With Manu Ginobili retiring, a look back at just how close he came to joining Sixers


You can hear just about anything being said in the Wells Fargo Center crowd during the guts of a Sixers game. A lot of the phrases aren’t safe to print in this space.

But imagine hearing this collective scream from the Philadelphia faithful: Ginobili!!!!!

While franchise legend Charles Barkley coined the yell that undoubtedly comes out when Manu Ginobili pulls off a sweet play, the newly-retired lefty came extremely close to donning a Sixers jersey of his own.

Just a couple of summers ago, with the Sixers fresh off a 10-win season, head coach Brett Brown was in desperate need of some help. Joel Embiid still had not suited up in an NBA game yet and Ben Simmons had only been the No. 1 overall pick for around a week.

Brown had his sights set on someone who could provide the Sixers with a jolt on the court and leadership in the locker room. More importantly, the coach wanted someone he could trust.

That player was Ginobili, who happened to be a free agent following the 2015-16 season. Brown spent tons of time in the trenches with the Argentinian during his stint as a Spurs assistant for over a decade and the two developed a close bond. 

“He was basically the guy assigned to me,” Ginobili said of Brown to reporters before a Sixers’ win over the Spurs in February 2017. “We spent a lot of time together. We worked out a lot of hours. I absolutely love the guy. High-quality coach, even higher quality guy, fun to be around. I’m completely biased talking about him. I really appreciated him. He’s one of my favorite people, not coaches.”

The Sixers put the full-court press on Ginobili with a reported offer of between $16 and $17 million for the first season and $30 million total over two seasons.

That was far more than the San Antonio Spurs’ first reported offer of a one-year, $3 million contract. But Ginobili insisted it was his relationship with Brown — not the money — that really made the Sixers attractive. 

“The fact that Philadelphia had a great coach and a person I appreciate so much as Brett Brown, made it more appealing in the case the Spurs didn’t happen,” Ginobili told The Vertical in July 2016. “But the Spurs happened and they always had the priority.”

In the end, the Spurs upped the ante on the one-year deal to $14 million to keep Ginobili around. But until the pen was put to paper, Brown held out hope.

“No doubt because it was that sort of confirmed,” Brown said on The Woj Pod in December 2017 about anticipating adding Ginobili to the Sixers. “Things change. I thought it would almost go that way, but you get excited and you trick yourself to think, ‘Well I’ll be damned. He’s actually coming to Philadelphia.’

“Like I said, as it’s played out I think it’s played out just as it should have. He can end his career right probably where he should be.”

And that’s exactly what happened. Ginobili played another two seasons in San Antonio before announcing his retirement on Monday after 16 years with the Spurs. The decision capped off an illustrious basketball career that featured four NBA championships, two All-Star appearances, a Sixth Man of the Year award and countless international accomplishments.

The Sixers were likely better off by not signing Ginobili too. They preserved the sizable cap space that would have went to the veteran reserve and still had their young core develop organically.

But, man, it would have been something to see that lethal Euro step rolling through the lane at the Wells Fargo Center for an and-one and fans blurting out “Ginobili!”

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