Manu Ginobili was an integral part of four San Antonio Spurs squads that hoisted the Larry O'Brien Trophy ('03, '05, '07, '14), and head coach Gregg Popovich believes none of those title wins would have been possible without the services of the legendary Argentinian guard.
"The way the team was set up, we all needed each other. And without Manu, there were no championships," Popovich said during Ginobili's jersey retirement ceremony on Thursday night. "It was not going to happen without Manu."
Popovich went on to credit Ginobili's willingness to accept a bench role, calling his sacrifice "probably the most important thing that we did in our franchise over this whole span."
"It sounds like a small thing, but it made us so much deeper, so much more powerful and dangerous," said Popovich. "He didn't like it, he didn't like me, he didn't want to do it - until he thought about it. And lucky for me and our team, he's highly intelligent and understood the big picture and what it would mean and he did it.
"So he's going to go in the Hall of Fame coming off the bench."
Ginobili had his No. 20 hoisted to the rafters of AT&T Center following the Spurs' 116-110 victory over the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers. Former teammates Tim Duncan, Sean Elliott, Tony Parker, and Fabricio Oberto were present for the festivities, as were Ginobili's wife and three sons.
The guard played 16 seasons in San Antonio after the Spurs selected him 57th overall in the 1999 draft. Ginobili earned a pair of All-Star nods, was a member of the All-NBA Third Team on two occasions, and took home Sixth Man of the Year honors in 2008.