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Is Manu Ginobili the Greatest International Player Ever?

After Manu Ginobili added another highlight to his already near-immaculate career with his game-saving block of James Harden at the buzzer of San Antonio’s OT win over Houston, Doug Gottlieb wanted to take the iconic moment even further and anoint the 39-year-old Argentinean the most successful international player ever.

Before you blurt out first ballot Hall of Fame talents like Hakeem Olajuwon and Dirk Nowitzki, Gottleib said their formidable personal statistics didn't always equate with glowing accomplishments.

“Manu Ginobili is the most influential non-American born basketball player in the history of the game,” Gottlieb said. “We get so caught up in points-per-game, assists-per-game – but here’s all that really matters: who won the game, and this guy’s team wins more than they lose.”

Now sixth place on the NBA's all-time scoring list, Gottlieb says people forget about Nowitzki’s failures in the playoffs minus his superhuman run in the 2011 NBA Playoffs.

“Is Dirk a better scorer? Of course, he is. But it’s important to note Dirk Nowitzki’s Dallas teams have more first round losses with Dirk as their superstar player as they do first round wins.”

Much like Nowitzki, Gottlieb believes Olajuwon was the more talented player than Ginobili, but his career resumé is still a bit more slight.

“Hakeem’s great, he’s the best low-post scorer we’ve had in the last 30 years,  but he didn’t win as much as Manu Ginobili.”

As for Ginobili?

Well, it’s fair to say no internationally-born player has ever won as much as the 15-year veteran. 

“He might not be the best, but he has been the most successful,” Gottlieb said. “Early in his life he won two European Championships playing in Italy and he led the Argentinean national team to a world championship, then he won a gold medal. Go back and look historically at Argentina and try and find some place where they were ever competitive internationally before Manu Ginobili and his countrymen came of age – you cannot find it. And then you fast-forward to the San Antonio Spurs, who during this run with Gregg Popovich have won five titles; he’s been a part of four of them, and when you track their successful runs almost all of them coincide with Manu Ginobili being healthy and almost all of the collapses have to do with Manu Ginobili not being healthy.”