SAN ANTONIO -- Manu Ginobili expected "at all times" that the 2017-18 NBA season would be his last, but Monday's retirement announcement won't prevent the future Hall of Famer from continuing to contribute to the San Antonio Spurs.
A day after announcing his retirement on Twitter, Ginobili, 41, penned a column for the Argentine newspaper La Nación in which he detailed his decision to conclude a 16-year NBA career that included four NBA championships and a pair of NBA All-Star appearances.
"I can't say this was a hasty or unexpected decision," Ginobili wrote. "I'm 41 years old. I've been stretching a little bit this basketball thing, right? In my head, last season was at all times 'the last one.' I never said it publicly because I didn't want to limit my options. I wanted to leave the door open for any changes in my mind or to see if I still felt the physical and mental strength needed to face a new season.
"I was sure to make it clear to [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich] this is not a 'goodbye, I'll see you,'" he added. "My kids have already started school, and while I'm in town, I'll be close to the team and the franchise. I can't help anymore by taking a charge or with a steal, but I'll try to contribute somehow. I appreciate all my teammates, the staff and all the people in the team. I want the best for the Spurs. If I can help, I will do it with pleasure."
In all, Ginobili competed in 23 professional basketball seasons, winning an Olympic medal for Argentina in addition to a EuroLeague MVP award.
Ginobili turned 41 on July 28 and took careful consideration in coming to his decision. Before heading off on vacation with his wife, Marianela, and their three sons in Canada and the Pacific Northwest, Ginobili told Popovich that he was more likely to retire than to continue playing.
Once Ginobili returned to San Antonio, he immediately headed back to work out at the team facilities, which ultimately cemented his decision to retire.
"I went back and started lifting weights, grabbed the ball, watched the younger ones train and break their backs to be well for the preseason, and I was still hurting from last season," Ginobili said. "This situation helped me to convince myself of the decision to make."
Still, Ginobili wanted to wait until Monday to make the retirement announcement in order to make sure Popovich was first to receive the news. The two sat down after Popovich returned from working the NBA's Basketball Without Borders camp in Belgrade, Serbia.
Even that conversation did little to ease the trepidation Ginobili felt about ending one of the most decorated careers of any international player in basketball history.
"After talking with Pop, it was the right time to make it public," Ginobili wrote. "You can't imagine the tension I had in front of the computer before pressing 'send.' I'm not sure why, since I was convinced that it was the right decision, but it was a very crazy moment. I am convinced and happy with the step I'm taking. It's hard to explain all my feelings. Immediately after making the announcement, I experienced a great relief and thought that I was going to be able to disconnect, but the messages began to arrive. I couldn't stay away, and some of them really moved me."
Ginobili certainly won't have to make himself scarce in San Antonio, as multiple people within the organization said that what they'll miss most about the former Spur is simply his presence around the facilities and the team. Former franchise stalwart Tim Duncan visits the facility regularly, has a locker inside the coaches' locker room and frequently spends time working out with the team.
Popovich has joked in the past that Duncan can return to the organization and assume any role he wants. It's likely the organization will extend similar offers to Ginobili.
"I can say that I did it all," Ginobili wrote in his column. "I played until I felt like it. Some have to retire due to injuries or other issues ahead of time. But I played until I was 40 years old. The truth is that I did not have anything left. Actually, I gave myself the luxury in the last three years to play as one would like to do it with his friends, without feeling the pressure of being exclusively responsible for what might happen, with the feeling of 'I already gave everything I could.' I played because I loved doing it, out of respect and appreciation.
"I'm very enthusiastic about the decision I made and what is coming, but I also feel a lot of uncertainty of not knowing how I will adapt to a daily schedule without thinking about the next game. It's just what I did throughout all my adulthood. ... It's going to be weird, no doubt about it, but I think I'm well prepared and very, very well accompanied to face it."