Argentina will be without stalwart Manu Ginobili as it attempts to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics at the FIBA Americas tournament in Monterrey, Mexico, in August and September, according to Argentine reports citing the national team coach.
Ginobili, 37, starred for Argentina on its 2004 Olympic champion team. That’s the only team other than the U.S. to win men’s basketball gold since 1988. He also was a leader as it took bronze in 2008 and finished fourth in 2012.
That Ginobili, so revered that a statue was erected of him in Buenos Aires, will miss FIBA Americas is no surprise.
He also missed the 2014 FIBA World Cup with an injury after the San Antonio Spurs did not grant him permission to play.
“Today, I can say for almost certain, 98 percent, that I won’t play any more [for Argentina],” Ginobili said in August, according to a Reuters translation of a La Nacion comment.
Without Ginobili, Argentina finished 11th at the FIBA World Cup, where the U.S. won to clinch the first 2016 Olympic berth. It marked Argentina’s worst finish since 1986.
At FIBA Americas, Argentina will face tough competition to qualify for its fourth straight Olympics. It won the 2011 edition to earn a London 2012 Olympic berth.
This time, Canada is expected to be much stronger. Plus, Brazil may not be granted an automatic spot in the Rio 2016 Games and looks like it may have to participate with its best players at FIBA Americas.
The top two nations at FIBA Americas earn Olympic spots, and the next three will go to a last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament in July 2016, one month before the Opening Ceremony.
Ginobili, a national team player since 1998, is among notable players from the inspiring 2004 Olympic champion team nearing or at the end of international careers. There’s also Luis Scola, who turns 35 next month, and Carlos Delfino, who turns 33 in August.