Remembering the time Manu Ginobili caught a live bat during a game

Joshua Rogers April 1, 2022
Remembering the time Manu Ginobili caught a live bat during a game
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

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With the former Spurs man set to enter the Naismith Basketball Hall Of Fame, we remember the time Manu Ginobili caught a live bat during a game.

Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs are one of the most formidable dynasties in NBA history. Between 1999 and 2007, the Spurs won four NBA Championships. They added another in 2014 after overcoming LeBron James’ defending champions Miami Heat.

Central to their success was their Big 3 of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Recently, Ginobili was announced as a 2022 Naismith Basketball Hall Of Fame inductee.

The Argentine undoubtedly had a storied NBA career – but perhaps his crowning glory came when he caught a live bat during a game.

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Remembering when Manu Ginobili caught a bat on court

Ginobili was prolific at many things on a basketball court, including swatting a bat out of mid-air. The now infamous incident occurred during a Spurs game against the Sacramento Kings in 2009, on Halloween night no less.

As the bat swooped down from the rafters, Manu swiped at the bloodsucker with ninja-like reflexes and picked it up off the floor. He then carried the critter off the court to rapturous applause.

The moment was instantly etched into NBA folklore. Ten years on and fans still call for Manu’s expertise whenever bats interrupt a game.

PETA wasn’t impressed with Ginobili

In the spur of the moment, Ginobili was perhaps not completely aware of the consequences of his actions. Animal rights organisation People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals (PETA) criticised the Spurs star for the way he handled the situation.

PETA announced: “Bats always try to avoid contact with humans, and there are plenty of easy ways to keep bats out of a basketball arena (or your home).

“We hope the next time someone’s life is on the line, Manu Ginobili will take just a few seconds to think before he acts.”

However, the San Antonio Express News reported the bat had survived the ordeal. The newspaper wrote: “Reports conflict as to the ultimate fate of the bat. Saturday night, multiple arena sources confirmed the animal’s demise. Sunday afternoon, team officials reported the bat had actually recovered and flown away.”

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Manu had to get anti-rabies vaccinations afterwards

The repercussions of handling the bat were also pretty serious for Manu. After touching the bat, he had to have several anti-rabies vaccinations to avoid infection.

He wrote on Facebook (from ESPN): “Just wanted to give you guys an update on the bat situation. As many of you already know, it wasn’t a great idea. Not only for the fact bats are a great part of the ecosystem but also because some carry rabies, which is an incurable disease. That’s why I had to get vaccinated today.

“Since the incident, the usher took it outside and the bat flew away. There was no way of knowing whether he was infected or not, so I had to do the safe thing. Finally, please, don’t do it at home or anywhere, avoid contact with bats, skunks, raccoons, rats and animals like that.”

He remembered it ten years on

Ten years on, Manu remembered the incident and tweeted: “Nothing I did on the court drew more attention than this!”

Manu will be joined at the Hall of Fame ceremony later this year by Tim Hardaway, George Karl, WNBA legend Swin Cash, and West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins.

Here’s hoping Ginobili pays tribute to that bat.

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Joshua is a senior sports writer with over four years' experience in online writing. He graduated with a BA in Ancient History from The University of Manchester before receiving an MA in Sports Journalism from The University of Central Lancashire. He became a trending writer for a leading social publisher and later spent time covering the 2018 World Cup for The Mirror Online. He then moved to a social marketing agency where he acted as website editor. His specialties on The Focus include F1, tennis, NBA, NFL and combat sports.