Manu Ginobili may have played his last ever NBA game, after the San Antonio Spurs lost their first-round series against the Golden State Warriors.
The defending NBA champions went into Game 5 of the series with a 3-1 advantage and secured a ticket to the Western Conference semifinals with a 99-91 win on home court, thanks in part to Kevin Durant’s 25-point haul.
After the game, Durant, his teammates and Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr warmly embraced the Argentine in what looked like a symbolic goodbye for Ginobili, who finished with 10 points, seven assists and five rebounds in 25 minutes.
The four-time NBA champion is yet to make a formal decision on his future, but he will turn 41 in July and there is a feeling his 16th season in San Antonio might have been his last.
"I've been contemplating retirement forever," Ginobili told reporters after the game.
"Nothing has changed. I just don't know. I'll let a month, two months go by and then I'll see how I feel. I'm not the type of guy that makes decisions on the fly, when you're upset, hurt or whatever. I usually let it sink in and see how it feels."
If Ginobili does indeed retire, he will do so as one of the greatest players the league has seen over the last two decades.
On top of four NBA titles, the two-time All Star was named Sixth Man of the Year in 2008 and is one of only five players—along with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving—to have won an Olympic gold medal and an NBA title in the same year.
Despite playing in a far from vintage Spurs team, Ginobili broke a number of records this season, becoming the only player aged 40 or older in NBA history to score 20 or more points while coming off the bench and becoming the Spurs’ career leader in steals.
On Sunday, as the Spurs beat the Warriors to keep the series alive, he became only the fourth player to score at least 16 points in a playoff game at age 40 or older, alongside Tim Duncan, Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and is eight in the all-time list of playoff games played.
Kerr, who won the 2003 NBA title as a player alongside Ginobili, said he hoped his former teammate would keep playing.
"I'm hoping that's not his last game,” Kerr was quoted as saying by ESPN.
“I just told him I hope he keeps playing because he's been just amazing for the league and so fun to watch night in and night out."
Tuesday’s defeat to the Warriors could also spell the end of Tony Parker’s career in San Antonio. The Frenchman, who has won 132 playoff games alongside Ginobili—the most in playoffs history—is 35 and will be a free agent this summer, but is yet to make a decision about his future.
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