Thunder general manager Sam Presti last week called Ginobili one of the greatest winners in sports history. Ginobili's pals say it comes from a competitive spirit.
“He goes out and competes every play,” said the Spurs' Gary Neal. “Offensively, defensively, Manu's one of the most competitive people I've ever come across in my life. When you play with that competitive edge, that will put you in a winning situation nine times out of 10.
“He's competitive. Shooting games. Cards or whatever, that's just him. He doesn't want to lose at anything. Just a great leader to have.”
Opponents speak of Ginobili's guile. How crafty he is with the ball. How his flops lead to kindly referee whistles. But they also speak of that spirit.
“He does bring an attitude, he's never going to quit,” said the Thunder's Nazr Mohammed, a Spur teammate on the 2005 NBA title team. “Everyone pretty much knows he's the type of guy who gives it all he's got, leave it on the court. He's not going to quit on a possession; he's going to get it done.”
Ginobili grew up with his dad a basketball coach and two brothers who went on to play professionally.
“I just play the way I feel the game,” Ginobili said. “I love doing what I do. That's basically it. I just play instinctively a lot and I love playing and of course winning.
“I've been competitive all my life, from grades in school to the game. I guess it's in my nature. Sometimes I can do it well. Sometimes I struggle.”
Not often, he doesn't. And not in Game 1. To beat the Spurs, the Thunder must beat one of basketball's all-time winners.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.