Argentina says emotional goodbye to Ginobili-led golden generation

Argentina head coach Sergio Santos Hernandez, left, hugs Manu Ginobili, right, as he comes off the court during a men's quarterfinal round basketball game against the United States at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Argentina head coach Sergio Santos Hernandez, left, hugs Manu Ginobili, right, as he comes off the court during a quarterfinal game against the United States. (AP)

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Argentina came up well short in its attempt to defeat heavily favored Team USA in Wednesday’s men’s basketball quarterfinal, but it’s quite likely that the losing side was responsible for most of the game’s memorable moments. Argentina’s elimination marked the final game for its golden generation of stars, winners of Olympic gold in Athens in 2004 and undoubtedly one of the greatest international basketball teams of all time. Although not all of Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and Carlos Delfino have officially retired from international play, all were expected to finish up their careers for their country in Rio de Janeiro.

The Argentinian fans in attendance made sure to pay tribute to these great players on their way out. With the American win decided in the fourth quarter, the crowd chanted without pause for the final few minutes in honor of Ginobili and other star players:

The incredible support was well earned. In addition to that gold medal, Argentina became the first team to beat the United States’ NBA players during the 2002 FIBA World Championships and accomplished the feat again in 2004, becoming (and still serving as) the the only nation to beat American NBA players twice in international competition. In all, this generation won an Olympic gold medal, an Olympic bronze in Beijing in 2008 and a FIBA Worlds silver in 2006. Beyond those accomplishments, Argentina has been a serious contender in international competition for more than a decade. As Adrian Wojnarowski wrote in 2012, the basketball world owes the team a debt of gratitude.

Ginobili was clearly the team’s leading star and most dominant force. The 39-year-old had already gotten emotional after playing his final competitive game in Argentina ahead of the Olympics, and he choked up again and had to cut the interview short when discussing his career with NBC Sports sideline reporter Ros Gold-Onwude:

Scola and Nocioni had plenty to say about their careers as well:

Thirty-three-year-old Delfino is also expected to retire from international play. Although he is a bit younger than his other star teammates, Delfino has had several foot surgeries and likely will not want to add to his workload in future seasons.

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It’s not clear whether Argentina will be able to continue its basketball excellence into the next generation. Somewhat surprisingly, its recent success has not led to a new crop of potential stars – it’s somewhat telling that, unlike Spain with Pau Gasol or France with Tony Parker, Argentina has continued to depend very heavily on Ginobili even as he has fallen from the ranks of the NBA’s All-Stars.

Nevertheless, this group’s legacy will persist and grow if only because of what they have meant to the international game as a whole. Ginobili isn’t only an Argentinian legend – he’s a global one whose impact has extended to other countries and even (maybe especially) the American game. Wednesday marked the end of an era for all of basketball, not just one nation.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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