Minnesota’s Lindsay Whalen dropped word of her retirement when competing in the 2018 WNBA season ended long before Ginobili made his announcement via Twitter. Whalen’s season ended at the hands of fierce rival Los Angeles Sparks via a 68-75 loss in the one game knockout series.
Retiring with four titles she matches Ginobili’s NBA haul of title and both players topped the podium on the national scene by winning gold at the Olympics. While Whalen formed part of perpetually talented USA Teams in 2012 and 2016, Ginobili headlined a once in a generation Argentine group that got past USA in 2004 in Athens.
Two of the best players in world basketball have left the sport and Whalen got her moment no matter how brief it was. Now its Manu’s turn and will stay same for a while because of his enduring skill, passion and humble personality.
The man who dazzled folks for many years with the eurostep is gone and there will be someone like him after several years. Neuvo basketball fans didn’t get to see Ginobili in full flight wiggling his way through defenses with dazzling array of unconventional drives, through the legs bounce passes and dead eye shooting.
What many new followers would take away from Ginobili’s career is one of a man capable of pulling something special in a game like he did in the 2017 playoffs against Houston Rockets.
Those performances were few and far between his usual consistent production in the first man off the bench role he excelled at for the greater part of his career. Spurs egalitarian system could be blamed for his meager two All Star appearances and 2008 Sixth Man of the Year Award, the impact of his retirement cannot be understated.
Contrary to what many see as the end of an era, Ginobili’s retirement ushers San Antonio Spurs close to the end of a beautiful era. The presence of Gregg Popovich means that chapter isn’t entirely closed since the man who started it all is still at post; only in 2020 when Popovich’s contract ends with the Spurs Championship chapter close. David Robinson went first, Tim Duncan followed, then Tony Parker moved to Charlotte Hornets before Manu decided to hang his high tops for good.
Kawhi Leonard was expected to lead San Antonio to the next age post Popovich’s eventual retirement from the bench. However, a sudden breakdown in trust and communication resulted in an impasse not associated with the team over the past season. Dealing with the matter in a ruthless manner, Spurs traded Leonard and Danny Green to Toronto for DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl. So Popovich will have to ride it out into the sunset of his legendary run of games.
San Antonio announced Ginobili’s replacement immediately after his retirement by signing veteran Guard Quincy Pondexter.
The former Memphis Grizzlies man’s career has been hit by a slew of injuries but is a serviceable veteran off the bench when healthy. Though the Spurs struggled to make the playoffs last season and lost a quality player in Ginobili, the team will make the playoffs. Getting another top year from LaMarcus Aldridge, 20+ point per game scoring from DeRozan and an expected jump in production from DeJounte Murray plus excellent coaching from Popovich means another trip beyond April. Beyond that stage is a tough call to make as Spurs lack that third star behind Aldridge and DeRozan.
Spurs got eliminated from last season’s playoffs in the first round by eventual Champions Golden State Warriors and in Ginobili’s absence, Warriors have less to worry about should another meet pop up. LeBron James move to Los Angeles Lakers makes matters interesting looking at the teams that make it to the playoffs. From last season’s bracket, it looks like Minnesota Timberwolves and Portland Trailblazers could easily slip and be replaced by Lakers and Denver Nuggets. Signing Isaiah Thomas gives Nuggets the advantage to inch past Minnesota to the last playoff spot.
Little will change in San Antonio after Ginobili at least until Popovich leaves the scene but outside the Alamo City, a whole new world is opening up.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter