As Manu Ginobili’s career approaches its conclusion, let’s take a look at how he has refined his game from a high flying acrobat that blasted on the scene during the San Antonio Spurs’ second title run during the 2003 playoffs to being part of “the Big 3," along with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.
Ginobili is a prime example of the benefits that arise from the Spurs’ draft-and-stash strategy. He was drafted with the 57th overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft (28th pick in the 2nd round). The Spurs decided to let him stay over seas and get playing time and experience and find the right time later. This decision allowed Ginobili to build up his confidence with more playing time and the ability to learn how to lead a team without the NBA pressure.
Check out video of Manu's first steps to becoming one of the best players in the NBA including some old footage of him in action as a kid.
During his time in Italy, he was averaging over 16.8 points per game, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. His time in the Italian league, with Virtus Bologna, culminated with 2 straight Italian League MVPs, and a Euroleague MVP along with titles in both leagues.
Next he took his flying act from the courts of Italy to the NBA, where he was a key part of the Spurs’ second title run. Ginobili was the slashing player that made you hold your breath on every dash to the rim. He showed that not only was he able to fly through the sky, but also distribute to his teammates as well as create his own shot.
Ginobili’s style when he came in to the NBA could be comparable to the Stephen Jackson. He had the ability to take your breath away with his slashing to the rim, but there were passes that quickly got him a seat next to Coach Greg Popovich on the bench.
As time moved on both Ginobili and Popovich were able to find that critical balance between allowing him to use his creative and slashing ability and curbing down the wild passes that tended to more often end up in the first row as opposed to finding the intended teammate.
Ginobili, like all great athletes, decided not to completely rely on his athletic ability as his NBA career progressed and worked on the mid-range shot and his three point and free throw shooting. Each season his shooting percentages continued to increase.
This development made him even more deadly. Teams were forced to play him honest. They were not able to play up on him to take away his shot or drop back and take away his driving lanes.
As time progressed, Ginobili was given the ball during crunch time to either create for himself or find a teammate for the game winning shot.
The success enjoyed by Ginobili also transferred during the Olympics as well. He led the Gold medal in the 2004 Olympic games and a Bronze in the 2008 Olympic games. The experience of being a leader from both his time in Italy and with the Spurs allowed him to feel comfortable in take a leadership control.
Today’s players can also learn from Ginobili’s humility. When Coach Popovich suggested to the multiple time All-Star to become the team’s sixth man, he didn’t complain or pout. He was a team player and came off bench and became a great weapon for the Spurs.
So while Ginobili’s career may not have taken a traditional course, all I can say a lot more teams should look in to it. All I can say is great job, and it is best say it the way that Sir Charles says it.