Before the emergence of Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, and even LeBron James, there was Tracy McGrady.
The 6’7 forward, out of Auburndale, Florida who was destined to make an impact in the NBA. The star forward was drafted by the Toronto Raptors and played along side his cousin Vince Carter, the already star guard who made his way to prominence with his high-flying abilities and jaw-dropping dunks.
After his three-year stent with the Raptors, McGrady was signed with the Orlando Magic after the 2000 playoffs. Deciding to sign a $67.5 million dollar contract, rumors suggested that the move was in part of the secondary role to Vince.
The Magic, already had a former rookie of the year in Grant Hill on their roster, which many thought would be upcoming team in the East. Hill was limited to only four games that season leaving a bigger role for the newly signed McGrady, a role that he came accustomed to swiftly.
In Contrast to being the second man in Toronto, McGrady defied all expectations and exploded to being one of the premier talents in the league. McGrady’s play that season earned him a spot on his first all-star team, averaging 26.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 4.6 assist per game; he was also selected to the All-NBA Second Team.
In that same season he was awarded the NBA’s Most Improved Player. Entering the playoffs during his first run with the Magic. McGrady was producing mind-blowing numbers that season, and in the first round series against the Bucks’. In Game 3 of the series McGrady managed to put up a near triple-double with 40 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assist. The stellar performance wasn’t enough; eventually the Magic would be eliminated in four games.
Times in Orlando weren’t always enjoyable for the forward. During his final run with the franchise, the Magic got off to a leagues worse 1-10 record, which resulted in the firing of Doc Rivers. Reports suggest that there was an apparent friction between McGrady and General Manger John Weisbrod.
The downhill slide with McGrady and the Magic were career threatening. Consisting mostly of multiple back and knee injuries that lead to this final years in Orlando going from a contender to a sub-par organization.
Prior to the 2004 season, McGrady was traded to the Houston Rockets in a seven-player trade sending the Rockets leading man at the time Steve Francis to the Magic, along with Cuttino Mobley, and Kevin Cato. The trade would go in favor of the Rockets and also McGrady.
The newly formed duo with center Yao Ming, became to be known has one of the most potent in the league. McGrady’s skill set and dominant presence on the floor would make the Rockets a clear contender in the Western conference. The winning in Houston would eventually come to a cease. The forward would eventually be knocked around by continuous back spasms and chronic knee injuries that would make him an NBA Journeyman and trade bait for other teams to pursue.
McGrady, after his six-year run with the Rockets, would make brief appearances with the Knicks, Pistons, Hawks, and then retiring with the 2013 runner-up Antonio Spurs. With so much untapped potential, the question that everyone consistently ponders on is – “Will McGrady be voted into the Hall of Fame?”
As we all know, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame is such an elite class of players, with a variety of different careers and stories to go along with their journey, which forces you to appreciate and come to love everyone’s expedition into the elite brotherhood. It’s hard to imagine the Hall of Fame without McGrady. But then again, I wouldn’t doubt him not being voted in as well (at least first-ballot).
The lanky, flashy forward was nothing short of great, and his dominance on the floor was a trait that most players did not have during the early 2000’s (with the exception of a few). He was the equivalence to the Durant of his time. After Jordan announced his retirement from the game (the second one), the league was at a complete stand still. Games were blackout, tickets were hardly being sold, and the NBA just became uninteresting to watch. Talents like McGrady’s changed the culture around the league in a sense, bringing back the passionate play that most players had before him.
Yes, he didn’t have the career that most of us would have wanted for him, and we never saw that Kobe-McGrady playoff series, but what we did see was greatness. The individual accolades can be considered icing on the cake for a player that was completely dominant during his run. 16 years. Seven time NBA All-Star. Voted to an NBA All-Team roster seven times (two consecutive years on the first team), two-time scoring champion. Numbers that a majority of the guys in the league for sixteen seasons will never some close to approaching. We all should come to appreciate the passion, fire, and charisma that Tracy McGrady furnished to us during his time in the league.
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Justin Hill