Popovich compares Ginobili to Bryant and Jordan
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has compared veteran Manu Ginobili to past NBA greats Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan.
With their backs against the wall, the Spurs are facing another transition phase next season with the ageing Ginobili and Tony Parker.
The Spurs have been able to rebuild without David Robinson and Tim Duncan, but four-time NBA champion Ginobili, who does not know if he will play beyond Monday's game four of the NBA Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors, could be the hardest of all to replace.
Popovich - whose team are trailing 3-0 in the series - said of the 39-year-old: "He is a special player, special human being. I've probably said it many, many times before.
"He's one of those guys who becomes the heart and soul of your team because of his exemplary competitiveness.
"He's really an anomaly in that regard. He has that same foot-on-your-neck attitude that Kobe [Bryant] and Michael [Jordan] had, those types of guys. Magic [Johnson] and Larry [Bird]. He's got the same attitude and plays with that same fire. He always has.
"He's been a huge part of any success that we've had. To see him at this age, giving us games here and there that just take you back. It's been a thrill."
Ginobili is a two-time All-Star, and spent his whole career with the Spurs since being drafted out of Argentina.
He will become a free agent on July 1 and knows his career is coming to a close.
"I'm going to go game by game," Ginobili said. "We'll see if [Monday] is the last one of the season. We hope that it's not, and that we have a few more. Once it's over, then I'll start wondering what the future brings."