The name of the move should be the first hint that Manu Ginobili did not invent it. Ginobili is not a European. He is originally from South America. And it’s not called the South Ameristep for anything.
Maybe it should be, Ginobili’s signature move was the long, lateral move — step one way to get a defender leaning, then cut the other way into open space — which he mastered and popularized.
As a result, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The San Antonio Spurs’ four-time NBA champion is one of the headliners for Saturday night’s enshrinement ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts. Ginobili spent all 16 of his NBA seasons in San Antonio, forming a Big Three with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker that was, and undoubtedly will remain, one of the league’s best.
“It’s something you never expect,” Ginobili said of his visit to the Hall of Fame. “You start playing ball because you enjoy it, because it’s enjoyable, and because you’re with your friends.” … And now, just when I thought my career was over, you get a recognition like this that makes you think, go back a little bit in time, and relieve your story, and it’s incredible.”
Ginobili is not the first international NBA player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He is, however, the first to be chosen by the North American committee, which means he was inducted solely on the basis of his NBA career and not his international performance.
He quickly emphasizes that he will not be the last name on that list. Parker, Dirk Nowitzki, and Pau Gasol will all be contacted soon.
“I’m proud to have been a part of a generation that changed the way the game was played, how the game was perceived, and how international players were recognized,” Ginobili said. “It was exciting to be a part of that.”
Ginobili was drafted by the Spurs in 1999 while still playing in Italy, and it took him more than three years to make it to the NBA. It’s not like San Antonio had made a huge investment: Ginobili was the 57th overall pick in his draft class.
And the majority of the players selected in the bottom 15 picks of that draft never played in the NBA.
But then he appeared in 2002. Using his Eurostep.
“I had no idea what the hell it was,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “However, it didn’t look right.”
It turned out to be both legal and lethal. The true test of whether a move has captured the attention of NBA players is whether others have copied it and attempted to incorporate it into their own repertoires. And this has been going on for over two decades.
Nobody knows for sure where the move came from, and Ginobili insists he didn’t invent it. It is widely assumed that Lithuanian great Sarunas Marciulionis — a Hall of Famer himself, class of 2014 — introduced it to the NBA.
However, there is little doubt that Ginobili is the one who popularized it. The problem is, despite being asked numerous times over the years, he can’t teach it very well.
But it wasn’t the move that got Ginobili into the Hall of Fame. It was victory.
The Spurs won when Ginobili was on the court. It’s as simple as that. When Ginobili played during the regular season, they were 762-295. That 72.1% winning percentage is just a hair higher than Duncan’s 71.9%, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2020 and, fittingly, will present Ginobili this weekend.
Ginobili is one of only two players (the other being Bill Bradley) to have won championships in the NBA, Euroleague, and Olympics. He won four rings with the Spurs, won the Euroleague title with Kinder Bologna in 2001, and led Argentina to Olympic gold in Athens in 2004. Ginobili scored 29 points in the semifinal win over the United States, outplaying everyone else on the court, including Duncan. In any of the four Olympics since, the Americans have never settled for anything less than gold.
“It’s not just about individual achievements,” Ginobili explained. “I never won a scoring championship, MVP, or even first-team honors.” I’m here because of the people around me, the players I play with, the coaches I’ve worked with, and the organizations. I know I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had such teammates… So, I don’t consider it an individual accomplishment. It’s just that I happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
Consider the city of San Antonio.
Ginobili had no idea what or where San Antonio was when he first arrived. He never left; Ginobili and his family still call it home. He now works for the Spurs, drives his three children to and from school, takes them to Argentina for family time every summer, and then returns to San Antonio.
“I had no idea how I was going to pair up with Tony and Tim, play with David Robinson, and be coached by Pop, so yeah, full of uncertainties,” Ginobili said.
“And I wanted to do good, help people, and grow, but I wasn’t the first pick, right?” I was 57 years old, so I knew the chances of me staying here for an extended period of time were slim. So it turned out to be an incredible story that lasted 16 years.”
Another place Ginobili has not visited is Springfield, Massachusetts.
He was present for Duncan’s enshrinement two years ago, but due to the pandemic, the ceremony was held at a casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. Ginobili did not make it to Springfield during that trip.
“I couldn’t quite explain it,” Ginobili admitted. “Some of the basics, yes, but it was supernatural, super instinctive.”
He has arrived. Forever.
“We knew we had a wild, competitive young man who loved basketball, was quite athletic and was just fierce,” Popovich said. “He just seemed to have no fear and do whatever he needed to do to win.” He was a natural force.”