There haven't been many players like Tracy McGrady in the history of NBA. His skill set is one of a kind, and in his prime, he had it all. But it wasn’t his creativity around the rim, ability to finish or silky smooth jump shots that made McGrady so great. It was his heart, courage and ability to come back late in game situations, which separated him from the pack.
During his glory days in the early 2000s as a member of the Magic and Rockets, we saw Tracy rise to the occasion countless times, often dueling with the league's best, Kobe Bryant, and giving him a run for his money. Those Houston versus LA matchups in the playoffs were nothing short of legendary, as two of the best guards of all time went at it. In fact, at one point, T-Mac was widely regarded as being the better player of the duo.
Of course, injuries got the best of him over time, as he was physically unable to provide the same impact he had just a few years ago. It's a damn shame, considering that McGrady was on his way to being one of the all-time greats, if not the greatest player of all time. He was truly one of those once in a lifetime players that everyone was paying top dollar to see live in action.
Aside from Grant Hill, T-Mac is probably the greatest player to never reach his full potential. And considering that he's a year younger than Kobe, who is still killing it at age 35, it makes us wonder: what could have happened if he just hung in there? He had all of the heart, physical tools and marketability to be the marquee player of the decade.
Unfortunately, Tracy McGrady announced his retirement from the NBA just yesterday after 16 years in the league, putting his championship dreams to rest once and for all. It's been a sad week for basketball considering that fellow one-time great Allen Iverson also announced his retirement. These are the ten reasons why T-Mac could have been the greatest player of all time.
He had unstoppable scoring ability.
One of T-Mac's most redeeming skills, even later on in his career, was that silky smooth pull-up jump shot. Time and time again, we have seen Tracy lull his opponents to sleep with his lazy eye and hypnotic crossover cadence, only to rise up and bang one right in their faces. From up close, to mid range, three-point and half court, McGrady could hit any shot with any defender in his face during his prime.
He had creativity at the basket.
When he wasn't making it rain in your face, he was cutting into the lane, driving to the basket and getting extremely technical under the rim. While we all know how great of a dunker he was, it was his graceful layups that mesmerized us during his prime. His ability to make split second changes, and hit the ball anywhere on the glass to score the bucket, was nothing short of ridiculous. He perfected that dunk-to-layup adjustment that Michael Jordan made famous, and he made it his own. No one can mess with Tracy when it comes to creativity and finding his own shots.
He had top notch speed.
During his earlier years in Toronto and Orlando, we saw a very young T-Mac use his speed and athleticism like no other. He would be on opposite ends of the court in just seconds, flying under the defender's radar to go up strong and kill the rim. When it comes to fast break players, there was probably no better finisher than McGrady. But with 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash, it was easy for him to get from end to end in seemingly no time.
He killed it every time he was in the All-Star game.
In what was really a magical era of high-flying dunkers and perennial superstars, T-Mac separated himself as the highest flyer and most exciting player when it came to All-Star games. Just check out this ridiculous off-the-backboard alley-oop, which he threw himself in 2003. You never see anything like this in the game anymore - All-Star game, or not. The moves Tracy was able to pull off were truly one of a kind.
He is one of the most famed international players, especially in China.
While playing with Chinese superstar Yao Ming surely boosted his international popularity, T-Mac's success overseas was mainly because he was just the straight up truth. In fact, during his Houston days, McGrady jerseys were outselling Ming jerseys in Yao's very own home country of China. He played a couple stints over there, as well, which elevated his status as Chinese royalty. In fact, T-Mac plans to play there once again, now that he's retired from the NBA.
His Adidas shoe line was one of the most successful of all time.
The "T-Mac" shoes by Adidas were undeniably one of the most popular shoes in the game during the early 2000s. From Tracy killing his competition in the self-titled shoes to LeBron James rocking them during his high school games, T-Mac Adidas were once the premier shoes in basketball. Hell, even Kevin Durant admits that he used to wear these and that McGrady was his favorite player growing up. That's high praise from one of the best in the game today.
He knew how to handle beef with other players.
Being the high flyer that he is, T-Mac surely hurt a lot of feelings while on the court. One of those people was none other than Dallas Mavericks center Shawn Bradley. The two often got heated during their high-intensity Texas matchups. But it was McGrady who got the best of Bradley with this truly epic, legendary and disrespectful dunk. What better way to respond to the hate than by dunking all over his face?
But he's not afraid to scrap, especially when it's for his country.
During the 2003 FIBA International games, T-Mac made it clear that he wasn't - and still isn't - soft. When an opponent tried to test his gangster and give him a little extra contact, McGrady stole the ball away, brought it down the other end and (very disrespectfully) threw down a two-handed dunk. He returned to the other side of the court, where he talked wild amounts of sh*t to the player he just b*tched and made no mistake in showing that he was ready to fight. Don't ever try to test T-Mac.
He put on the most clutch performance in NBA history.
13 points in 33 seconds. What sounds like one of the most improbable tasks turned out to be one of the greatest - if not THE greatest - comebacks in NBA history. Down by eight points, with under 40 seconds to go, McGrady turned on some of that magic to upset the Spurs like you could never imagine. Hitting three after three over defenders like Bruce Bowen (with one counting plus the foul), he even made a pivotal steal and willed his team to the miraculous win - even with half of the home arena out of the building, having thought the game was over. The game-winning three was a thing of beauty, as this pretty much supplanted T-Mac as one of the greatest athletes in sports history.