As soon as the Argentina Basketball Confederation posted on Twitter that Manu Ginobili would be available for this summer's Rio Olympics, the San Antonio Spurs guard became a trending topic in social media and gave the national team reason to believe.
Why? Manu's presence transforms the national team into something entirely different with his confidence, experience and courage.
Ginobili returns to the national team to close out a career that not even the most daring writers could have imagined. It is important for an athlete to transcend his sport, but very few transform that sport as Ginobili did with basketball in Argentina.
In a country used to living and breathing soccer, Ginobili has taken basketball to a completely different level. Like a tango dancer improving his number year after year, he has successfully tackled one test after another, getting better with every show. When he plays, whether for Argentina or the Spurs, people cheer and watch with pride. Even President Barack Obama said as much on his visit to Buenos Aires: "Manu Ginobili is one of the best in the world."
Ginobili's career path alone makes him worthy of respect: he stood out in his country, in Italy and in the NBA, the most competitive league in the world. He won the 2001 Euroleague title while being crowned MVP, grabbed Olympic gold with Argentina at the 2004 Athens Games (plus bronze four years later in Beijing), locked up four NBA championships with San Antonio and is still making noise at an age (38) when most purchase a comfortable couch from which to watch the younger guys battle.
Any athlete who accepts the established order or lacks his degree of conviction could never do what Manu has done. Apart from the achievements measured in titles, rings and medals, he led the 2004 Olympic championship team and sparked Argentina's Golden Generation.
Ginobili could stay at home with his family and money and do nothing else. Instead, he's going out there once more. Exposing his legacy makes him a generous athlete with his peers (who clearly need him) and shows he can't go against his competitive DNA.
Four years have passed since his previous Olympic test in London and 12 since Athens. The Argentina national team, except for names such as Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and perhaps Pablo Prigioni, is no longer what it once was. It has a new generation in the pipeline.
Ginobili not only offers confidence, experience and mettle, but also brings flexibility to the team's perimeter. While Manu is playing out the last rounds of a memorable career, he is definitely not the player he used to be. He was born an aggressive guard, and today he is a 1-2 hybrid. He has swapped muscle for brains, an almost impossible exchange in this dynamic and unpredictable game.
Putting the squad together will be a big adventure for Sergio Hernandez. Facundo Campazzo's vertigo will probably be combined with Prigioni's moderation, with Nicolas Laprovittola behind them on the point guard list. Ginobili is expected to complete the perimeter with Selem Safar or Nicolas Brussino, the latter one of Argentina's great local prospects. The forward position will be left to Nocioni, Patricio Garino and, perhaps, Gabriel Deck. Scola will probably be joined by Leo Mainoldi at power forward, with Marcos Delia and a player to be determined as centers. In short, the team looks like a balanced combination of experience and youth.
Will Ginobili's presence increase Argentina's chances? Undoubtedly, but it doesn't guarantee anything. Competition in Group B -- against Lithuania, Spain, Nigeria, Brazil and a playoff team -- will be fierce. Everything is uncertain in a tournament that will be a good test for Argentina's young players.
Ginobili aims to say farewell with a story-like epilogue. Difficult? Definitely. Impossible? Not for him.
Bruno Altieri covers basketball for ESPN Deportes.