The San Antonio Spurs will never be the same after today. The beginning of the end has started in 2016 when Tim Duncan has ended his professional career. It was clear that Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili don't have much time left as well. And yet, no one wanted to see them go. Sadly, Tony Parker has moved to the Hornets earlier this summer. Kawhi got traded to Toronto. That left Manu Ginobili all alone, and I believe that it was the main reason why the veteran had retired from the basketball yesterday. Also, the fact that Manu is already 41 might have had something to do with his decision.
Gregg Popovich is the only person from that epic 00's Spurs team that is still present today. It is a very sad day for me as I grew up watching battles between the Spurs and Pistons. I remember rooting for the bad boys from Detroit, but even at the age of 10, I could feel nothing but respect to Gregg Popovich and his team. Those days are officially over now. The Spurs will never be the same.
The strongest franchise in the 21st century
The San Antonio Spurs is the only team that has not had a year without playoffs since the 1997-98 season. Gregg Popovich watched how strong teams, including the Lakers, Mavericks, Cavaliers, Heat, have fallen while the Spurs were the only ones that kept on winning. And the fact that Popovich has been the head coach all these 21 years makes it even more impressive. However, for the first time since the 1997-98 season, Gregg Popovich will not have at least one of his iconic trio in the team. It will be hard to see the Spurs without Ginobili, Parker, or Duncan on the court. Damn, it will be hard not to see them on the bench either.
Greg Popovich managed to win 5 NBA titles with the Spurs, making the Spurs the best franchize in the NBA since 2000. I would even argue that the Spurs are the best franchize in any major sports league since 2000. It was not only the consistency and victories that eventually made me fall in love with the Spurs. To be honest, I appreciated the atmosphere of the team and the fact that the whole staff was like one big family. Also, it was amazing to see players from different parts of the world (Parker - France, Duncan - the USA, Ginobili - Argentina, and the list goes on) finding their bond through basketball.
For the last 8 years, everyone kept repeating that the Spurs are too old and will not achieve anything. However, the Spurs continued to gift fans with victories. Sadly, the day had come when the team finally became too old to win, and the veterans had to go.
As a small child, I always thought that basketball has to a show with lots of dunks, blocks, and clutch shots. The Detroit Pistons gave me that in the early 00's. The San Antonio Spurs were a completely different team which based their game on team efforts and efficiency (Tim Duncan would not even dunk in the All-Star games). The clash of those two teams was something that the basketball world needed at the time. Well, at least I did. And I picked the Pistons to be my favorites, meaning that I hated to see Ginobili, Parker, and Duncan slowly bet effectively destroying tilted Wallace and Hamilton. Today, when I watch those old games, I see myself rooting for the San Antonio Spurs because now I understand that this franchize represents everything there is about real sports.
Gregg Popovich and his team introduced me to respect, dignity, and love in sports. The only time when I doubted all that was when the Spurs started celebrating their victory against the Miami Heat in the finals too early. Karma sent Ray Allen to fix that mistake, and the Spurs organization was humble again after that.
Manu Ginobili is the future Hall of Famer
It will not take long before we see Manu Ginobili giving his Hall of Fame speech. Manu is arguably the best ever basketball player from South America and what he did for the Spurs and Argentina is unforgettable. Ginobili was one of those players who had no physical advantage over his opponents, so he had to use his head on the court. That is why he was still a valuable asset in the NBA playoff team even at the age of 41.
Manu Ginobili's stats were never monstrous, and he was only managed to play in the All-Star game two times. However, it was not because he couldn't do better, but it was because Manu always sacrificed his personal stats for the success of his team. That is the reason why Gregg Popovich and the rest of the Spurs organization loved Manu Ginobili so much. I would not be surprised to see Ginobili becoming a staff member in the Spurs organization because he has what it takes. Ideally, I would love to see Manu Ginobili becoming a coach and sharing his philosophy with young players.
Manu Ginobili has won 4 NBA titles with the San Antonio Spurs, but his greatest achievement remains the gold medal with Argentina national basketball team in the 2004 Summer Olympics. Coming from Lithuania, I have never loved Argentina's team as they were one of the major rivals. However, it is impossible not to respect Ginobili, Scola, Prigioni, and Nacioni. In 2004, those 4 guys single-handedly carried Argentina to the final where they trashed Italy. 4 years later, Argentina won the bronze medal, defeating Lithuania in the bronze game. Manu Ginobili, who was 31 at the time, couldn't play because of an injury, but his impact to the game was enormous. Every player on that Argentina team looked up to Manu Ginobili and played with extra power. That was the day when I understood that everyone in the basketball world has massive respect for Manu Ginobili. And that is when I was happy for him winning the bronze medal even though my team has lost.
Manu Ginobili is gone now, though. The San Antonio Spurs and Argentina will have to look for a replacement, but I am afraid that Manu was one of those players that you cannot replace. The golden era of the Spurs is officially over. How long do we still have before Gregg Popovich retires? Can the San Antonio Spurs remain the playoff team next year?