Last week we might have seen the end of the career of a player who most of us have watched for nearly two decades. Manu Ginobili got into the NBA in 2002, going from the best Argentinian basketball player to a key cog in a great NBA dynasty. The question is, was Ginobili a big enough piece of the puzzle during his time in San Antonio to make the Basketball Hall of Fame? We here at GameDaySportsBlog.com are here to argue both sides of the case in our latest version of “Hall of No Hall”.
The Case For Manu Ginobili
Maybe this is it for Manu Ginobili. Maybe, after 15 rough-and-tumble NBA seasons, the greatest Argentinian basketball player of all-time calls it quits this summer. But if you’re wondering where Ginobili ends up, it isn’t hard to predict. Five years from now he will be Euro-stepping his way into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
His will be a first-ballot inductee. A stone-cold lock. And just like he did in real life Ginobili will once again be paired up alongside Tim Duncan and Tony Parker in the halls of basketball’s most storied museum.
What people do not fully realize is that the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame doesn’t judge players solely on their NBA careers, even though Ginobili’s career with the Spurs would be good enough for induction. Instead, the straw that broke the camel’s back in the case of Manu’s Hall of Fame résumé is his international career. Ginobili led the Argentine national team’s worst-to-first rise to Olympic gold in the 2004 summer games.
Argentina smashed Italy in the championship game, which completed a dominant run that included a semifinal victory over Spurs teammate Tim Duncan and the juggernaut that was Team USA.
By itself, Ginobili’s role as the ringleader of Argentina’s Golden Generation, “La Generacion de Dorado”, might not be enough to ensure the country’s best player’s enshrinement in the Naismith Hall of Fame. But throw in four NBA titles, and it will prove impossible to keep him out. Especially when you realize how valuable Ginobili was to that Spurs’ dynasty.
Now it might be true that Ginobili’s pair of All-Star appearances are a wee bit light for a Hall of Famer. But both of those years, 2008 and 2011, Ginobili was an All-NBA selection. Meaning he has been selected to as many All-NBA Teams as James Worthy, Alonzo Mourning, and Dennis Rodman, all names found in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
And his All-NBA selections and All-Star seasons weren’t his only individual accolades. Ginobili won a Sixth Man of the Year award, in 2008, and in 2005 came within one vote of becoming the first Spur to win a Finals MVP not named Tim Duncan or Kawhi Leonard.
And although Ginobili’s Hall of Fame candidacy might seem slightly shaky if it were limited only to individual NBA accomplishments, his resume falls nowhere short of deserving once his team accomplishments are taken into account.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will gladly take the blame for Ginobili’s pedestrian career averages of 13.6 points and four assists per game. By insisting Ginobili come off the bench for much of his career, despite being one of the best shooting guards in the entire league, Popovich asked the Argentine guard to suppress his own numbers for the good of the team. Still, coming off the bench Ginobili put up numbers that scream Hall of Fame. According to Ginobili’s +/- stat, arguably the most telling stat there is, the Spurs’ great ranks among the elite of the elite all-time. Ginobili ranks 17th all-time, just in front of names like Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Scottie Pippen.
And it’s the shooting guard’s value to his team that led the Spurs to be one of the greatest franchise’s in the sport. During his 15-year career Ginobili played a major role in the Spurs never having a losing season while he was in San Antonio. In three separate seasons Ginobili earned MVP votes, proving his value to a team that he helped win four NBA titles with. In fact, in his playoff career Manu was incredibly valuable and incredibly effective. According to that all-telling +/- stat Manu (5.2) was better during the postseason than both Dwayne Wade (4.9) and Kobe Bryant (4.4), arguably the two best shooting guards of his generation.
And even with his incredible NBA career and the four championships that he helped win in San Antonio, Ginobili’s chances at the Naismith Hall of Fame is solidified by what the Argentine guard was able bring to the international game.
For precedent in this area, let’s compare Ginobili to Sarunas Marciulionis. The Lithuanian guard was inducted last summer — not for the 12.8 points he averaged in seven NBA seasons playing for Golden State and Denver, which is less than Ginobili averaged over a span twice as long, and not for the zero championships he won, which Manu obviously has four more, but instead it was for his role in putting the international basketball game on the world map.
Marciulionis, like Ginobili, was the Michael Jordan of his country. Like Ginobili, Marciulionis was once a Euroleague MVP. Like Ginobili, Marciulionis won an Olympic gold medal. However, unlike Ginobili, Marciulionis never won an NBA championship, let alone four. If Marciulionis is a Hall of Famer, so, too, is Ginobili. Because what Marciulionis accomplished in basketball, Ginobili did and then some.
To deny Ginobili entrance is to argue that international accomplishments are meaningless, and last I checked the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame is not the NBA Hall of Fame, and even if it were, Manu Ginobili has one hell of a case to get in.
The Case Against Manu Ginobili
Manu Ginobili was very good at what he did in basketball for over a decade. And that thing that he did was come off the bench, because Ginobili never played at a high enough level to become a starter. That is something no Hall of Famer has ever had said about them.
The overrated guard started just over 35% of his games in the NBA, a lower number than any player currently enshrined in Springfield, Massachusetts. And that’s because the Hall of Fame is meant for people who play above the level of the rest of the league, not below it.
And for those of you reading this that argue with the idea that Manu Ginobili was an average player, the numbers and the accolades back me up. His 13.6 points per game are fewer than the offensively-challenged Ron Artest, his 3.6 rpg are fewer than six-footer Kyle Lowry, and 3.9 apg fewer than center DeMarcus Cousins posted this season. And while some of that can be blamed on his lack of minutes, because he comes off the bench, if he was a better player he would start over guys like Danny Green, Michael Finley, and George Hill.
And the accolades that Ginobili has won are even more proof that Ginobili isn’t an elite player. Just two All-Star game selections, less than Bob Kauffman and Detlef Schrempf, two players that BasketballReference.com gives a combined 4.3% chance they make the Hall of Fame. His two All-NBA mentions were both of the third-team variety; totally different than Hall of Famers James Worthy, Alonzo Mourning, and Dennis Rodman who’s All-NBA team selections were better than the 3rd team variety. He never finished higher than eighth in the league MVP balloting. Heck Ginobili’s greatest individual award is his 2008 Sixth-Man of the Year Award, also known as the prize for the player not good enough to be a starter.
The best comparison of a guy like Manu Ginobili is a guy like Jason Terry, who came off the bench for a decent amount of his career just like Ginobili. But even then the individual comparison seems to swing in favor of Terry who has absolutely no shot of the Hall of Fame at all. Terry averaged more points (13.8-13.6) than Ginobili, while shooting a better percentage from 3 (.380-.370), and dishing out the same number of assists per game (3.9) all while posting fewer turnovers per game (1.8-2.0). And before you argue that it’s about championships and what players do in the postseason that matter, just remember that Jason Terry has a ring as well, and more ppg (14.4-14.1) with a better shooting percentage (.441-.433) in the playoffs than Ginobili.
As for those claiming it’s about what Ginobili meant to his team that is what makes him a Hall of Famer, just remember that Derek Fisher has more rings than Ginobili and unlike the overrated Spur, Fisher actually started for his NBA Championship Lakers. Ginobili was surrounded by Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, and Tony Parker in his championships, along with one of the five greatest coaches in NBA history, Gregg Popovich, meaning Ginobili, a bench player, was not even close to the biggest reason the Spurs won those four titles.
And don’t get me started on the international career argument. The NBA is the only league in the world that truly matters when determining if a player is truly elite or not. And saying that a player should get into the Hall of Fame based on their time in the Italian League or on the Argentine Olympic Team is like saying that a baseball player should get in the Hall of Fame for their accomplishments in the Minors. The best basketball players in the world play in the NBA, and if the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame is truly where the best basketball players in the world are enshrined, it would be on the merits of their NBA careers.
The fact of the matter is, Manu Ginobili is arguably one of the best backup players we have ever seen in the NBA. But the Basketball Hall of Fame isn’t there to house the names of backups. It’s there to honor the greatest players in basketball history, something Manu Ginobili clearly isn’t.