Manu Ginóbili and Tim Hardaway have reached the most important milestones of their decorated basketball journeys at Symphony Hall in Springfield, Mass., whether by “Euro-step” or “UTEP two-step”.
Manu Ginóbili and Tim Hardaway inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame
Ginóbili, the Argentine star who won four titles with the San Antonio Spurs, was joined by former teammates Tim Duncan, David Robinson and Tony Parker as well as coach Gregg Popovich. Duncan, who was inducted two years ago, joined Ginóbili on stage as presenter as fans cheered and shouted “Ma-nuuu”.
After sacrificing his own role by agreeing to leave the bench as an overqualified sixth man, Ginóbili, 45, was quick to defer credit for his induction to “all the people and teams” who influenced his career because that he hadn’t been an MVP-caliber player with an overwhelming individual resume.
A creative and unpredictable goalscorer known for his change of direction moves and passionate play, Ginóbili said making the NBA was “an unattainable dream” during his childhood in soccer-crazed Argentina, although he pointed out that the basketball was exceptionally popular in his hometown of Bahía Blanca. He remembers a repetitive childhood – “dribbling, shooting, dribbling, shooting for six or seven hours a day” – under the guidance of his parents, who were both actively involved in his development.
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After turning professional as a teenager and playing in Italy, Ginóbili credited “sheer luck” with bringing him to Spurs, who selected him with the 57th pick in the 1999 draft without interviewing or giving him a notice. The two-time All-Star spent the next 16 seasons in San Antonio, winning titles in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014.
“We had our priorities clear,” he said. “We never let our ego get in the way. We knew when it was [Parker’s] time, when it was my time and when it was [Duncan’s] time, which was most of the time.
Meanwhile, Ginóbili was the face of Argentina’s “Golden Generation”, which won Olympic gold at the Athens Games in 2004 and bronze at the Beijing Games in 2008.
“I’m not here because I was super special,” he said. “I’m here because I was part of two of the most important teams of the 2000s.”
Hardaway, 56, joined fellow “Run TMC” partners Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin, as well as former Golden State Warriors coach Don Nelson, in the Hall. The 6ft point guard joked that Nelson had ‘lied to every team’ during the 1989 pre-draft process telling them ‘my knees had been shot’ in hopes Hardaway would fall to blows of Warriors. Nelson then engineered a quick, high-scoring offense around Hardaway, who was known for his quick crossover and scoring acumen.
“Man, we were ahead of our time,” Hardaway told Richmond and Mullin, who joined him on stage. “I cherish those years.”
Born and raised in Chicago, Hardaway named Isiah Thomas a childhood hero and thanked his mother, Gwendalyn, for taking time off work to show him the correct bus routes to school and directing the family after their divorce. Hardaway also shared a moment with his son, Tim Jr., a Dallas Mavericks shooter.
“You’ve kept the legacy of basketball alive,” Hardaway said. “I’ve introduced you to the game we love, and we’re so proud of you. We’re having so much fun watching you play. You’re out there kicking your ass.
Although Hardaway did not directly address the controversy surrounding homophobic comments he made during a 2007 radio interview, he thanked Hall Speaker Jerry Colangelo and NBA Commissioners Adam Silver and David Stern to be ‘men who never wavered in their belief in me even when it was’ not always popular.
The evening opened with a tribute to Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, who had been inducted as both player and coach before his death in July. Jerry West and Alonzo Mourning presented a video montage of Russell’s on-court heroism and off-court activism as Charles Barkley and Dikembe Mutombo watched from the crowd.
“To be considered among the best, you have to be willing to put it on the line against the best,” West said. “I was lucky enough to learn that first hand playing against Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics. In his own way, he made every life he touched a little better.
Mourning added: “His impact on society as a champion of social justice is the source of our deep admiration for him. Our mentor, our friend, his gigantic smile and his contagious laughter will be deeply missed.