Thursday, October 11th, 2012 at 3:00 pm  |  15 responses

Top 50: Manu Ginobili, no. 31

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.

by Dave Zirin / @EdgeofSports

I have no problem with Manu Ginobili being ranked 31st on the SLAMonline Top 50. Age, injuries and male pattern baldness have definitely taken their toll on the man. And yet, if we were making a list of NBA players who keep opposing coaches awake at night come Playoff time, sucking their thumbs and clutching their blankies, Manu, despite looking every day of his 35 years, is without question in the top five.

What is it that’s made this spindly, 6-6, 200-pound sixth man with average hops so devastating to the nerves of opponents? It’s not his size, speed or otherworldly athleticism. It’s not even fearing the glare of those three Championship rings. In a word, it’s soccer. Manu is the master of applying to hoops, three cornerstones of the beautiful game. He’s a master at these three soccer staples to such a degree, his fellow Argentinian Lionel Messi probably festers with secret jealousy.

The first is, of course, flopping. If an opposing player so much as breathes on Manu, he’ll fall to the ground and twitch like Sonny Corleone at a deserted tollbooth. Everyone knows it. Everyone waits for it. Yet somehow, like a Jedi Mind Trick—if Jedis were really, really lame—he convinces the ref that they actually saw a foul. You might as well call David Stern’s recent czarist fiat against flopping the “Ginobili Rule.”

Manu’s second sense of soccer is evident in how he uses his two steps in one of his whirling dervish drives to the hoop. Manu wrings every last bit of capital from those two steps. He moves right, he moves left, he moves up, down, over and under. He does everything but the tango and he’s snapped more ACL’s than Bernard Pollard.

Possibly Dwyane Wade is the current master of this technique, but every time Wade goes to the hole, he should pay Manu royalties.

The third soccer element is what he does to the ball on one of those drives once he is airborne. Just as the best soccer players “bend” the ball, making in defy physics like a Yul Darvish curve, Manu spins the ball off the glass in wondrous ways and from ridiculous angles. Once it kisses the backboard, he can make the spinning globe bend and fall right through the hoop. He part Maravich, part Gervin, and part Minnesota Fats.

But the number one reason that Manu makes opposing coaches weep for their mommies come Playoff time, is that he’s that special “once a decade” kind of clutch. He’s not clutch like Kobe or Melo in isolation, down one with the clock counting down. He’s clutch the way Reggie Miller was clutch. He’s clutch the way only possibly Kevin Durant today is clutch. If you are up 11 with three minutes left, you don’t feel safe as long as Manu is on the court. He’ll hit a three, steal the ball, get an and one and then you’re up five with an all-of-a-sudden terrifying two minutes, 56 seconds to play.

We can agree with putting Manu at 31 on this list, as long as we also agree that when it really counts, he’s without question in the top-five. He wins and then leaves you furious and cursing his name… and then contemplating how you can steal his moves. The flop, the two step, the spinning of the ball. And always clutch. Maybe Manu can be imitated, but never duplicated.

Where should Manu Ginobili rank in the SLAMonline Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Greg Monroe Pistons C 8
49 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 14
48 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 13
47 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 12
46 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 11
45 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 14
44 Anthony Davis Hornets PF 13
43 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 12
42 Al Horford Hawks C 7
41 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 10
40 Danny Granger Pacers SF 6
39 Tim Duncan Spurs PF 11
38 John Wall Wizards PG 9
37 Monta Ellis Bucks SG 8
36 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 10
35 Roy Hibbert Pacers C 6
34 Tyson Chandler Knicks C 5
33 Eric Gordon Hornets SG 7
32 Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 9
31 Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 6

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Good write up Dave.
    I had him higher, but at only 23.3MPG last year and 34games played, i have no gripes with this spot.

  • nhm

    entertaining write up. i’d say, looking at the rankings, he’s been consistent

  • starkpwnsyou

    Being my favorite player of all time, seeing Manu Ginobili ranked outside the top 25 since 2009 kinda stings. I think this guy deserves at least a 25 ranking these past couple of years. Anyway, in another note, a 2005 Manu is probably in the same breath as a 2005 TMac.

  • JR

    Great article. Given the overall production he had last year I feel like he’s ranked a little too high, but his PER 36 is freaking insane, and I have to agree that he’s definitely a top 5 talent when it counts.

  • timbo slice

    this man is a threat, im not one to speculate on rankings and top 50 placements but this man is a bad bad man when when you need to hold a lead to win a game

  • justin05

    Yeah consistently underrated but he shows up in the playoffs. Rings speak louder than slam top 50 write ups

  • SirGrey

    You had me fooled until the last sentence.

  • spit hot fiyah

    his ranking on this list over the years reflects his career: consistent

  • Pory_Sife

    what the “soccer” mean ?

  • Gonn

    I think he deserves to be higher.His stats per 36 minutes last year were 21 pts, 7 assists and 6 rebounds. He plays hard every night, is one of the most exciting players to watch and is damm clutch.I’m sure that will be players above him that don’t deserve it.Manu is a Hall of Famer, show some respect.

  • Drig

    Another low 20s player…….. I’m pretty sure Manu is gonna play more % of the games this season than last and probably avg. around 28 mpg.

  • Drig

    Was thinking the same thing for a second and then realized what it meant

  • http://SLAMonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Consistently GREAT off the bench and in the clutch.

  • blackthought

    entertaining writeup as always, dave. manu is the player you love to have on your team – hes with the spurs so i dislike him – but he`s such a loco playa!

  • Tom.s

    Blody good read!