Manu Ginobili, age 40, heats up Phoenix with history-making 21 points off the bench

MANILA, Philippines – At this point, if the Finals MVP trophy is named after Bill Russell, then the Sixth Man of the Year award should be named after Manu Ginobili.

The San Antonio Spurs living legend just dropped 21 points (7-of-10 shooting) in just 19 minutes off the bench in a 103-89 cruiser over the Phoenix Suns on Friday, January 5 (Saturday Manila time).

He made history in the process by joining fellow active legend Vince Carter as the only 40-year-olds to score at least 20 points off the bench since 1970 – the oldest year where complete stats were kept. He also joins Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Robert Parish and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only 40-year-olds to score at least 20 points. But he stands alone as the only 40-year old to do it in under 20 minutes.

After the game, he revealed to ESPN the reason why he went off, and it’s every professional athlete’s dream: a good night’s sleep.

“I was feeling really well today. Very energetic. Had a 9-hour sleep, doesn’t happen that often,” said the 4-time NBA champion.

Thanks to him, the Spurs notched their 13th straight home victory despite losing the services of All-Star talent LaMarcus Aldridge, who took a scheduled rest like every aging player under the great Gregg Popovich, who recently moved to 5th in all-time head coaching wins in league history.

Speaking of All-Star talent, Ginobili’s name popped up in the first voting returns of the 2018 All-Star Game, notching 231,460 votes - way ahead of Chris Paul (174,343), Damian Lillard (148,622) and even stud teammate Kawhi Leonard (212,650).

After coming close to retiring at the end of last season – he even got a standing ovation as he left the Spurs’ home court for their last game – Ginobili’s fans are clamoring to give him his third and final appearance at the annual marquee event. However, after nearly a million Georgian fans voted Golden State Warriors center Zaza Pachulia for two straight years, the league tweaked the voting scheme to make sentimental picks a lot more difficult to pass through.

Regardless, Ginobili has made a lengthy career off knowing his role and staying ready whenever the team needs him. And at 40 years old, he’d probably just prefer more 9-hour sleeps to an All-Star appearance anyway. Let the old man rest, people. –