Ever since Manu Ginóbili decided on Monday to retire from the NBA, much has been said and tweeted about the San Antonio star and what he meant to the league as well as the city’s Latino community.
But the NBA-centric universe sometimes overlooks how basketball is a true world sport with roots not necessarily created by the NBA, and it has to be said that the 41-year-old Manu will also be seen as one of the greatest international players ever and perhaps the greatest South American of all time.
It can’t be stated enough that since men’s basketball became an Olympic medal sport in 1936, the only team from Latin America to ever win gold was the 2004 Argentine squad.
Think about that: Of the 19 Olympic men’s basketball tournaments held, the United States won 15 gold medals, the Soviet Union won two, Yugoslavia won once and the only team from the world’s Southern Hemisphere to ever place first was Argentina.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china
And to this day, even as Ginóbili made his mark with the San Antonio Spurs, my favorite Manu memory was his Olympic basketball debut, when he scored 27 points and dropped a spectacular lefty floater at the buzzer to defeat Serbia and Montenegro by a point.
It was the start of a dream run for the Argentine team, which included a shocking 89-81 upset over the United States in the semifinals (Manu knocked in 29 points in that game) and an easy gold medal win over Italy.
When it comes to one of the greatest underdog international teams ever, Argentina’s 2004 Olympic edition is up there, and Manu played a great role in leading that team, just like he did in 2002, when Argentina defeated the United States and placed second in the World Basketball Championships.
At this point, you might think that I am overstating the importance of international basketball accomplishments, but I will forgive you because for many of us growing up in places like Puerto Rico (me), Argentina (Manu), Mexico (the 1936 bronze medalist for men’s basketball), Uruguay (1952 and 1956 bronze), Brazil (1948, 1960, 1964 bronze) or even Cuba (1972 bronze), our first introduction to basketball wasn’t the NBA. It was FIBA, the world’s governing basketball body.cheap nike nfl jerseys free shipping
Before I knew anything about the New York Knicks, for instance, my first real basketball memory was when the 1976 Puerto Rican Olympic team almost defeated the United States. Before I started following Dr. J, I was busy scouring Central American Games schedules or wondering if the Puerto Ricans could ever defeat South American powerhouses like Brazil and Argentina.