Gone are the days when the NBA was dominated by the Americans. For the past couple of years, international stars have taken center stage. One of the players responsible for the ushering of overseas talent is none other than San Antonio Spurs legend Manu Ginobili. And it was none other than Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant who got a taste of his searing talent.
"He’s no white boy"
Bruce Bowen, the Spurs defensive specialist usually assigned to guard Kobe, shared his story of the epic first meeting between the Black Mamba and the Euro step master.
"I remember a time when Kobe Bryant comes up to me and said: 'hey Bruce, who's this white boy?' And I'm like, 'He's no white boy,’” Bowen said.
Bryant shared his side of the story. The first thing he noticed was Ginobili’s movement. It was the first time Bryant had seen someone that shifty. And according to Kobe, he and the entire league had to adjust to Ginobili’s unique playstyle.
"So I first matched with him. He was real shifty with the ball. He would shift one way then went the other way. I was like 'who the hell is this kid?' If anything, I don't think he personally felt like he had to adjust to the tempo of the game in the NBA — the physicality of it. Maybe he did. I don't know. But it was really the adjustment for us. Because we had never seen a player play with that kind of rhythm before," Kobe said.
Ginobili is one of the most iconic players in basketball. His resume speaks for itself: four NBA Championships and an Olympic Gold Medal which he won at the expense of the Americans in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Apart from the hardware, Ginobili is also the man responsible for popularizing the Euro step. Way before the likes of James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Dwyane Wade did it, it was the man from Argentina who utilized it.
He’s set to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame this year. Unfortunately, Ginobili wasn’t selected for the NBA 75th Anniversary Team, which raised eyebrows, particularly from all die-hard NBA fans. Yes, Manu didn’t pad the stats like most of the players selected into the iconic team. But as mentioned above, he has the credentials and left an indelible influence on the sport. This snob will continue to haunt Ginobili fans for a long time.
Whatever the case may be, it’s a good time to reflect on Kobe’s comments on Manu. If a player was able to dazzle a great icon like Kobe, then you know he’s built differently. Ginobili is undoubtedly of the greats of the game. Never mind the exclusion from the so-called Top 75 players list that honored players with no rings on their fingers.