In the words of the great urban philosopher, Jay-Z, “every day a star is born. ”
In the NBA, new stars are born annually. When players become virtually unknowns to household names it’s a joyous sight to behold.
For Manu Ginobili, June 23, 2005, hallmarks a time where he cemented himself as a star. On that day, it was arguably the most important playoff game in San Antonio Spurs history.
Although the Spurs won championships in 1999 and 2003, the 2005 title confirmed their reign as a dynasty. It’s tough to think how they would be observed if they didn’t win their third championship at such a pivotal time.
In the 2005 NBA Finals, the Spurs and Detroit Pistons battled back-and-forth with each other. Throughout the NBA Finals, you could have made the argument that Ginobili was the best player in the series. His numbers don’t scream Finals MVP as he averaged 18.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and four assists.
Pitted against one of the toughest defenses in the league, he was close to reaching the undaunted feat of being a 50-40-90 guy. Manu’s shooting percentages were 49-38-85 — evidence that his efficiency was off the charts. He gave Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince fits on the offensive end and he was a pest defensively as both Billups and Hamilton shot south of 45 percent from the field.
In Game 7 specifically, Manu catapulted into stardom and as one of the best closers and players in the NBA. Ginobili scored 23 points, which was highlighted by 11 points in the fourth quarter. In addition to that, he chipped in 5 rebounds, 4 assists and several back-breaking plays the put the Pistons out of reach of winning back-to-back titles.
Watching No. 20 cruise through the lane against a team that embodied physicality and perfection on defense was poetry in motion. There was nothing the Pistons could do about, and as the young kids of today say, Manu was in his bag.
When ranking the top players in the NBA the past fifteen years, Manu Ginobili is a name you will never hear. Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are names that will come up and justly, they’ve earned that right.
Like many things, there are several ways of being viewed at as a star player in the NBA. For some, it’s the off-the-court flair coupled with their greatness on the court. For players like Durant, Bryant and James, they embodied all of the above. While Manu isn’t revered in that light that can paint him as a superstar, he’s had his fair share of moments that places him in such territory.
His trek toward stardom in 2005 will always be a special moment for me. One could say that being selected to the All-Star game was a stepping stone in that direction toward prominence, and for Ginobili, it was a primer to what he would become later down the line.
All-Star selections can be complex. Oftentimes, good players on great teams get selected and surprise players that have a once-in-a-lifetime type of season make the team. (See Jamaal Magloire in 2004.)
There is a fine line between being a superstar and a star, and for Ginobili, the latter suits him well. Manu has never had top-tier stats, but he is an example that the eye-test is better than viewing a box score. When watching Ginobili, his playmaking, scoring skills, defense and basketball IQ makes him one of the unique talents the NBA has ever seen.
From swishing a three, duping defenders with a Euro-step to casually pulling out a Shammgod crossover, Ginobili is the NBA’s El Magnifico as TSFJ’s Johnathan Tillman eloquently stated.
Ginobili has been so good for so long, but it’s easy to forget that while he was a star for his native Argentina as well as Italy, he came on the scene without a ton of stateside fanfare before those Finals. In just his third year in the NBA, Ginobili came into his own as a player, and a star was born.
It’s no secret that Tim Duncan was the franchise player on the Spurs, but Manu’s ascension put San Antonio into a pantheon where they can be called a dynasty. Without Manu evolving into a star, the Spurs wouldn’t be regarded as such, and thanks to his climb towards the top, that title will remain with them forever.
Columbus, Ohio born. Ron is a first-ballot healthy hairline hall of famer. He spent the summer of ‘08 eating calamari pasta because of OJ Da Juiceman. He also loves to write about sports while listening to Sada Baby. Follow him on Twitter @Ron_Hamp
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