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A chat with Spurs star Manu Ginobili ​


PhilBoxing.com




CHICAGO -- Getting old as a pro athlete can be ruthlessly agonizing.

As the talent fades, so does the stamina. The energy level dips while the sprains and pains increase.

Manu Ginobili has lived this earth for 38 years and 1​31​ days. He belongs in that "ancient" demographic that inhabit the NBA. He is supposed to be old and worn down, abandoned by the legs that once carried him to two All-Star nods and four NBA titles.

So with 881 regular season games under his belt and 23,461 hard minutes on his weary knees, Ginobili is pretty much done, right?

Hell, no.

Through 1​7​ games this season, Ginobili, whom San Antonio picked at No. 57 in the 1999 draft, is averaging a noteworthy 10.​9​ points, 3.​2​ rebounds and ​3.3​ assists per while punching in just 21.2 minutes an outing.

The pride of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Manu is shooting 45 percent from the field, 36.8 percent from 3-point range and 82.7 percent from the free throw stripe. His bench production has allowed the Spurs to lunge to a ​17​-4 start, second overall behind the untouchable 2​1​-0 Golden State Warriors.

His dazzling speed, quick burst, basketball smarts, fearlessness, and the uncanny ability to make shots under pressure has made Ginobili a global star. But a greater feat, perhaps, is his staying power, still going strong after 14 NBA seasons.

I crossed paths with Ginobili ​last week​ at the United Center, where the Spurs lost a 92-89 nail-biter against the Chicago Bulls. It was the fourth road game in six nights for San Antonio, a brutal stretch that tends to be unkind to veterans like Manu, who struggled with just four points on 1-for-4 shooting.

As soon as he stepped out of the visitors' locker room I asked Manu about his career longevity in the world's premier hoops league.

"I've taken good care of my body," he told NBA.com Philippines. "And I got lucky, too. I've never had major injuries and surgeries," Ginobili added.

Given his popularity among basketball-crazy Filipinos, I asked Manu if ​he ​has plans to visit to the Philippines.

"It's not easy, the summers are too short. But eventually, I will. Why not," he replied.

And just like that, Ginobili, with a couple of security escorts in tow, disappeared into the lower level section of the arena where the Spurs players' family and friends had gathered.

After his team's crushing defeat against the Miami Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals, Ginobili pondered retirement before signing a multi-year contract with the Spurs in 2015.

With an estimated $108.2 million earned in basketball salaries, Ginobili could have just unlaced his Nikes and enjoy the fame and fortune this beautiful game has given him.

But then again, why would he leave when his body has so much more left to give?

Editor's Note: Besides looking over PhilBoxing.com's NBA page, the author is a columnist and U.S. Editor of NBA.com Philippines​

Photo: The author with Manu Ginobili (L) in 2006 has interviewed the durable star guard several times over the years, including Monday night at the United Center where Ginobili's Spurs visited the Chicago Bulls.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Homer D. Sayson.


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