Spurs' Manu Ginobili showed Thunder why he is one of the best in the game
The Spurs won 101-98 on a night when aging stars Tim Duncan and Tony Parker were more aged than stars. But Ginobili scored 26 points on 14 shots. And the Thunder should feel honored. It entered good company.
SAN ANTONIO — Manu Ginobili is a winner.
You hear that claim often, about a lot of ballplayers. Sometimes it's even true.
Bill Russell won 11 NBA titles. Yogi Berra won 10 World Series. Charles Haley won five Super Bowls.
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Ginobili isn't in that territory yet, with three NBA titles and maybe more, depending on whether the Thunder bows up and stands tall in these Western Conference Finals.
But sometimes we forget they play basketball across the pond and south of the equator. Basketball that sports ultra talent and deep passion.
Ginobili beat the Thunder in Game 1 Sunday night.
Seven points in the last 52 seconds of the first quarter. Eleven points in 41/2 minutes down the stretch of the fourth quarter.
Ginobili's Spurs won 101-98 on a night when aging stars Tim Duncan and Tony Parker were more aged than stars. Ginobili scored 26 points on 14 shots.
And the Thunder should feel honored. It entered good company.
Ginobili is one of the most decorated ballplayers in history. He's been MVP of the Euroleague, when he led Bologna, Italy, to the 2001 championship. MVP of the 2004 Olympics, when he led Argentina to the gold medal.
Three-time NBA champ as an indispensable member of the Spurs' triumvirate. Ginobili is 34 years old and still going strong in carving one of the great résumés in hoops history.
“He's a competitor,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “Manu's got that same fighting spirit of any other great competitor in any sport. Whether it's going well or going poorly, he's going to do the best job he can, maximize his effort.
“Usually it comes out way more positive than negative. He's just got that competitive spirit. We didn't give it to him. He's just got it.”
Bill Bradley is the only other man with championships in the NBA, the Olympics and the Euroleague, a talent-rich consortium of European teams which crowns its champ with a grueling combination of NBA-style regular season and college-style playoffs.
Bradley was an interloper in Europe; he spent one season with Milan, Italy, while studying as a Rhodes Scholar.
Ginobili is no interloper. He's an icon on three continents, including this Alamo City, which is kooky over its Argentine import in his 10th season bedeviling NBA foes.
“Ginobili is a special player and it was vintage Ginobili last night,” Thunder coach Scotty Brooks said. “He was on. He was making his shots. He was making passes. He was getting to the basket.”
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