From the High’s and Lows, Tracy McGrady’s Career Was a Roller Coaster
How can one describe Tracy McGrady’s career?
An incredibly high-potential ceiling, a very skilled and athletically-gifted basketball player, and one who on September 8th will be immortalized forever.
At his height, McGrady was a cerebral assassin on the floor – a human highlight real. A seven-time All-Star, a two-time scoring champion who at one point averaged 32-points a game. On the floor, T-Mac could do everything. With his superior athleticism and scoring ability, he couldn’t be stopped.
But simultaneously, the incredibly high-potential ceiling was left unfulfilled.
For half of his NBA tenure, everything about McGrady screamed superstar, but two major issues were mainstays throughout his career – lack of winning and more importantly, injuries. Injuries that forced McGrady out of the league by the age of 34 and a lack of winning that prohibited the superstar from reaching the second round of the NBA playoffs until his age 34-season where he was a playoff signing by the San Antonio Spurs and watched his Spurs team eliminated in the finals largely in part to a heartbreaking three-pointer from Ray Allen.
While he was a superstar and a box office attraction, McGrady played on seven teams in 16-seasons. He never played 80-games in a season, and only eclipsed the 70-game mark seven times in his NBA career.
Coming out of high school, he was drafted by the main who will introduce him at the upcoming Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Isiah Thomas. What followed were growing pains for a teenager who clearly was out of his comfort zone. In a new country, playing amongst the greatest in the world – all many years ahead of him in terms of physical and mental maturity.
While the potential was immediately evident, and the hypothetical future of Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady-led Toronto Raptors appearing brighter than anything ever imaginable for the Canadian franchise, McGrady never stuck and after just three years was traded to the Orlando Magic for a first round pick.
And then, T-Mac was born.
“He reminds me of a young Julius Erving in a lot of ways—his length, his athleticism,” said the former 76ers coach Larry Brown. “There’s nothing he can’t do.”
In Orlando, McGrady became the superstar he was always expected to become, and despite captivating the hearts of millions of NBA fans all over the world, the final results always remained the same – first round elimination. McGrady spent four years in Florida with the Magic and was bounced out of the first round of the playoffs in each one of his four years there.
“You can argue that we’re the only team doing well with only one All-Star,” McGrady’s former coach Doc Rivers said at the time. “Then you look at him—at age 21 he’s carrying the burden for the sixth-youngest team in the league. I thought he was going to be like Scottie Pippen, but Tracy scores too much. I don’t try to compare him to somebody now.”
After enjoying his rise to prominence in Orlando, McGrady was moved to Houston, in a multiple player deal which saw the equally as injury-prone star Steve Francis take over Tracy’s role in Orlando.
While ‘Stevie Franchise’ played two solid, but uneventful years in Orlando, McGrady’s legend only continued to grow.
Still surrounded, by questions and concerns, McGrady brought his superstardom to Houston, scoring in bunches, leading Houston to incredible wins, and win streaks for that matter, but very limited playoff success.
“Toughness is one of those nebulous words,” said former Rockets coach Stan Van Gundy. “Toughness is being able to concentrate enough to carry out a game plan. Toughness is the ability to execute a play under duress, having a poise about you, making shots late in the game. That’s mental toughness, and Tracy has that. Taking on guys, beating a double team by yourself. Guarding tough players, like Nowitzki. That’s physical toughness, and Tracy has that, too. To say he doesn’t have toughness is ridiculous.”
Injuries continued to plague McGrady and as he left the Rockets after six, mostly fruitful seasons, T-Mac was never the same. From 2008 to 2013, McGrady played over 70-games only once in mainly a reserve role with the Hawks. Otherwise he only topped out at 52 in his final full season in the league.
So when all is said and done, who was Tracy McGrady the basketball player?
You cannot take away the fact that he will soon be a Hall of Famer, but along with that accolade he was a man who underwent a roller coaster of a career with many highs and lows. He was a superstar, and injury-riddled nightmare, one of game’s most potent scorers.
While he may have never reached the pinnacle of his potential or established himself as the type of player most Hall of Fame athletes are, the cache, the star-power, the electric entertainment that a prime Tracy McGrady was what ultimately punched his ticket into the immortal hall of basketball.
Often times the media and even fans question Hall of Fame resumes that lack rings and greatness over a prolonged duration and fail to miss one crucial aspect of sports. Sports is one of the purest forms of entertainment and for seven years McGrady was on a level that has rarely been seen in the history of the game.
He was a scoring machine, a cold-blooded assassin, and a human highlight reel.
And on September 8 2017, he will be enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.