(Editor’s Note: if you are unfamiliar with Logan please watch the trailer.)
In the orange skies of the scorpion moon he sits alone in the locker room as his left hand trembles. There is the dull roar of metal on the tile as a rusty old wheelchair rolls in. Gregg Popovich gently pats his aging pupil on the back of the head.
“Manu, what did you do?”
“Pop, the world is not the same as it was. …Mutants, they’re gone now.”
Indeed, the old Spur is right.
Much has changed in the dystopian hell of 2017 South Texas. The president is a lunatic and the uncanny Duncan and Parker are no longer of this earth. Agents of evil like Draymond Green are on the hunt—Pop and Manu are all that is left.
Chapter 1: Narcissism
Many moons ago, Professor Charles Xavier found Logan (then known as Wolverine) in the vast northern mountains of Alberta, Canada—a bare knuckle brawler working in saloons, running from his past. RC Buford stumbled upon Ginobili the same way—the flowing hair and chaotic cowboy roaming the outback of Australia.
There was a sense the young man was as misunderstood as he was talented. In the mythology, there’s the tale of an unknown Manu in Indianapolis for a FIBA tournament, throwing down a dunk that silenced the 20,000 people in attendance. No video exists of the event; only torn limbs in the police report.
Logan film director James Mangold says something that drew him to Wolverine was that he was the least narcissistic comic book character you’ve ever seen. There was no need for a shiny costume; jeans and tank top would suffice. He was a man of duty and principle above all else.
Popovich had asked as much of Manu in those early days: Come off the bench; lead the second unit; sacrifice for the team. Things unheard of for a Hall of Fame talent.
The adjustment first challenged his ego, then the Spurs trait of “getting over yourself” began to settle in. It manifested even in his appearance. Manu started losing his hair, and in a league obsessed with appearance, brand, and youth, the old man never covered up for one moment with a headband.
Chapter 2: Bravery
Logan was the bravest of the Marvel Universe—a soldier who gave everything to those around him. No shot was too big for Ginobili. No pass or move too insane. He left his guts out on the court every night. So while Tim Duncan became the soul of San Antonio, it was Manu who possessed its heart.
Chapter 3: Healing
Both Logan and Manu lived with metal fused within—one of adamantium, the other of flowing silver.
Wolverine had the mythical healing factor, quickly regaining full health from any wound or bullet. His true age was a mystery—he’d traveled the world for over a century.
Manu had a previous life in Italy, Wolverine somewhere in Japan. Ginobili aged like no other. His benching may have been Pop’s greatest gift. Well into his 30s he was capable of preposterous things like this.
In the opening scene to Logan, the drunken mutant stumbles out of his limousine and almost regretfully unleashes his metal claws. Briefly, we see that one metal claw on his left hand is half-erect. He notices it before being punched in the face. Violence ensues. He unleashes his fury.
Old Man Manu had a similar impotency, losing his right testicle in the fog of war. After surgery, he returned quickly to practice with a military grade athletic supporter. Immediately, he was diving on the ground, drawing charges, attacking ruthlessly.
Ginobili vowed that once he returns, he would play with the same reckless abandon that has cemented his reputation around the league for more than 14 seasons.
“I’m not hesitating, I’m not in doubt, I’m not afraid,” he said.
Glance at footage of Manu on the bench: Muscle t-shirt; legs stretched out; no ice. It’s like he’s sitting in a cinema eating popcorn. Pop calls his name and he locks and loads. The man has only one gear. …It’s the way it’s always been.
Chapter 4: Family
In Logan, Charles Xavier tells the family of farmers at the dinner table that he used to run a school for gifted students. He laughs at how he had to throw Wolverine out a few times. Pop admits the same—he had to learn the greatest of patience for the Argentine. With time, it was trust that bonded them without fail.
Logan cared deeply for an aging Professor Xavier—getting his meds, feeding him, taking him to the toilet. The idea was to buy a SunSeeker and sail away together into the ocean’s dying light. Manu couldn’t walk away from Pop, either. Philadelphia’s front office offered him a suitcase of cash. Argentina promised a hero’s retreat. But Manu simply couldn’t leave, especially now that there were kids involved.
In a secret lab in Mexico City there was the birth of a group of young mutants now on the run for their lives—they had powers like the X-Men they had been cloned from.
The Spurs followed the same model. DNA of Tim Duncan was used to clone the quiet, iconic grace of Kawhi Leonard. Then there was Dejounte Murray, the unheralded 20-year-old point guard extraordinaire who fell late in the draft a la Tony Parker. …And then there was X-23.
She’s like you, very much like you.
Jonathan Simmons spent his life in the shadows grinding for something better. Bouncing around from college to college. League to league. Barely putting food on the table. But he was fearless and a swashbuckler and willed his way into the NBA in his mid-20s. Athletic and hyper-instinctual, he chases down blocks with the best of them, plays lockdown D, and has no mercy attacking the rim.
Manu couldn’t let these kids take on the world alone.
Yet people were saying the old man was washed up. At the start of the 2017 playoffs it looked like he had nothing left to give.
Player to watch tonight: Manu. He’s not washed, he’s just in a nasty funk. Trust me, the wizard still has something up his sleeves.
— Marc Griffin (@montrealmarc) April 26, 2017
Chapter 5: One Last Ride
There was an urgency to the man—an urgency that pulses when you know the end is near.
An uncanny villain appeared: a mutant clone of Wolverine called X-24—a larger, meaner version of himself. Manu faced this offspring with his own eyes. Houston’s James Harden—a big, burly, left-handed spawn—was sent out to kill him. Simmons did all he could to defend the bearded beast. And the old man dug deep and did this:
Alas, there was no time to breathe. Warriors were now in hot pursuit, with Kawhi hobbled and hope fading fast.
Logan, you still have time.
There was the mighty growl of the Argentine, running through the Alamo with his claws out one last time.
A frenzy of the Old Man scoring against Golden State: behind the back dribbles, nutmegs, and a ferocious dunk that nearly secured a victory.
— NBA UK (@NBAUK) May 15, 2017
Alas, Father Time caught up. He always does. You could see it in Manu’s eyes as the final buzzer rang.
Yet the children had found their freedom, their courage, and had lived to fight another day. It was indeed a silver lining to all the collateral damage.
And with that, they buried the old man. The last of the great X-Men was dead. Tears swelled and hearts bled, as a glowing daybreak rose just over the horizon.