A San Antonio Spurs intern was tasked with hand-delivering Manu Ginobili’s new two-year deal to the star in his home country. There was just one problem: a bird stole it. Yes, really. The NY Times has the amazing tale: “Hours before the Spurs’ intern was to fly home from Buenos Aires, team officials said that he was strafed by a bird in a park. As he tidied up at a fountain, his backpack disappeared. Inside were Ginobili’s signed contract, along with the intern’s passport, cellphone and laptop. Luckily, an international sports crisis was averted. An assistant traveling to Buenos Aires soon after brought a fresh contract and returned it to Texas without incident. ‘No birds got to him,’ Sean Marks, the Spurs’ director of basketball operations, said with a laugh. ‘We were all waiting for Manu’s contract to show up on eBay. It hasn’t yet.’ Over the past 25 years, San Antonio has become one of the most ambitiously global sports franchises in North America. During the 2013 N.B.A. finals against Miami, the Spurs’ 15-man roster included nine players born outside the continental United States, a league record. After the playoffs, San Antonio signed a 10th international player — Marco Belinelli of Italy — and drafted a forward from France. The benefits of this embrace of intercontinental basketball have been clear: four championships won since 1999 with fluid movement, selfless passing and insistent defense. The drama with Ginobili’s contract aside, San Antonio’s immersion into global basketball has produced a run of prodigious consistency. The Spurs have won 50 or more games for 14 consecutive seasons and have reached the playoffs 16 straight years, the longest current streak in the league. On a late August morning, during an off-season workout, Tim Duncan, the almost-certain Hall of Fame forward from the United States Virgin Islands, prepared his 37-year-old body for another grind of a season. Joining him were centers Tiago Splitter of Brazil and Aron Baynes of Australia. There was also Marks, the director of basketball operations, who is from New Zealand, and Ime Udoka, an assistant who played for the Nigerian national team. Daisuke Yamaguchi, an assistant athletic trainer from Japan, monitored the workout. ‘All I think we’ve done is we’ve looked at basketball players and not tried to put a border to them,’ said R. C. Buford, the Spurs’ general manager, from Wichita, Kan. ‘Let’s not worry where they’re from, let’s worry about how they play and what their character is and their interest in being part of a team.'”
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