Semana de Manu: El Magnífico

Underneath all the athleticism--the speed, jumping, strength and coordination -- basketball is about deception and manipulation. It is also filled with matchups within the matchup of two teams by virtue of only one person being able to have the ball at any given time. Between offense and defense, player and defender, are a series of guessing games. Think, "rock, paper, scissors," but with way more options and ways to cover multiple options at once.

For instance, when an offensive player is in a triple threat position, he or she can shoot, dribble or pass. The defender, depending on tendencies and abilities, will give or crowd space in order to disrupt the ease of either of the offensive player's options. The offensive player can manipulate the ball and his or her body to try to get the defender off balance to gain an advantage. Between the two is an instantaneous battle of wits that borders on attempts at mind-reading. This interaction is just one of many that happen even in a single possession.

Manu Ginobili is a master of these tactics. Yes, in the broad scope of the planet's entire population, he is an elite athlete, especially at his height of 6'5". But in terms of the NBA, where Giannis Antetokounmpo and Donovan Mitchell exist, Ginobili is not up there with the high-flying acrobats of the hardwood. Even if we filter the crop of players to those his height, he's not the athlete Zach LaVine or Spurs' teammate Dejounte Murray is. Yet he manages to be an effective NBA guard as he is now 40 years old.

Take a look at this game-winner against the Mavericks. First, let's remind everyone that 40-year-old Manu Ginobili has been left-handed for all 40 of those years. Second, let's go back to that idea of mind reading. With a screen set to his right, the Dallas defenders overplayed to that side. Manu, in his brilliance and taking advantage of the defenders' foolish mistake, refuses to use or go around the teammate's pick and instead chose to attack the rim directly to score and win the game for San Antonio.

Manu Ginobili is, "El Magnifico," the bullfighting alter ego of Jerry the cartoon mouse in one of the "Tom and Jerry" shorts. As bigger, stronger athletes try their hardest to defeat him, he skillfully eludes them all with a grace and clairvoyant ability that not many players have possessed. Salute to you, Manu.

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