There’s no guarantee that Monday night’s loss was the end of San Antonio Spurs star Manu Ginobili’s impressive NBA career, but if it was, his home fans gave him quite the sendoff.
As the Spurs fell to the Golden State Warriors 129-115 in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, Ginobili received a rare start and ended the game with 15 points in 32 minutes of action as his team was eliminated from the postseason.
It was an emotional night for Ginobili and his teammates, who couldn’t stop the red-hot Warriors’ offense without injured star forward Kawhi Leonard.
However, when it was time for Ginobili to exit late in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach, Spurs fans were more than willing to cheer their aging hero. Even Warriors sharpshooter Stephen Curry got in on the ovation, stepping off the free-throw line to let Ginobili receive his well-deserved cheers.
As you can see in the video below, Curry also applauds the Argentinian before stepping back to the line to take his free throws:
Ginobili clearly appreciated the love he got from the home crowd, even as the Spurs were swept out of the postseason by the Warriors, who are now 12-0 this postseason.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters after the game that he felt it was important to get Ginobili in the starting lineup regardless of whether it was his final game in a San Antonio uniform or not (via ESPN.com):
"We started him tonight out of respect," Popovich said. "That was the whole reason for starting him. Before the game, you think it may or may not be his last game that he ever plays in, and I did not want to miss the opportunity to honor him in front of our home fans for his selflessness over the years. This is a Hall of Fame player who allowed me to bring him off the bench for - I can't even remember now - the last decade or something, because it would make us a better team overall.
"He deserved to have that night of respect so that he really feels that we appreciate everything he's done over the years."
In Ginobili's 15 NBA seasons, he's averaged 13.6 points, 3.9 assists and 3.6 rebounds per night. He won four NBA titles with the Spurs, been on two All-Star teams and won the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2008.
He said following the loss that he's going to take a few weeks to decide his future, but if he does decide to hang up his sneakers, he'll do so as one of the greatest foreign players ever to step foot on an NBA court.