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SPORTS | 27-08-2018 16:13

Argentine basketball legend Manu Ginóbili retires from NBA

San Antonio Spurs star Manu Ginobili confirmed his retirement from basketball on Monday, bringing down the curtain on a 23-year career that included four NBA Finals victories.

Manu Ginóbili retired at age 41 Monday after a "fabulous journey" in which he helped the San Antonio Spurs win four NBA championships in 16 seasons with the club.

The left-handed guard with the quick move and sure shot had a pro career that lasted 23 seasons in all, starting with stints in Italy and his native Argentina. He came to San Antonio in 2002 and formed what was a "Big Three" with the Spurs, alongside Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.

That era is now officially over: Duncan has been retired, and Parker elected this summer to sign with the Charlotte Hornets.

Ginóbili, the No. 57 pick in the 1999 draft, 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 in 2008.

He also helped Argentina score a shock gold medal victory at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. 

He is one of only eight players in history – and the only non-US born player – to have won four NBA championships and an Olympic gold.

"Today, with a wide range of feelings, I'm announcing my retirement from basketball," the Argentine superstar 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 Ginóbili 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.

Ginóbili leaves as an absolute Spurs legend: He teamed with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich for 135 playoff wins, the third-most for any player-coach combo in NBA history.

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

And Ginóbili, even though he was often coming off the bench, has a resumé of postseason production like almost no one else in NBA history. Only two players have more than 800 rebounds, 800 assists and 300 3-pointers in their playoff careers — Ginóbili and LeBron James.

Ginóbili's final game was April 24, when the Spurs were ousted from the Western Conference playoffs by the eventual champion Golden State Warriors. San Antonio lost the series 4-1.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr was once a teammate of Ginóbili's in San Antonio. And as Golden State celebrated moving on to the second round, Kerr offered Ginóbili a sales pitch.

"Keep going, OK? Why not?" Kerr told Ginóbili that day at Oracle Arena as they shared an embrace. "Hey, we met Roger Federer this year in China. I said 'Why do you keep playing?' He said 'I love it.' If you love it, keep going."

Moments later, Ginóbili left an NBA court as a player for the last time.

Tributes

Tributes to Ginóbili quickly swept across social media on Monday following his retirement.

The NBA said in a posting on Twitter signed by commissioner Adam Silver that Ginóbili was "a pioneer who helped globalise the NBA ... one of basketball's greatest ambassadors.

"For 16 years, we were fortunate to watch a legend compete at the highest level. Thank you, Manu, for a career that inspired millions of people around the world."

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr added: "One of the all time greats. Fearless, funny, compassionate and competitive as hell. Thank you Manu!"

German legend Dirk Nowitzki saluted Ginóbili for "an amazing career."

"Great player. Fierce competitor. Winner. Next stop: HOF [Hall of Fame]," Nowitzki wrote.

Ginóbili appeared in 1,057 games during his career, averaging 13.3 points, 3.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.32 steals.

He also appeared in 218 play-off games, averaging 14 points per game. 

- TIMES/AP/AFP

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