No matter how many spectacular comebacks the Rockets have made or will ever make, this day unequivocally belongs to Tracy McGrady.
It's NBA Comeback Day around SB Nation, where we highlight the best comebacks we've seen for each of our teams. As you could have guessed, Tracy McGrady's 13 points in 35 seconds to defeat the San Antonio Spurs on December 9, 2004 takes the cake.
I suppose I have to begin my submission for NBA Comeback Day by stating that yes, there have been many impressive one-man performances in sports history in addition to Tracy McGrady's 13 points in 35 seconds. Perhaps the most impressive of those that I have ever seen was St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Fernando Tatis' two grand slams in one inning. That was, by far, the greatest one-man performance I have ever laid eyes on.
And I say that only because I didn't actually see McGrady score 13 points in 35 seconds, at least not until the next morning on Sportscenter. But in retrospect, T-Mac's one-man comeback is the performance of all performances. Unlike Carmelo Anthony's thirty-three points in one quarter, McGrady's magic won the game. He singlehandedly won a game that was FINISHED ninety-nine percent of the time. And so, without any doubt, McGrady gets the Comeback Day treatment.
You can't totally blame the Spurs for what happened, at least not until Tim Duncan fouled McGrady on the four-point play. With a lead and little time remaining, one of the most disciplined players in the league fell for the most costly pump fake he will ever come across. And then there is Devin Brown's slip-up, which is perhaps the most boneheaded play any Spur made that night. Devin Brown is going to secure the game? By dribbling down the baseline? Right.
(Note: Brown's face near the end of the video — right after Tony Parker misses the halfcourt heave at the buzzer — is nearly as fantastic as the actual highlights.)
Professional athletes have less room for error than athletes at any other level, but McGrady's aerial display rendered errors irrelevant. He was going to make every shot he took. He just was. And that's what makes his final shot to win it so memorable. Everyone knew who was going to take the game-winner, and no matter how many Spurs got in McGrady's face to try to deter the icing on the cake, it didn't matter. That shot was going in. That's why we watch sports.
I'll let the video tell the rest of the tale. Any more words... well, they simply cannot describe.