The time clock has run down for Manu Ginobili…
The 41-year-old Argentine professional basketball player, a guard with the San Antonio Spurs since the 2002-2003 NBA season,announced Monday that he’s retiring.
“Today, with a wide range of feelings, I’m announcing my retirement from basketball,” he announced in a tweet. “It’s been a fabulous journey. Way beyond my wildest dreams.”
Ginobili, a future Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer, had been working out regularly at the Spurs’ practice facility as he considered his decision to retire.
The Spurs had been hopeful that Ginobili would want to return for a 17th season and allowed him to take all the time he needed to decide, league sources had told ESPN. The team thanked Ginobili in a tweet and video Monday.
His decision brings a historic 16-season run with the Spurs to an end. He is one of the most decorated international players in basketball history, a four-time NBA champion, a two-time NBA All-Star, an Olympic gold medalist for Argentina and a EuroLeague MVP.
“An NBA champion and All-Star, Manu Ginobili is also a pioneer who helped globalize the NBA,” NBA commissioner Adam Silversaid. “He is one of basketball’s greatest ambassadors who believes in the power of sports to change lives. And for 16 years, we were fortunate to watch a legend compete at the highest level. Thank you, Manu, for a career that inspired millions of people around the world.”
Ginobili played 1,057 regular-season and 218 playoff games with the Spurs, ranking in the franchise’s top five all time in games, points (14,043), assists (4,001) and steals (1,392). He averaged 8.9 points and 20 minutes a game for the Spurs last season.
“A role model for all of us that love this wonderful sport,” Spurs forward Pau Gasol said.
Ginobili’s pro career lasted 23 seasons in all, starting with stints in Italy and Argentina. His drawing power was massive even in his final season, and it was common for him to spend plenty of time before road games posing for photos and signing autographs — often international fans proudly displaying an Argentine flag.
“He has the talent to continue playing for five years, but we have to respect his decision. Us Argentinians, we are so proud of him. We wish all the best in the new life,” said Juan Martin del Potro, who thanked Ginobili after his victory Monday at the US Open.
Ginobili had one year left on his contract, worth $2.5 million.
The smooth left-handed guard from Argentina came to San Antonio in 2002, forming what quickly became a powerful big three alongside Tim Duncanand Tony Parker. Now, they’ve all moved on: Duncan retired two years ago, Parker left San Antonio earlier this summer as a free agent to sign with the Charlotte Hornets, and Ginobili has worn Spurs colors for the last time as well.
“I had left the door open just in case, but now I am convinced and happy about the decision I made,” Ginobili said, as quoted in Argentina newspaper La Nacion.
Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard were the backbone of San Antonio’s drive to its most recent NBA championship in 2014, and this will be the first time Gregg Popovichbegins a season as the Spurs’ head coach with none of those players on the roster. Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptorsfor DeMar DeRozan earlier this summer, the end of a relationship in San Antonio that had apparently gone too sour to save.
Leonard’s departure meant Ginobili would have been the last significant player tied to the Spurs’ title years. But in the end, retirement was his call.
Ginobili, even though he was often coming off the bench, has a résumé of postseason production like almost no one else. Only two players have more than 800 rebounds, 800 assists and 300 3-pointers in their playoff careers — Ginobili and LeBron James.
Ginobili’s final game was April 24, when the Spurs were ousted from the Western Conference playoffs by the eventual champion Golden State Warriors. San Antonio lost the series 4-1.