I debated about writing this given that Tracy McGrady and the Rockets did not split in the most amicable of ways. While I remembered a lot of his magnificence in the Rocket red, I also recalled a lot of frustration and contempt for the man. He was one of the more polarizing figures in my Rockets's fandom, and I held some mix feelings towards his stint as a Rocket.
If you have not heard, Tracy McGrady said his good byes to the NBA on October 9, 2012.
T-Mac should enjoy Qingdao, world famous beer, excellent seafood, bustling city life, and best of all, adoring fans that would be thrilled to see him walk among them. He might even be able to resurrect a career out of it like Stephon Marbury did, but somewhere deep down, he would be thinking the same thing I am right now.
This is not the way things are suppose to end.
Kobe Bryant is the epitome of NBA success since Michael Jordan. He has enough championship rings to make a gnarly brass knuckle for his left hand, multiple all-star appearance and various other honors, including one MVP, and a legendary status for a legendary franchise.
Kobe Bryant is a fortunate man.
If Kobe Bryant were to stare into a dark mirror of twisted fate, he would surely find Tracy McGrady staring right back at him.
A series of misfortune and missed opportunities defined T-Mac's NBA career
Tracy McGrady spent the first 3 years of his professional career as a serviceable role player, in the shadows of his better known 3rd cousin Vince "Vinsanity" Carters. He was a decent player, known to be a defensive specialist. Pippen to Vinsanity's Jordon. He knew he was more. When they went into the playoff together for the Raptors in 2000 and was swept, they came out with the conclusion that Toronto was Vince's team and T-Mac should seek employment else where.
At Orlando, Tracy McGrady became one of the most phenomenal players to ever played the game. In an era where big men roamed and ruled the game, T-mac single-handedly carried an otherwise hapless Magics into the playoffs, scoring double even triple the points of the second best scorer on the team. Unfortunately, the man that he was supposed to play together as one of the most amazing wing tandems ever constructed, never played more than 10 games a season with him. Grant Hill literally spent almost the entirety of T-Mac's Magic career on injury reserve. The fact that Grant Hill is an active NBA player on a possible contending team now while Tracy McGrady cannot find employment is an example of fate's cruelty.
At one point, the second best player next to Tracy McGrady on that Magics roster was Pat Garrity, everyone else of note was injured. He still took that team into the playoffs 3 straight years, and it placed an incredible toll on his body that'll haunt him the rest of his career. T-Mac didn't ask to be in that situation, but he simply was forced into that situation. Kobe asked for it, did the same thing for 2 seasons and said "F___ this! Get me Pau Gasol!"
When Tracy McGrady was traded to the Rockets to play with Yao Ming, the future looked so bright, you were afraid to stare at them directly. A scoring champ paired up with one of the best young post player in the league had contenders written all over it. The Rockets had one of the premiere defensive coaches in Jeff Van Gundy. The first year looked good. It took some time to for the two stars to gel, but there were some amazing performances during that period, including one of the greatest come back performances you ever seen by T-mac. Even though the tandem were surrounded by sub par players and without a decent point guard all year, they managed to make it into the playoffs. The promise of a possible championship did not look like a dream any more.
Only nightmare ensued. The Rockets didn't manage to get good players, They solidified the PG position with Rafer Alston, but massively whiffed on Stromile Swift as a possible starter and paint enforcer. At the same time Tracy McGrady started to have his back spasm, a chronic condition that will end up bothering him and hinder the rest of his Rockets career. The Rockets missed the playoffs the following year. The not very talented roster and JVG's rudimentary offense was incredibly bad without Tracy McGrady. By the time Daryl Morey arrived onto the scene and started to stuff the roster with decent complimentary players, both Yao Ming and T-Mac started to alternate their times on the injuries list. When Rick Adelman arrived with his brilliant offensive scheme, both Yao and T-Mac ended their seasons early. T-Mac had micro-fracture surgeries in 2009, and was forced to watch Yao and his teammates make it past the first round of playoffs without him. Yao subsequently was lost to injuries the next series. When T-mac returned the next season for his final year, he was not the same T-mac anymore, only a husk of his former self remained.
He somewhat resurrected his career as a role player for the Hawkes, but once his season was over, no one was keen enough to take a chance on him any more, perhaps leery of his injury history, or maybe just his incredible misfortune.
Everything that happened in Tracy McGrady's career seems like a cruel cruel joke. He never really got to play with the players he was supposed to play with, never was able fit in, always forced to stand out. Timing seems to be almost non-existent, his time with Yao Ming boiled down to 2 short seasons where they were both relatively healthy.
He was such a phenomenal player, an exceptional score, passer, and defender. He was Lebron in Cleveland before there was a Lebron James. He was a trailblazer for all-around swingmen that can not only do everything, but do them well. It saddens me that a player of his caliber will probably be forgotten, and that he was not able to end his career with a bang, only a whimper.
Good bye, T-Mac. I hope they treat you well in China. I hope fate has one last twist in store for you for a redemptive comeback to the NBA. Best of luck to you, you're long over due for good fortune.