San Antonio Spurs star Manu Ginobili confirmed his retirement from basketball on Monday, bringing down the curtain on a 23-year career that included four NBA Finals victories.
The 41-year-old Argentine star, widely seen as the most successful foreign player in the history of the NBA, confirmed his retirement in a brief posting on social media.
“Today, with a wide range of feelings, I’m announcing my retirement from basketball,” Ginobili wrote.
“IMMENSE GRATITUDE to everyone (family, friends, teammates, coaches, staff, fans) involved in my life in the last 23 years. It’s been a fabulous journey. Way beyond my wildest dreams.”
The veteran shooting guard was a key part of the San Antonio teams which won four NBA crowns between 2003 and 2014 after he joined the league in 2002 from Italian team Virtus Bologna.
As well as the four NBA titles, Ginobili was twice selected for the All Stars, in 2005 and 2011.
He also helped Argentina score a shock gold medal victory at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
He is one of only eight players in history — and the only non-US born player — to have won four NBA championships and an Olympic gold.
Ginobili’s retirement signals the final end of an era at San Antonio where he was a key pillar of championship-winning teams alongside Tim Duncan (retired) and Tony Parker, who left the team last month.
Tributes to Ginobili quickly swept across social media following his retirement.
“Congratulations on one helluva career brother!” LeBron James wrote on Twitter. “It was a pleasure to match up against you over the years. Regular season, Finals, National Team, didn’t matter was always a treat! God bless you, thanks for the playing the game the right way.”
The NBA said in a posting on Twitter signed by commissioner Adam Silver that Ginobili was “a pioneer who helped globalize the NBA … one of basketball’s greatest ambassadors.
“For 16 years, we were fortunate to watch a legend compete at the highest level. Thank you, Manu, for a career that inspired millions of people around the world.”
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr added: “One of the all-time greats. Fearless, funny, compassionate and competitive as hell. Thank you Manu!”
Warriors star Stephen Curry said Ginobili embodied “how basketball is meant to be played.”
“With Passion, joy, and obviously a Champion through and through. Inspiration many sir,” Curry wrote on Twitter.
Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant described Ginobili as a “true champion…one of the best I have ever matched up with.”
“Enjoy life after the game hermano (brother). You deserve that and more,” Bryant wrote.
German legend Dirk Nowitzki saluted Ginobili for “an amazing career.”
“Great player. Fierce competitor. Winner. Next stop: HOF (Hall of Fame),” Nowitzki wrote.
Ginobili appeared in 1,057 games during his career, averaging 13.3 points, 3.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.32 steals.
He also appeared in 218 playoff games, averaging 14 points per game. Ginobili and LeBron James are the only two players in postseason history to have amassed at least 3,000 points and 300 three-pointers in the playoffs.
© Agence France-Presse (Additional edits from Richard Barrett)