A City and Team Without Manu

Recently, there have been trade rumors circling the Spurs, and often times, the player the Spurs rumored would have to part with is Manu Ginobili. It seems for the Spurs to get any value from a trade, they would have to part ways with Ginobili.

His contract expires at the end of this season, and plenty of teams could use the services of such a battle tested veteran. But as the trade deadline gets closer, the thought of trading Ginobili seems less and less enticing. Even if it is for the chance to gain All Star center Amare Stoudemire.

Try and think about a world without Manu. All the things we Spurs fans will miss. All the things that made him stand apart from the other players of the league, and the legacy that he will leave behind if he is traded.

Silver and Black runs through Manu’s veins. He is sixth all time in steals for the Spurs with 790, and is ninth in assist with 1884. He has scored 7559 points for the Spurs, which is ninth all time. But, to the City of San Antonio, he is more than a numbers on a list. He transcends the basketball court and is a part of our community. Let me put it this way, Manu Ginobili is a piece of thread, woven into the cultural fabric of San Antonio. He face is plastered on billboards all along interstate 10 and 35. Even here in Austin, he has billboards that make me proud to be a Time Warner customer.

Even though he had been playing with the Silver and Black since the 2002-2003 season, and was a vital part of our 2003 championship, it wasn’t until the 2004-2005 season when a shaggy haired Manu stole our hearts with his unconventional style of play. Never before had we seen a player shred through opposing defenses and finish with thunderous dunks at the rim so effortlessly. His unorthodox style of play was a breath of fresh air to us Spurs fans who were tired of being labeled as “boring.” He injected excitement and energy into not only the Spurs organization, but the city of San Antonio.

The 2005 playoffs was Manu’s coming out party. That summer, he turned basketball into a dance, a graceful ballet, leaving all of us breathless and yearning for more. In the Western Conference Finals, the 62-20 Phoenix Suns had no answer for Ginobili. He was seemingly able to get to the basket at will. In one of the greatest Spurs moments of all time, Manu crossed Shawn Marion, went around the back, and did a reverse spin left handed lay up all over Amare Stoudemire. Truly vintage Ginobili. Then in Game seven of the 2005 NBA Finals, in the final quarter with the Spurs trailing, he rolled off a screen, crossed Rasheed Wallace, and finished with a monstrous dunk, shifting the momentum back to the Spurs. Another great moment in Spurs history.

After the 2005 championship, “Manu-mania” hit San Antonio like a storm. Manu, not Finals MVP Duncan, was on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Championship edition. Everywhere you looked, people were in the number 20 jersey, and it seemed San Antonio had a new favorite Spur. Women loved his long hair and good looks, men loved his fearless style of play, and San Antonio, being predominantly Hispanic, loved his Latin background.

No player in the history of the Spurs as had such an emotional impact on us like Manu Ginobili, and there is no better example of this then game 7 of the 2006 NBA Western Conference Semi-Finals. After hitting a three pointer to give the Spurs the lead in the final seconds of the game, he fouled Dirk Nowitzki at the other end while he was shooting, leading to an and one. And that’s just Manu. There are times when he does things so remarkable, so unbelievable, that we ask ourselves, how did he do that? Other times, he’s so reckless and careless, we wonder how he’s even a professional basketball player. It’s always hot or cold with him. There’s been so many ups and downs with him that Six Flags could open a roller coaster called the “Manu Maniac.”

It seems every Spurs fan has their favorite “Manu Moment.” For me, it has to be the January 21, 2005 game against none other then the Phoenix Suns. Going into that game, the Spurs were 33and 9 and the Suns were 31and 10. It was one of those games that felt like a midseason playoff game. I was watching the game with two of my closest friends, and before the tip off, one of my friends said, “Tonight Manu is going for 48!”

And he didn’t disappoint.

Manu scored exactly 48 points on 16 of 22 from the field. He shot a staggering 72 percent from the floor. The Spurs won 128 to 123 in overtime at Phoenix. And I couldn’t talk for the next week. I yelled more during that game then any other regular season game, ever.

That’s what we’ll miss most. Those classic Manu moments that left us gasping for air. Those moments when we scratch our heads and say what just happened? Or in January, when he dove out of bounds to save a ball in overtime against the Thunder. I remember thinking to myself, “What did I just see?”

It’s those moments that made Manu stand apart from all other Spurs players. Its those moments that seperated him from the entire league. He made us proud to be a Spurs fan. He made us proud to wear the Silver and Black.

Think about a world without Manu. No longer will we look at our friends and say,”How did he do that?” or “Manu I can’t believe you did that!” There will be no more through the legs passes or no look around the back passes. No more Bill Schoening,”That’s a Manu tres!”, or my personal favorite,”Manu, that is how you do the voodoo that you do so well!” No more of the little things we take for granted every time he takes the floor.

Can you imagine Manu Ginobili, in that hideous purple and orange? The sheer thought of him in a Phoenix Suns jersey should anger any die hard Spurs fan. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen him shatter the dreams of Suns fans. It was Manu Ginobili who crushed any hopes of them winning a Championship with 33 points, 11 rebounds and six assist and four steals in the series clinching game six of the 2007 NBA Western Conference Semifinals. I’m pretty sure Suns fans aren’t to fond of Ginobili.

So if the trade deadline passes, and Manu is no longer in the Silver and Black, we can’t take it personal. We can’t hold it against R.C. Buford, because the NBA is a business, and teams have to do what is necessary to win a championship. If he gets traded, he’ll get a standing ovation every time he returns to the Alamo City. And when he retires, the Spurs will hang his number 20 jersey in the rafters, right next to the three NBA championships he helped bring to San Antonio.

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