Five defining moments of Manu Ginobili's illustrious career

Manu Ginobili finally called time on a legendary career earlier this week as he announced his retirement at the age of 41. 

The Argentine accepted that he could no longer put his ageing body through the rigours of another gruelling 82-game NBA season. 

There has been an outpouring of tributes to the shooting guard who has enjoyed a memorable 16-year career in the league, all with the San Antonio Spurs. 

He was hugely successful, winning four championships, a Sixth Man of the Year award and earning two All-Star appearances. 

Ginobili has given us some wonderful moments over his career and it's not easy to narrow them down. 

But here are five moments that defined his career:

Draft day

The veteran will go down as one of the biggest steals in the history of the draft after he was taken with the 57th pick in 1999. 

San Antonio had been scouting him for several years, firstly when he played in Argentina and then in Italy.

After dominating the Euroleague, where he won the championship and Finals MVP, he joined the Spurs in 2002 and head coach Gregg Popovich knew he had something special on his hands.

"I told Timmy [Duncan], 'This guy is coming, and nobody in the U.S. knows how good he is,'" Popovich said, per ESPN's Zach Lowe.

"And Timmy gave me that whole raised eyebrow thing he does."

The rest, as they say, is history. 

Olympic Gold

Not all of Ginobili's best accomplishments came in a Spurs uniform as he unexpectedly led his country to a Gold Medal in the 2004 Olympics. 

Manu was the catalyst for that triumph as he put the team on his back. From the opening game, it was clear that he was set to have a great tournament. 

He nailed an incredible game-winner at the buzzer to beat Serbia and Montenegro on day one of the Olympics in Athens.

The guard produced more heroics in the semi-finals as he led Argentina to a shock win over Team USA, putting up 29 points in an 89-81 victory.

A day later, he would inspire them to win gold and make his country the first nation other than the USA to win it in 16 years. 

Career-high 48 points vs. Phoenix Suns

For Ginobili's first eight years in the league, the Spurs and Suns were huge rivals in the Western Conference as they'd met five times in the playoffs. 

Their encounters became physical and hostile, so he picked the right opponent to drop a career-high against in 2005. 

This was at the height of their rivalry and he produced arguably his best performance in a Spurs uniform with 48 points. 

He helped to inspire a 17-point comeback in the fourth quarter to seal a 128-123 win in overtime on the road. 

It was a notable night in what would be a significant season for Ginobili as he was named an All-Star for the first time.

NBA Finals, 2005

The Texas-based outfit secured its third title in seven years and the first without the legendary David Robinson. 

But this is when the big three of Ginobili, Duncan and Tony Parker truly began to dominate the league. 

Timmy D may have won the Finals MVP but there was a growing sense within the organisation that their Argentine star should've received it. 

He struggled in Games 3 and 4 against the Pistons but he came to life towards the end of the series, scoring 23 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, in the series-clinching Game 7.

Manu averaged 18.7 points and four assists in that series and was often relied upon in crunch time.

Sixth Man of the Year

Despite becoming an All-Star in 2005, the Spurs felt they were still a much better team with Ginobili coming off the bench.

He accepted it for the sake of the team and his decision was huge in the culture that was developed among the franchise. 

"He played as big a part as Tim in building our culture," president R.C. Buford said. "When Manu Ginobili comes off the bench, it's hard for anyone to bitch about why they aren't starting. Look at that guy, then talk to me."

His sacrifice was rewarded when he was named as the Sixth Man of the Year in 2008, as he posted 19.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.5 assists that season. 

It's fair to say that he made the role of Sixth Man acceptable in the league and it set a precedent. 

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Topics:
Tim Duncan
Gregg Popovich
Manu Ginobili
Tony Parker
San Antonio Spurs
NBA