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Spurs ace Ginobili retires from NBA

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

UNITED STATES (AP) — Manu Ginobili has played his final game, and with that a new era awaits the San Antonio Spurs.

Ginobili announced his decision to retire Monday, the 41-year-old wrapping up what he called a “fabulous journey” in which he helped the Spurs win four NBA championships in 16 seasons with the club.

The smooth left-handed guard from Argentina came to San Antonio in 2002, forming what quickly became a powerful “Big 3” alongside Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. Now they've all moved on: Duncan retired two years ago, Parker left San Antonio earlier this summer as a free agent to sign with the Charlotte Hornets, and Ginobili has worn Spurs colours for the last time as well.

“Today, with a wide range of feelings, I'm announcing my retirement from basketball,” Ginobili wrote on Twitter in making the announcement. “IMMENSE GRATITUDE to everyone (family, friends, teammates, coaches, staff, fans) involved in my life in the last 23 years. It's been a fabulous journey. Way beyond my wildest dreams.”

The image Ginobili chose to accompany that tweet: a photo of him walking off the floor, away from the camera, with four fingers aloft — signifying his four titles.

“An NBA champion and All-Star, Manu Ginobili is also a pioneer who helped globalise the NBA,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said.

Ginobili's pro career lasted 23 seasons in all, starting with stints in Italy and Argentina. His drawing power was massive even in his final season, and it was common for him to spend plenty of time before road games posing for photos and signing autographs — often international fans proudly displaying an Argentine flag.

Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard were the backbone of San Antonio's drive to its most recent NBA championship in 2014, and this will be the first time that Gregg Popovich begins a season as the Spurs' head coach with none of those players on the roster. Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan earlier this summer, the end of a relationship in San Antonio that had apparently gone too sour to save.

Leonard's departure meant Ginobili would have been the last significant player tied to the Spurs' title years. But in the end, retirement was his call.

“Great player. Fierce competitor. Winner,” Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki said on Twitter. “Next stop: HOF.”

Getting enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame would seem like a certainty for Ginobili, especially when adding his accomplishments outside of the NBA. He led Argentina to the 2004 Olympic gold medal, with a victory over the US in the semi-finals.

“He has the talent to continue playing for five years, but we have to respect his decision. Us Argentinians, we are so proud of him. We wish all the best in the new life,” said Juan Martin del Potro, who thanked Ginobili after his victory at the US Open.

The No. 57 pick in the 1999 draft, Ginobili averaged 13.3 points and 3.8 assists in 1,057 regular-season games. He was a two-time All-Star and was the league's Sixth Man of the Year for the 2007-08 season (getting 123 of 124 votes), plus he teamed with Popovich for 135 play-off wins — the third-highest total for any player-coach combo in NBA history.

The only two with more? Popovich and Duncan won 157, and Popovich and Parker won 137.