SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Manu Ginobili is officially a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
After a career marked by the highest levels of success and teamwork that fundamentally changed basketball, Ginobili focused his induction speech on the people who helped him get all the way from Bahía Blanca to San Antonio and then to Springfield.
He started with a joke for the man on stage with him who was a part of all four of those NBA championships, and on the receiving end of Argentina's upset of Team USA in 2004.
"You sure you don't want to do this. I know you love the spotlight," he said to Tim Duncan as the crowd laughed.
"All right. Amazing. Those videos get you man, incredible. It's been a long journey. For players like me, individual accomplishments are team honors. I'm not here because I was super special. I'm here because I was part of two of the most important teams of the 2000s with the Spurs winning four NBA championships with my Argentina national team winning gold in 04, in Euro League one in Bologna with Coach Messina, and you get the reason why I'm here," he said.
"But today I also want to mention and talk about the teams that were not that successful, but for me were fundamental stepping stones to get here without those steps, I was not here today," he said. "And it all started at six, seven, in a little club team in Bahía Blanca, one block away from my home. So I spent a lot of time and my dad was the president of that team. He was one of the founders. He was always there. If he was not working, he was in the club. My two brothers played there, older brothers, they were always there too. My mom was a coach... nah she wasn't a coach I'm kidding. She couldn't play, she didn't know anything about basketball. But she would pick me up from school at noon, she would feed me, help me cross the street, let me just go play all day long, all the way till dinner. And I would dribble, shoot, dribble, shoot dribble, shoot, make friends six, seven hours a day. And it was perfect the ideal spot to strengthen and develop my passion and love for the game in a very healthy, and familiar environment. So I thank everybody that was part of that side of my life."
"From there I played til 18 and at 18 I became a pro. Well, wasn't that special, but a coach that is here called me up. I said, 'oh yes, I'm going of course.' And, you know I was first with Andino, then back in my hometown with Estudiantes and you know, playing in front of my family and friends at the highest stage in Argentinian basketball was a blast and I loved every minute of it," he said. "I even had the pleasure to play with my brother, gave me every single ball. We had a blast. Everybody that was part of my Argentinian experience, coaches, players, thank you so much."
"My gradual growth and development came the first call to be part of the national team," he said. "With it, the attention and the possibility to go overseas, and Italy was the first stop, Viola Reggio Calabria with a coach that really trusted me in tough moments, great veteran leaders that showed me how it's done, and it was a fantastic first step in European basketball. Then the jump to Virtus Bologna where I was coached by Ettore Messina, he basically taught me what was necessary to get some Ws and championships, and we learned, and fast, thank you coach."
"NBA moves from being an unreachable dream, to a realistic goal after playing for you and the wonderful group of teammates that I had and we were successful enough to to win that Euro League," he said. "The Italian experience for me was so valuable, that's where I became not only the player that I ended up becoming here in the NBA, but also the man. So I appreciate everybody that was part of my Italian experience."
"During those years, I was still in Reggio Calabria. One time I was playing with the national team and I get a call saying that I was selected by the San Antonio Spurs with the number 57 (pick)," he said.
"I could not believe it. And I mean literally I could not believe it because I thought it was a mistake, that it was a language thing that they thought... I had zero expectations. Zero. Never had a conversation with the Spurs. My agent never told me that I could have been drafted," he said. "I had no fancy suit, no hat, no press conference, no nothing. I got no clue that it was happening. I didn't even know what San Antonio was in the world. Zero. But you pretty much know that side of the story. The Spurs were one big strong supportive family for me 16 years."
"16 years playing for the same coach with mostly the same players representing the same colors and city," he said. "So many wins, losses, so many friends so many incredible experiences. And for that I've got a lot of people to thank of course you've got some of these ones. Pop, what can I say? I'll be short this time. But you've been so, so important for me and my family on and off the court that I will never be able to thank you enough."
"The one next to me, one of the best players to ever play the game, but also the most important one, one of the best teammates," Ginobili said of Tim Duncan. "Man I learned so much about you, how to be a leader how to be an example on the court and off the court, so thank you T."
"TP, we had our priorities straight man," he said to Tony Parker. "We never let our egos get in the way. We knew when it was your time, when it was my time, when it was his time that was most of times for sure. You got a little bit of time, I got a little bit, him most of it, but we got it done man, we got the job done and it was a pleasure."
"You guys know these three guys will get you a lot of wins, All Stars, MVPs best coach ever, whatever," he said. "But to win a championship and to become a real team, you need a whole bunch of other little pieces in place. And we had a lot of them. And I repeat, we had a lot of them. And here there are a few. Bruce Bowen, you made my job easier man. You guarded everybody, yours, mine, everybody. I knew well. Thank you. Matt Bonner, wherever you are, I'm not gonna forget you this time. You were a fantastic teammate. So many fun times. Patty, Tiago, Bobo, you made those trips fun, man. I love you. Fin and Bones, great veterans in my position. I learned a lot from you and I had a blast playing with you wherever you are, and I know you're here. Fabri, out there, my ideal teammate. I could keep going and going and going with 100 names because I had a lot of them. But I appreciate you all and I'm being completely honest. I loved sharing teams with you. We've had a blast. Preparing those games, going to those dinners, winning together and losing together. It was fantastic. Thank you."
"When you talk about the Spurs organization, you cannot only name players. The organization is way more than that. It is the ability to find highly qualified people that fit the culture," he said. "Tom James, Will Sevening, and Alicia Rodriguez, 25 years in the organization, amazing people. Assistant coaches, video coordinators, trainers, physios, equipment managers, GM, RC wherever you are. You are as important, I know this as the first three I mentioned. Thank you. Thank you for selecting me. Thank you for bringing me. Thank you for keeping me. I really appreciate what you Pop, the whole family and the whole Spurs ownership did for the city for the community and for all of us. Appreciate you. Thank you very much."
"The crazy thing about my career is that while all of this was happening with the Spurs, 16 years, at the same time in parallel I was having another career, and it was as nurturing as fulfilling as exciting and fun as the one with the Spurs, and it's with my national team in Argentina, a few of the guys who are here," he said. "I could go on start talking about you individually, nonstop for a long time. What I'll stick with, what we've always done is to do it as a team. And there's nothing I value more than that. I appreciate our run together so much and the championships of course, but the disappointments also, they got us together. The conversations, the terrible trips, the late dinners, the early breakfasts, the jet lag, it was so worth it. My gosh you guys I love you. That's friendship, that's brotherhood. I think it's been amazing. I'm looking forward to more adventures off the court now with you guys."
"I also want to thank the NBA for giving us this extraordinary stage to do what we love," he said. "David Stern first, Adam Silver now and the wonderful team. Best sports league in the world period. Thank you fans everywhere, everywhere I've ever played for your constant support, affection and boundless passion. I felt your love on a daily basis. Thank you very much."
"Now allow me just one minute to address my family in Spanish," he said. "It may get a little emotional here, but bear with me."
Ginobili indeed got emotional as he thanked his wife, Marianela Oroño. His voice broke as he thanked his first fan, his father Jorge, saying that he missed him a lot. He thanked his mother for the sacrifices she made. He went back to English to share a heartfelt message to his three sons, Dante, Nicola and Luca.
"As you heard, a lot of things happen to me in my career. If I had to choose one moment where stop time and enjoy forever, right now with you doing what we do, our time together, our trips, our rights, our nights, our everything. I love we are, I love what we accomplished. I love what you are, I love you guys so much," he said.
"I think I'm the last one here, so thank you to the Hall and the whole class of 2022. It's been a pleasure," he said. "Thank you all for being here, I'm looking forward to more adventures together."