San Antonio Spurs

Heat Check: Is Manu Ginobili the greatest sixth man ever?

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Manu Ginobili [Getty Images]

Manu Ginobili announced his retirement from the NBA on Monday. Is he the greatest sixth man the game has ever seen?

Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): I think so. According to Nylon Calculus, no bench player has added more wins in their career than Ginobili - though starts weren't tracked before the 1981-82 season, so that doesn't include John Havlicek, who is widely considered to be one of the best sixth men of all-time. Beyond the two All-Star appearances and four championships, Ginobili separates himself from the competition by being a huge reason for the success of one of the greatest dynasties the NBA has ever seen.

MORE: How good was Ginobili?

Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21): I'm going with Jason Terry. After spending the majority of his first eight seasons as a starter, Terry reinvented himself as a reserve, winning Sixth Man of the Year in 2009.

Just two years after winning the award, Terry delivered one of the best performances off the bench to help Dallas win the NBA title in 2011. In 21 postseason games that year, Terry averaged 17.5 points (on 44.2 percent 3-point shooting) and 3.2 assists per game. In Terry's prime years as a reserve (from 2007-12), he averaged 16.5 points per game and connected on nearly 37 percent of five 3-point attempts per game.

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Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): Yes. Tim Duncan was the best player on the Spurs but Manu Ginobili may have been the most important. Since Ginobili's rookie season, the gap in San Antonio's overall net efficiency with Ginobili on and off the floor was larger than the one with Tim Duncan on and off the floor.

The Spurs are the epitome of sustained success across all of professional sports and given basketball is the one sport where a single player can make the biggest difference, Ginobili's ability to consistently make San Antonio better over nearly two decades makes him not only the greatest sixth man in NBA history but perhaps the single most important non-starter in any sport.

MORE: A look back at Ginobili's legendary career

Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_): When I hear the term sixth man, I immediately associate it with Jamal Crawford. With three Sixth Man of the Year awards in his trophy case, he's won the award more than anyone else in league history. The second he checks in to a game you know he's about to provide instant offence no matter who surrounds him on the court.

While Ginobili paved the role for players like Crawford, Crawford took bench scoring to the next level with 10,766 of his 18,906 career points coming as a reserve.

James McKern (@jLmcKern): Jamal Crawford and Jason Terry dominated as sixth men throughout patches of their careers, but Manu did it for the majority of his 16 season NBA career. Only three seasons saw Manu start more times than coming off of the bench.

The Spurs became the team every other one wanted to become. Every player on their roster brought in for the greater goal and no player epitomised that more than Manu Ginobli. He'll deservedly go down as one of the leagues best bench players the game has seen.

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