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How Manu and the Spurs Evolved Through the Years

Manu Ginobili spearheaded the evolution of the Spurs and helped revolutionize an offense that teams have been copying for years.

Manu Ginobili's retirement shook up the basketball world Monday, with everyone from journalists to former teammates and opponents stepping forward to heap praise on the Spurs legend. As San Antonio prepares for this season without one of the players that helped define the franchise for over a decade, Ben Golliver and Andrew Sharp discuss how the Spurs have evolved over the years and how they transformed basketball with their unique style of play. 

Ben Golliver: Real quick. I went down to the court after Game 3 (of the 2014 NBA Finals against the Heat) and took a picture of the net that the Spurs had been shooting in the first half when they scored their 71 points and basically didn’t miss. And I was like, “We need to send this net to Naismith right now. And that was the feeling in the building, like they had broken a dynasty, had solved basketball. Like here’s an offense that basically seems impossible because they can score from all five positions and the ball just moves constantly. They deserve a lot of credit in just charting that beautiful game idea of soccer being more like basketball and offense just being impossible to stop. They deserve their little chapter in there too. Don’t skip over from the Nash Suns straight to the Curry Warriors. Give San Antonio it’s due too.

Andrew Sharp: Seriously, I think that there’s a lot of Spurs DNA in what makes the Warriors so impossible to stop. And you can also point to the Celtics and say that they’re building a similar sort of culture where a lot of guys look even better than they actually are and Stevens is playing to guys’ strengths in similar ways that Pop does in San Antonio. I guess the Spurs are kind of the standard for excellence in a way that every team going forward is going to have a little Spurs DNA in them.

Manu Ginobili Kept Us on the Edge of Our Seats

And again, I hated the Spurs for most of their run and I think part of the problem is that during the mid-20s, when Manu was at his most electric and I think you could make the case that he could have gone somewhere else and could have been a James Harden-type lead guard, that was also when the Spurs were just horrible to watch.

The Spurs-Pistons finals were a low point for the whole damn league. Maybe you enjoyed it, I don’t know, we never really talked about it. But I think another thing I love about Manu is that he helped spearhead the evolution of the Spurs to where, over the last 10 years, it’s like night and day. They play this wide open beautiful game where everyone is touching the ball and Manu deserves a lot of credit for that as well. And now we should probably stop gushing.

Golliver: Well I think, in all honesty, even the most diehard Spurs fans can recognize that the NBA is at a better place now than it was during the early 2000s. And that doesn’t mean that they had ruined the sport, I mean they had found a formula that worked for that period and they milked it and milked it and milked it. But I think that, Popovich will be remembered, not just for having one style and kind of imposing it on his team and always having those guys play that way and it just work for decades.

Examining the Current State of NBA Sneaker Culture

I mean he’s going to be remembered whenever he retires as this great evolver, right? Like a guy who takes whatever talent he has and meshes with the current style of play or whatever the best practices are to kind of keep his team in the mix constantly. And to have players who are able to make those kind of adjustments—and it’s not just Manu but I think you’re right to point to him first because he was the player and the offensive engine most of the time—but I think Tony Parker evolved as a player and then Duncan to kind of withstand any trend up until the very end. I think those guys are also kinda evolutionary players as well.

I think we kind of say goodbye to that whole group with Manu retiring. I mean that was another thought that was sort of on my mind. I mean training camp is going to be so so weird because it’s not just Manu being gone, it’s Parker not being. It’s Kyle Anderson not being there. It’s Danny Green, who was around for basically all of the second half of the Spurs’ run, not being there. Kawhi. I mean that’s a lot of institutional knowledge, friendships, it’s a lot of built-up good habits, it’s going to be a weird weird place. I’m sure the beat guys down there in San Antonio are going to show up in late September and want name tags on all the players because it’s like, who are these people?

Sharp: Don’t worry about it, man. You’ve got LaMarcus and DeMar. The future of the Spurs is gonna be fine.

Golliver: Ugh.