It’s the ultimate case of what might have been.
Tracy McGrady was one of the game’s premiere talents for the vast majority of his time in the league. He won the scoring title in back-to-back seasons with the Orlando Magic, but he never could help them out of the first round of the playoffs, with the Magic famously blowing a 3-1 lead to the Detroit Pistons in 2003.
He was then traded to the Houston Rockets in 2004 to team up with Yao Ming to form one of the most potent and talented duos around at the time. Expectations were sky-high, but once again, playoff success eluded McGrady.
Despite remaining one of the Association’s ultimate scoring threats and putting in some of the most memorable moments in Rockets history (13 in 35 anyone?), McGrady still couldn’t get out of the first round. The Rockets suffered tough seven-game losses to the Dallas Mavericks in 2005 and the Utah Jazz in 2007 before both he and Yao alternately battled injuries for the remainder of their time in Houston.
When the Rockets finally did get out of the first-round, beating the Portland Trail Blazers in six games in 2009, McGrady was on the sideline with an injury. He then finished off his career as a journeyman, playing for four different teams in his final three seasons.
But as the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame gets ready to induct this year’s class, it was McGrady’s obvious elite talent that has him earning the ultimate in individual success, even if bad luck kept him from it at the team level.
This Friday, Mcgrady joins Zack Clayton, Nikos Galis, Mannie Jackson, Tom Jernstedt, Jerry Krause, Rebecca Lobo, George McGinnis, Muffet McGraw and Bill Self as the 2017 Hall of Fame class, and as one of the most dazzling players of his era, T-Mac certainly has earned it.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey recently told the Houston Chronicle:
"He was one of the best to ever do it. People get into rings, rings, rings, rings when they judge players. It's ridiculous when you look at the great players who haven't won championships. Every playoffs, he elevated his game in a big way. That's the true nature of a superstar, a guy who can get better when the competition gets better. That's extraordinarily difficult."
T-Mac finished his career averaging 19.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game and garnered numerous accolades. He was a seven-time All-Star, twice named to the All-NBA First Team, three times on the All-NBA Second team, and twice on the All-NBA Third Team to go along with his two scoring titles, and even the Most Improved Player Award in 2001.
It was a career full of accomplishment, and even though many will remember him for his postseason failures, those of us who watched him play on a night-in, night-out basis know he was one the most talented guys to ever hit the hardwood.
McGrady told the Chron:
"I didn't have the opportunity to win a championship. I gave everything I possibly could. I tried to lead in the way I could, with my play. It didn't happen. I'm not happy I didn't win a championship, but very excited to be getting inducted into the Hall of Fame. This is my championship."
It’s astounding that those mid-2000s Rockets teams now have two Hall of Fame players despite only making the conference semis one time, but anyone doubting McGrady’s Hall of Fame credentials simply wasn’t paying attention last decade.
Congrats, T-Mac. You deserve it.