SAN ANTONIO • The San Antonio Spurs paid tribute to their retired guard Manu Ginobili on Thursday, honouring a trophy-laden career that included not only four National Basketball Association titles but also an Olympic gold medal.
The home team raised his No. 20 jersey to the rafters of the AT&T Centre, making him the ninth Spurs player to have his number retired.
Admitting the ceremony had left him "overwhelmed" and he was "beyond appreciative", Ginobili, who hung up his jersey last August, said: "I stand here and I think what am I doing here?
"This wasn't supposed to happen to me. I had no expectations whatsoever growing up to be even close to being here.
"When I started to become kind of good, I thought maybe I'll have a quite successful career in Europe, maybe win something with the national team - who knows.
"Then one day, I suddenly wake up and I hear what these legends say about me.
MANU GINOBILI IN NUMBERS
Only two players have more than 800 rebounds, 800 assists and 300 three-pointers in their NBA play-off careers - San Antonio Spurs' retired star Manu Ginobili and LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers.
His winning percentage (762-295) in 1,057 NBA games is the best winning percentage in league history among players who have appeared in at least 1,000 games.
"It was a long ride from growing up in Argentina. But I've been lucky. I was raised in a family with two very supportive, present parents that allowed me and my brothers to follow our dreams."
His former teammate Tim Duncan, who was the eighth player to have his number retired by Spurs, was among the franchise greats on hand to congratulate him during and after the Spurs' 116-110 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Ginobili was also feted by another former teammate Tony Parker, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and members of Argentina's "Golden Generation" team, with whom he won the country's first basketball gold at the 2004 Athens Games.
The 41-year-old spent his entire 16-year NBA career in San Antonio - he had seven prior stints in Italy and Argentina - and his winning percentage of .721 (762-295) is the best winning percentage in league history among players who have appeared in at least 1,000 games.
Selected by the team as the 57th overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft, Ginobili averaged 13.3 points, 3.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.32 steals in 25.4 minutes.
He is the Spurs' all-time leader in three-pointers (1,495) and steals (1,392), while ranking third in games (1,057), fourth in assists (4,001), fourth in free throws (3,380) and fifth in points (14,043).
Only two players have more than 800 rebounds, 800 assists and 300 three-pointers in their NBA play-off careers - Ginobili and LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Calling him a "unique" talent, Parker said: "There is no other word to describe you, even (coach) Pop didn't know what to do with you the first two years."
Popovich also lauded Ginobili's willingness to adapt to coming off the bench - not always an easy adjustment for a big-name player.
The 70-year-old added: "Luckily for our team, he is intelligent and he understood it. One day, he will go into the Hall of Fame coming off the bench. He understands priorities and he was one of the greatest teammates anyone could ever have."
Separately, the league announced on Thursday that the Charlotte Hornets and Milwaukee Bucks will play a regular-season game in Paris next season.
While the NBA has conducted pre-season activities in France before, the game on Jan 24, 2020 will be the first competitive game to be held in the country.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS