Over the course of his NBA career, Manu Ginobili has become almost as synonymous with the San Antonio Spurs franchise as Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan. His selfless acceptance of a sixth-man role has made him an integral cog in one of the longest-running streaks of franchise-wide excellence in league history.
With Ginobili confirming a two-year deal with the only NBA team he's ever known on his Twitter account, it's likely that he will remain with the Spurs for the remainder of his career.
Ginobili also tweeted out a picture of himself signing the contract, after the deal became official.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports the financial details of the contract:
Don Harris of WOAI.com had more information on the contract.
Ginobili has spent each of his 11 NBA seasons with the Spurs. While it was expected that he would return to San Antonio—should he choose to come back for the 2013-14 campaign—it looked like the Argentinian star was on the precipice of retirement for the first time last season.
Struggling with injuries throughout the year, Ginobili put up arguably his worst statistics since his rookie year. Ginobili, who turns 36 on July 28, averaged 11.8 points and 4.6 assists per game while only knocking down 42.5 percent of his shots—the second-worst rate of his career. He also missed 22 games with various ailments, marking his second straight season of missing 20-plus contests.
At one point in his career, Ginobili being ineffective and missing extended time would have crippled the Spurs. However, the 2012-13 season showed just how far San Antonio has evolved beyond its original "Big Three" construction. The Spurs finished with the league's second-best record at 58-24, with Tim Duncan having a renaissance campaign, Tony Parker establishing himself as arguably the league's best point guard and a stable of young role players stepping up when needed.
When Ginobili was again unable to find his form in the playoffs—with most of his regular-season numbers dipping across the board—it became even clearer that San Antonio's infrastructure was sound.
As the Spurs made their run to the 2013 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, questions continually popped up about possible retirement. Ginobili even admitted the thought popped into his head before Game 5 of the series, per ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.
"For three quarters of the season, it was the physical part," Ginobili said. "I'd say, 'No, I can't deal with this anymore. I'm tired of rehab and trying to be in shape all the time.'"
Of course, Game 5 would be the contest Ginobili showed there is still some "Old Manu" left in the tank. He scored 24 points and dished 10 assists, leading the Spurs to a victory that put them on the precipice of a fifth NBA championship of the Duncan-Popovich era.
San Antonio was unable to close the deal, though, and Ginobili quickly morphed from vintage Manu to old Manu. He had eight turnovers in the team's Game 6 loss, and then concluded the finals with four key cough ups in the fourth quarter of Game 7. That again rose questions about whether he would return to the NBA, and Ginobili was again noncommittal in his response, per Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver.
“It’s not the moment,” Ginobili said. “I’m very disappointed. Very upset. I really can’t say anything.”
It seems taking a few weeks and pondering his NBA mortality was all Ginobili needed to decide to return for what will likely be his final run.
Drafted by the Spurs in the second round of the 1999 NBA draft, it seems only fitting that Ginobili—a fiercely loyal player—would finish out his career where it began. While it took a couple years for Ginobili to blossom over in Argentina, where he won a Euroleague Finals MVP award, his decision to come stateside would forever alter San Antonio's history.
A free-flowing 2-guard with the handling skills and intelligence of a point man, Ginobili and Tony Parker helped push the Spurs away from a plodding, post-first system and into a more European ball-movement oriented system.
While Ginobili's career NBA statistics—14.9 points, four assists and 3.9 rebounds per game—don't scream Hall of Famer, his career accolades in the sport will almost certainly lead to his induction into Springfield.
The Spurs and Ginobili have now ensured he'll be retiring in the proper attire.
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