With apologies to Mark Twain, reports of Spurs guard Manu Ginobili's demise were greatly exaggerated.
And no one is more grateful than the Spurs, who are now one victory away from winning their fifth NBA championship because Ginobili stepped up Sunday night like the gamer he's always been since he was a kid in Argentina.
Starting for the first time this season, Ginobili broke out of his scoring slump in the NBA Finals with a vintage performance that sparked the Spurs to a 114-104 victory over the Miami Heat at the AT&T Center.
Ginobili, who turns 36 next month, finished with a season-high 24 points and led the Spurs with 10 assists.
He looked more relieved than happy when he spoke to the media after the game.
"I needed to make a couple of shots," Ginobili said. "Not that I made that many. From the 3-point line, I still shot 1 for 4. But I just had a better overall offensive game, and I needed to feel like that. So good that it happened in an important situation."
Ginobili hit just 10 of 29 shots and scored only 30 points in the first four games of the Finals, but he responded with the kind of game that has endeared him to Spurs fans since his first season in 2002-03.
"I was angry, disappointed," Ginobili said, referring to his subpar play before Game 5. "We are playing in the NBA Finals, we were 2-2, and I felt I still wasn't really helping the team that much. And that was the frustrating part."
Ginobili looked tentative in the Spurs' 109-93 loss to the Heat in Game 4 Thursday night, finishing with just five points on 1-of-5 shooting.
Ginobili gave Spurs boost they needed
With the sellout crowd of 18,581 chanting "Manu, Manu," Ginobili was aggressive on both ends of the court from the get-go in Game 5. He connected on 8 of 14 field-goal attempts, including a 3-pointer on his first shot. The trey opened the scoring and put the Spurs ahead to stay.
Ginobili made his first two shots and posted his first 24-10 game (points-assists) since 2008.
"The first two long-distance shots went in, and that helped," he said. "I knew that I was going to be more aggressive regardless if those shots didn't go in. But I really didn't expect a 24-point game. It didn't happen all season long.
"The assists just happen. When your teammates and we shoot 60 percent, it's easy to get assists. I think I passed the ball pretty well last game, too. It just happened that we couldn't score."
Ginobili said he was heartened when he heard Spurs fans chant his name after he got going. Feeding off Ginobili's energy, the Spurs led by as many as 20 points in the second half before the Heat drew to within eight in the last two minutes.
"To feel that I really helped the team to get that 20-point lead, it was a much-needed moment in the series," Ginobili said. "So I'm glad to see it happen."
Sunday night's win gave San Antonio a 3-2 lead in the series, which shifts back to Miami for Game 6 on Tuesday night. If a seventh game is necessary, it would be played Thursday night on the Heat's homecourt.
Tony Parker and Danny Green also had stellar games with 26 and 24 points, respectively. Parker hit 10 of 14 shots, and Green nailed six 3-pointers and broke Ray Allen's record for the most treys made in a Finals series.
But it was Ginobili, with his serpentine drives to the basket and pinpoint passing, who gave the Spurs the boost they needed for the crucial victory.
Spurs can't win title without Ginobili playing well
Ginobili's teammates fed off his energy and were bolstered by his overall play.
"I think that first shot was huge, because that was not even a play for him," Parker said. "It was a play for me. And he kept it, and it was like a broken play, and he hits that three. I think the whole team, it helps everybody, because we know Manu is a big part of what we do. And we needed a game like that from him.
"I was feeling a big game for Manu. I said this morning it's a great opportunity for Manu. I was happy when Pop put him in the starting five, because you can get a rhythm."
Ginobili's slump had gotten the attention of the national media covering the Finals. To his credit, Ginobili didn't run away from the questions about his subpar play when he spoke to reporters after Spurs practice on Saturday.
Ginobili has not only been one of the Spurs' best players for more than a decade, he's also been a great ambassador for the franchise. He's a stand-up guy with a charisma that draws people to him.
But more than anything, Ginobili always has been a fan favorite because he's a blue-collar guy who plays with a passion that reflects his competitive ferocity.
The Spurs will need Ginobili to be a factor again in Game 6 on Tuesday night because they can't win a championship without him playing well.
It's as simple as that.
At the same time, the Heat will have a difficult time beating the Spurs if Ginobili plays like he did in Game 6.