Live forever: Manu Ginobili’s exciting induction into the Hall of Fame

SPRINGFIELD — Manu Ginóbili, the perfect athlete, the illustrious gentleman of the game, interrupts his solid speech in English and clarifies that what is coming, what he will say now, will be in Spanish. The more than 1,500 people in Symphony Hall fall silent. There are personalities from all over the world: journalists, coaches, players of the highest world level. Ginobili is the last to speak, the highlight of the Class of 2022. The tag ceremony includes a red carpet start: We are at the Oscars of basketball and that is how the world understands it. This is not for everybody. From Jerry West, Reggie Miller, Isaiah Thomas, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan -host of Ginóbili-, to Luis Scola, Andrés Nocioni, Fabricio Oberto and Pepe Sánchez, among others.

The basketball world, clenched in a fist, then concentrates on what Manu is about to say. “I know, Lea, my brothers, thanks for clearing the way for me. I wanted to be like you. Dad, my first and biggest follower, how I wish you were here and can understand what is happening today. I miss you so much, old man “, says Emanuel and breaks into a cry that travels the world.

Now, those who smiled, those who applauded loudly, cannot hold back their tears. Leandro, the oldest of the brothers, the one with the jokes, cries like a child. The same goes for Huevo Sánchez, his first coach and family friend. His friends from the Golden Generation. Many, his wife. The fans who speak in English and those who speak in Spanish. Those of San Antonio and those of Argentina. And I am crying too as I write these lines. Because at this moment, Yuyo, Gino, Jorge, the engine of Bahiense del Norte, is a journey through time that transports Emanuel to the primitivism of the game. He is no longer Ginobili, he becomes Manu again for a few seconds. The boy who cried because he didn’t grow up, who seemed like he wasn’t going to be but ended up being the greatest of all time. Then Manu returns to the first time he touched a basketball, when the Hall of Fame was not even a dream. When the NBA was a Michael Jordan poster plastered across the room. Play for fun, to make friends, to build teams.

Yuyo is now the father who represents all fathers, those who are with us and those who are no longer. Those who lit the flame, those who caused us to love this sport like nothing else in the world. The true Hall of Fame is the one we bring from the factory, engraved on the skin. Inscribed in the heart. The circuit of childhood that triggers what will come later. The path that brings together pains and joys. The one that Ginobili invites to live tonight in his unforgettable speech. “Mom I know you’re looking around. It took me having three sons to realize the sacrifice you made for us. Love in acts, freedom to choose. Thank you ma.” What is life if it is not constant learning? “Many, Luca, Dante and Nico. What I love the most is what we do now. Travel, enjoy, I love what they are. I love them with my heart.”

From the Italian experience to sixteen uninterrupted years at Spurs. Duncan’s watchful gaze and Gregg Popovich’s emotion. Parker’s presence to form the most winning trio of all time. “In that time, I also had another career: we did everything as a team and there’s nothing I value more. The championships, but also the disappointments. The long dinners and the early breakfasts. I love them, they’re my friends, it was amazing.” The Argentine National Team present. Scola, the father of the albiceleste team. Nocioni, the soul. Pepe, the brain. Open, the sacrifice. Gaby Fernández, the glue. And the unique detail of the organization to put that flag, our flag, next to the San Antonio Spurs logo.

Ginobili is in itself a lesson in humility. His career has been a lesson. A lesson that will never die and for which he will be remembered for all time: Manu, tonight, is not just another Hall of Famer. In a room in which individual awards abound, in which misunderstood competition requires crushing the one next door, Ginóbili taught a different path. He managed with deeds, and not with words, to be the best team player of all time. Take a step back so others can shine. The one who managed, together with a unique and indestructible group, to defeat the greatest basketball power of all time and force them to change. That made them reflect and understand that there is no better player than all of them together. He learned first and taught later. “This is what I do, Coach,” Pop recalls. “A genius of chaos,” adds Duncan.

In the last exhalation, when there is nothing left, life is presented in images. Flashes that go at the speed of light waiting for the final judgement. From Bahia Blanca to Springfield on a sports trip like no other. The perfect meeting that crosses the times. The basketball gods united to open the gate and retell an endless movie: Manu on a trip to La Rioja and Mama Raquel saying that she has to study. The Casanova that explodes with Ginóbili’s memorable dunk after the assistance of his brother Sepo. Ettore Messina grabbing his head in Italy after Manu’s flight to the hoop. Yuyo, his father, along with Popovich, adoptive father, smiling in a gallery. The embrace of the jumps in Indianapolis and the world surrendered at our feet. The Puma Montecchia who receives, turns and passes the ball so that his friend Manu draws the perfect play. The Argentine flag above that of the United States and Italy on the podium. Manu and Fabricio embracing with the Larry O’Brien trophy. Duncan, Parker and Manu with champagne after the fourth title together against King LeBron. The ball under his arm at the tearful farewell at Rio 2016. His jersey hanging at the AT & T Center before the world’s watchful eye.

His words at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

He advances to the left now with the ball dominated. The full youth, the stylized figure, the legs that become elastic again. In his eyes there is much more than a target: he is the poacher who detects the prey. Continuous hunger about to be satiated. There goes Ginóbili again with the hoop between his eyebrows. He steps on the key, rises and buries the ball with his left hand. The stadium explodes in a shriek, fans in Argentina are thrown off the couch. Manu, however, thinks about the next move. And the other, and the one that will come later. Never satisfied, always different. “It’s not about being the best, but about looking for the best possible version of us every day.”

Unique, irreproducible and irreplaceable. The perfect athlete who had no fissures on or off the court. The aspirational Argentine, the genius we saw grow up to become our own Michael Jordan. The one who will sit at the same table as Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, among other geniuses of the game. The one he knew how to believe but more than that he worked to achieve it. No shortcuts or excuses. The one who was the best but he fought like no one else to make the others better.

“Dad, my first and biggest follower, how I wish you were here and you can understand what is happening today. My first faithful and biggest follower”

Yuyo, Gino, Jorge, you already knew, Manu.

Already knew.

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Live forever: Manu Ginobili’s exciting induction into the Hall of Fame