One more step towards the inevitable. So that, definitely, Manu Ginóbili is an eternal legend in the world of sports.
The Naishmith Basketball Hall of Fame announced this Friday, as part of the All-Star Game preview in Cleveland, that the Argentine is one of the 10 finalists (of the 15 former players nominated) to be chosen in early April, during the NCAA Final 4 to be held in New Orleans (from 1 to 4), and enthroned in September, during a ceremony to be held on 9 and 10 in Springfield, Massachusetts, with tickets going on sale in the near future.
A sung team that, not for that, takes away emotion and, more than anything, importance for the player and Argentine sport. In December, when the HOF announced the 49 candidates, the Bahian was listed as the first prominent name in the press release. That was a clue, an indication supported by his overwhelming merits to enter, in his first attempt, four years after his retirement. For MG20 to be the first Spanish-speaking player and the third Latin American player -after the arrivals of the Brazilians Oscar Schmidt and Ubiratan Pereira, in addition to Hortencia among women- to be immortalized in the HOF, three different filters must be overcome – two have already passed – and be voted on by different specialists who form the evaluation committee.
Everything is taken into account: from titles to his legacy to behavior. And not only for what has been done in the NBA but also in the National Team, Europe and even Argentina. It is a combo that measures the transcendence of the player, the worldwide contribution to this sport, the second with the most federations in the world – behind soccer. Everything he did (whether he was a player, coach, manager, referee or collaborator), what he conquered, the impact he had in sports and even in society, based on his popularity, idolatry and behavior off the field. Everything comes into play, at different levels and that is what the members in charge will analyze.
The Hall of Fame works through selection committees.. The first two are the North American Committee and the Women’s Committee, the former with nine members and the latter with seven. Manu is included in the first and needed seven of the nine votes to advance. Then the nominees go to the Honors Committee, which ultimately votes on the finalists, as he did. He needed 18 votes of the 24 that make up that group. Now, in these 40 days that remain until the announcement, the Board of Directors called the Board of Trustees, which is made up of people already included in the HOF, journalists and specialists, must review each finalist, her merits, actions or statements. If any of that has damaged the integrity of the game, he can be removed from the list. This may include immoral attitudes, ethics or problems with the law that have damaged the image of the sport.
The choice is not easy. Each finalist must obtain at least 18 votes out of a possible 24 in each of these two committees. That is, if you get 19 votes in one and 17 in another, your induction is not approved. Now Manu needs 18 more in the next instance. Not easy. In fact, Chauncey Billups, NBA champion with the Pistons, did not enter last year and is now back as a finalist.
Ginobili’s chances, though, are high because his resume is too valuable, too powerful, without a blemish on his behavior. If we talk about achievements, we must start with his four NBA championship rings (2003, 2005, 2007 and 2013), although the two Olympic medals won with the selected team (gold in 2004 and bronze in 2008) cannot be ignored. ), the other two titles he won (2001 Pre-World Cup and 2011 Pre-Olympic), the world runner-up in 2002 and the 104 official matches he played over 18 years (1998-2016). Not to mention the Euroleague won by Kinder Bologna in 2011, being the MVP, the triple crown adding the Italian Cup and the Lega, and a second Italian Cup with consecutive MVPs, milestones that made him the best player in Europe, before leaving to the NBA.
IN the USA he had two selections for the All Star (2005 and 2011), an award for the Best Sixth Man of the season (2008), was twice elected to the third best quintet of the season and was one vote away from being co-MVP of one final (2005). He also made history as part of a team that went down in history. Member of one of the Big 3 -along with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker- more winners -the #1 in wins- and remembered. His record of 762 wins and 295 losses yields the best winning percentage (72.1%) in history for a player who has played more than 1,000 games in the regular phase (sum 1,057). Gino is the leading stealer (1,392) and 3-point shooter (1,495) in Spurs history, and remains fourth in franchise points and assists. For all this, in addition to playing until he was 40 years old, his No. 20 shirt was withdrawn.
And these are just numbers, awards and titles. But Manu was a giant for much more than this. His legacy and importance in the history of the NBA and basketball in general goes much further. Less than four months ago, the NBA did not include him among the 75 most important players (or best, because he never clarified how he put together that ranking), despite the fact that MG20 made enough merits. But, of course, in that election, Manu was competing against others, against the best of the best. Now he is different. It is not him or others. There is no maximum or minimum to select each year for the HOF. It depends on a panel of personalities who must choose if what he did, at all levels, is enough to be perpetuated in a place that few have reached.
It is believed that in the current election many more arguments will be taken, those that MG accumulated as few, of those that are not measurable. Until 2001, Manu had only won one handball tournament in Bahía Blanca. In fact, he had gone down with Bahiense del Norte and had been cut from a selection of cadets in the city. But, after shining in the second division of Italy, he was hired by the team of the moment in Europe (Kinder Bologna) and, in just a few months, he became their star. From Italy and Europe, being the MVP of the final of the most important tournament on the continent. So was his jump. And from there he did not stop. He came into the NBA as a rookie, having to prove himself. His teammates did not know him and his DT did not trust him because he was not a lover of his risky style. But Popovich realized that she was a little gem, different, what a structured team needed… And he let it be. “I learned with him. He taught me to admire things a little more and not control everything. It was hard for me, I let him do what he did, I came out of my box”, admitted Pop. There is no doubt that the coach made him a better player, but neither did Ginobili make him a better coach.
From the first season to the last, the Bahiense was essential, being a starter or a substitute. Of course, because there is another historical milestone that makes it giant. MG voluntarily agreed to be a reserve when he was already a star. Manu had everything to be the leader of a franchise, but they asked him to leave the bench and he did it without saying a word. Despite the fact that, along the way, he lost minutes, shots, prominence, flashes, chances of reaching prizes and elections (of ideal quintets, All Star) and, therefore, millions of dollars. He genuinely believed that it was better for the team and he did it, resigning what no other figure had ever resigned. And so he valued an award (Best Sixth Man) that was underestimated. In the past, yes, there had been players who had been substitutes, but never with the status and present of Manu. That is why the award gained relevance. That’s why he should be called Manu Ginóbili (and not John Havlicek, like today). And for him, suddenly, the stars began to accept that role. It was no longer little, the Bahian made it important, prestigious… Giving everything for the team. It seems little, but it is huge. A legacy that remained in history and that will be taken into account for the HOF.
Manu could have better statistics, more prizes, elections to the All-Star Game and even millions of dollars. But he conceived a way to play. And to win. Giving everything for collective improvement. And he did not do it with words but with actions. Thus he changed the way of understanding success, precisely in a competition in which numbers, individual awards, lights, highlights prevail. Maybe that’s why he wasn’t in the Top 75… But Manu was a countercultural example and that imprint is very deep. But beware, he was also a crack as a player, also contrary to what he sells. It is true that he could make the cutest play, the most creative, or have star numbers or definitions, but he never stopped being a worker, throwing himself on the floor or doing every little thing to win, as Pop likes to say. Everyone admits that, without him, the Spurs had not achieved four titles. Manu was essential because he did what the team needed, he relieved Parker’s work -he left him in that more individual and unbalanced role, dealing more with the team’s assembly-, of Duncan -he complemented him by being a demon on the perimeter-, of Pop -acting as game generator, definer, defender, depending on the moment of each game-… He was the spark and the engine of the best bench, the one responsible for the operation of one of the best offenses of all time… He was everything that the team needed. Showing off or not so much.
Manu did everything. A versatile, multifunctional player. A superstar without looking like it. And even a revolutionary, owner of the best movement in history, according to a popular vote made by the NBA itself. An action, the Eurostep, which he did not create, but he did patent, being a registered trademark in history. A play that he had made since he was a boy, naturally, but he became so because of his style and because of how he created spaces in an area where there never is, the painted area. A way to change direction in the middle of a drive to the rim. A way to unlock a new level and quietly revolutionize the game. Yes, because today many of the stars use it in their drives to the basket. It should be called Argenstep.
But, of course, speaking of Argentina, how can we forget that it was the cornerstone of the mythical Golden Generation, of the best National Team in the history of Argentine sports, the same one that fell in love with all Argentines -beyond its achievements- and that It changed the world stage, which served as an example to many teams, including the United States, full of arrogant NBA who believed that they were only going to win because of talent. Argentina, with Manu as a star, twice brought the empire to its knees, the first at home, in a World Cup, and then in an Olympic semifinal, nothing more and nothing less. Manu, in both, was the great star. Thus, with him, being the best of a shockingly talented and professional litter, who won and moved at the same time, Argentine basketball occupied a place on a world level that no one imagined. For a decade and a half. Nothing less.
All this will be taken into account by the HOF experts, including the example that was off the court, someone who was never in a controversy related to basketball. Someone who had everything, including charisma. That he showed, with facts, that every day you can be better, that he taught the importance of preparation, hard work, routine, habits, professionalism, that sport is much more than what happens on the field and, of course, the extreme concept of team play. Manu was so many things that we could continue writing a lot more.
Now we have to wait until April to know the announcement. Just missing that. A sung selection. That, not for that, we will stop celebrating. Because it will be a strict act of justice for an athlete who has already left such a deep mark that he does not need awards or elections to be a legend.
Manu Ginóbili was chosen as a finalist to enter the Basketball Hall of Fame: how his inclusion will be decided