Manu Ginobili is a good dude.
No, I’ve never met him, or even interviewed over the phone. I’ve yet to even see him play in person. There is so much I don’t know about him, I shouldn’t draw any conclusions about the person he is off the basketball court. To me, he should just be a future NBA Hall of Famer, that guy who helped changed player shot selection forever (no mid-range Js) upon joining the San Antonio Spurs.
But staying behind that line of objectivity, at this moment, is incredibly difficult. Because man, Ginobili seems like a great dude. One of the best.
In a wide-ranging interview with ESPN.com’s Peter Keating, Ginobili talked about, among other things, the sense of family and responsibility he shares with Spurs fans. And his feelings on the subject, on the relationship between player and fan, was just awesome:
PK: You really seem to carry a feeling of responsibility for the fans you’re playing for.
MG: I don’t know, I just go to a game and I know that there might be people there are going for the first time, or maybe the last time, or maybe they’re making a big commitment and effort to be there. Sometimes we kind of forget the effort they might be going through to watch you play ball. So once you are in that environment and they’re asking for an autograph or a picture or something, you just like to make a good impact. Be a nice fellow citizen.
It’s pretty cool when players acknowledge how important fans are, and it’s even cooler when they turn the imperativeness of their supporters into motivation.
Ginobili, 38, might not play every night anymore. Coach Gregg Popovich’s rest and relaxation program, one that gives exactly two craps about whether games are being nationally televised, limits Ginobili’s minutes and appearances, disallowing him from trying to make some fan’s night, every night.
And that’s OK.
For starters, it’s largely because of Coach Pop’s stringent minutes policy that Ginobili is even here at all, still playing at the age of 38. And measured doses of Ginobili are better than no Ginobili at all.
Besides, all that really matters right here, right now, is that 13 years into his NBA career, and many more into his professional basketball career, Ginobili can still make it all about the fans.