SAN ANTONIO-(KTSA News) – Manu Ginobili fans from as far away as his homeland of Argentina will be at the AT&T Center tonight when his No. 20 Jersey is retired.
Exciting, unpredictable, passionate, and fearless are some of the words being used to describe the former Spurs star who played with a lot of heart and energy.
He drew praise from teammates and opponents alike and was one of NBA commentator Charles Barkley’s favorite players. After witnessing some incredible plays by Ginobili, Barkley would yell at the top of his lungs,”Ginobiliiiiiiiiiiiiiii.”
It took Spurs coach Gregg Popovich some time to get used to Ginobili’s unpredictability on the court.
“He had to be Manu,” said Popovich. At some point along that progression, he looked at me and said ‘this is what I do.'”
Some fans in Argentina would complain about Ginobili not being one of the starters, but Number 20 wanted to win more than anything else. He would tell fans and reporters that sitting on the bench would give him time to analyze what was happening on the court, and when Popovich put him in the game, he knew exactly what he needed to do to help the team win.
Popovich calls him a fearless competitor.
“He’s going to give everybody a feeling that you never, ever give in. There’s always something that he’s doing to help the situation be successful,” Popovich said in a video produced by the Spurs.
“On and off the floor, he was so personable. He loved people, and his passion for the game was exemplary,” said Popovich.
During his 16-year career with the Spurs, Ginobili won four NBA Championship rings. He’s one of only two players to win an NBA championship, a EuroLeague title and an Olympic gold medal.
Spurs fans will never forget the time Ginobili swatted a bat that swooped down over the court during a game on Halloween night 2009, annoying players and evading those who tried to capture it with a net. Ginobili had enough! He just reached out with his bare hand and swatted the bat, picked it up off the floor and handed it over to security as fans cheered wildly.
Ginobili was a hero that night, but he had to get rabies shots. He posted a public service announcement of sorts on social media warning others to stay away from bats, skunks, raccoons and other wildlife.
Former teammates Tim Duncan and Tony Parker will be at the AT&T Center tonight when Ginobili’s No. 20 Jersey is raised to the rafters after the Spurs-Cavaliers game.
“Gracias, Manu, with all my heart,” said Popovich.