Manu Ginobili on the state of the game in Latin America
Manu Ginobili may be the only one of the San Antonio Spurs’ Big 3 to be a native Spanish-speaker, but he feels no pressure to be the team’s star while the silver & black are in Mexico City.
“I know that I’m the one that speaks Spanish, next to Tiago, but it’s not like I have to do anything particularly different,” Ginobili said. “I know I have to talk a little more.”
The Spurs’ exhibition season sent them south of the border on Tuesday night to take on the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA Mexico Game 2010 at the Palacio de los Deportes in Mexico City. It’s all part of the NBA’s initiative to spread the game globally. This preseason, there are a total of seven games played outside the US and Canada. [Update: I originally wrote five games in that last sentence, but I forgot to include the two games where an NBA team played a foreign club. My apologies.]
This isn’t the first visit for Ginobili to the Palacio de los Deportes, as the San Antonio Express-News‘ Jeff McDonald writes:
Ginobili has played in Palacio de los Deportes before, in an international tournament with the Argentine national team in 2003.
â€œThere were some fights involved,â€ Ginobili recalled. â€œThe fans were excited to have that kind of game out there. The atmosphere and adrenaline were good.â€
But Ginobili isn’t of the opinion that exhibitions like this one create as many fans as the NBA probably hopes.
“I think the arenas are really full and people are gonna love it, but I’m not sure if it’s gonna increase the popularity of the game,” Ginobili said. “Because then you’ve gotta build and you’ve gotta work hard to promote it, and I don’t see that going on.”
But even still, with top players entering the NBA every year from Latin American countries — like Tiago Splitter this year — Manu sees the game growing.
“I know in Argentina [basketball] is very popular. Of course, not even close to soccer, and it never will be, but as far as a second sport in my country it is popular,” Ginobili said. “We’re never gonna get the kind of attention and media that [soccer does]. But it is finally… I really believe that it is probably the second sport in South America.”