else in NBA history. Only two players have more than 800 rebounds, 800 assists and 300 three-pointers in their playoff careers — Ginobili and LeBron James.
Ginobili’s final game was April 24, when the Spurs were ousted from the Western Conference playoffs by the eventual champion Golden State Warriors. San Antonio lost the series 4-1.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr was once a teammate of Ginobili’s in San Antonio. And as Golden State celebrated moving on to the second round, Kerr offered Ginobili a sales pitch.
“Keep going, OK? Why not?” Kerr told Ginobili that day at Oracle Arena as they shared an embrace. “Hey, we met Roger Federer this year in China. I said ‘Why do you keep playing?’ He said ‘I love it.’ If you love it, keep going.”
Moments later, Ginobili left an NBA court as a player for the last time.