The On Deck Circle

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Imaginary Player - Tracy Takes On…

Posted by Blake Murphy on April 18, 2021

This article has been submitted by The Imaginary Player, Trevor Smith.

“I’m slippin’, I’m fallin’, I can’t get up”- DMX

By all accounts, Tracy McGrady has had an illustrious and renowned NBA career. The soon-to-be 29 year old Shooting Guard has lead the league in scoring twice, been selected as an All-Star seven times, and won the 2001 Most Improved Player award. He has been chosen to the All-NBA team six times and has been one of the game’s most prominent figures for nearly a decade. TMac’s unquestionable achievements are highlighted to underpin the opinion that he deserves his standing among the game’s elite. One would be remiss, though, to not broach the subject of his lasting legacy. As we stand on the cusp of this year’s Playoffs, McGrady must consciously realize that the next few weeks may define whether that legacy will be one of personal statistic achievement or team-based triumph. If he is unable to advance past the first-round this season, it will be the seventh such failed attempt. Such nonfulfilment would impart upon TMac the social stigma of “Under Achiever” or worse, “Loser.” More importantly, it might signal the end of his prominence and close the door on his title aspirations forever. Simply put, his legacy is on the line.

McGrady’s life in the NBA has seen him rise from humble beginnings. His time with the Raptors was marked early on by inconsistency and indifference. Nicknamed the Big Sleep (in part because of his lazy eye and in part due to his affinity for napping up to 12 hours a day), he played a mere 18.4 minutes a game as a rookie and through his first two years averaged just over 8PPG. TMac broke out the following season, averaging 15.4 points per. McGrady’s development helped TO make the postseason for the first time in franchise history, and though the Dinos were swept by New York, McGrady outplayed his cousin Vince Carter throughout the series.

After signing with Orlando in the off-season, McGrady shot to superstardom by averaging then-career highs in points, rebounds, assists and steals. In the playoffs, McGrady got even better, averaging a ridiculous line of 33.8, 6.5, 8.3 against the Bucks, though it proved all for not as the Magic lost in four games. The next season brought more of the same, as TMac’s gaudy playoff stats (30.8, 6.3, 5.5) did nothing to prevent his team from bowing out again in four games. A disturbing pattern had begun to emerge: as for all his individual splendor and accolades McGrady seemed unable to lift those around him towards team success. The 2003 season served as most damning proof of this. McGrady averaged 32.1 a game and captured the NBA scoring title, yet the Magic failed to reach the second round of the playoffs again. Worse, TMac was made to look idiotic: when Orlando surprisingly took a 3-1 series lead against the first-seed Detroit Pistons, McGrady voiced how wonderful it was to “finally be in the second round”. In the highest form of tragic humour, Orlando lost Games 5, 6, and 7 each by double digits. McGrady had failed to get the Magic over the hump and nothing imminent suggested that pattern of failure would change.

“Another one bites the dust”- Queen

In June 2004, McGrady was traded to Houston in a seven-player deal. Paired with the Great Chinese Hope, Yao Ming, TMac lead Houston to a memorable season that saw them finish 5th in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. As always, McGrady was terrific individually and there seemed to be hope that his luck in big games had turned the corner. In a key regular season game against the Spurs, No.1 scored 13 points in the last 33 seconds of a game, including four consecutive 3’s and a steal that set up his game-winning shot. The basketball world took notice not just of his personal achievement, but also that he had carried his squad past an experienced and formidable San Antonio team. Perhaps the playoffs would be different this season. Predictably though, they weren’t. Dallas eliminated Houston in the first round via a 40-point blowout loss in Game 7.

The next season brought more disappointment, with TMac playing a career-low 47 games due to multiple serious back injuries. Without their best player, Houston struggled and missed the playoffs. McGrady said that he thought that his body was “slowing down.” Injuries and NBA-mileage had robbed him of some of his explosiveness, and he continued to miss games. Leading into the playoffs, McGrady knew the pressure he was under. He said that if the fourth-seeded Rockets failed to make it out of the first round again, it was “all on me.” TMac shouldered this responsibility admirably and carried the Rockets to a decisive Game 7. However the Rockets lost and yet another opportunity had come and gone for McGrady. His unforgettable press-conference after the loss stands as one of the most indelible moments of the season; he took accountability for the loss, stammering through teary eyes, “I tried man…I tried.”

“I’ll be gone till November”- Wyclef Jean

This brings us to today and the beginning of a postseason that will decide how the most famous descendent of Bartow, Florida will be remembered. The product of Mount Zion Christian Academy holds career averages of 22.4PPG, 6.2RPG, and 4.7APG, all of which points to him one day being inducted into Springfield, Mass. Basketball Reference lists his Hall of Fame probability as the 9th highest among active players). His legacy will surely place him above most of his contemporaries, most notably Vince Carter, who never realized his potential as a leader or a complete player in the same manner McGrady did. But for him to achieve more than that, the adidas pitchman simply has to overcome his postseason futility. Two weeks from now, he can’t be making tee-times and looking towards next fall. At the end of his career, a playoff resume that reads without any positive results would be a fierce indictment of McGrady’s game. Even in the loaded West, even without Yao Ming, McGrady must find some way to hoist his team up and advance. Only by achieving such an unreasonable call to action will his journey move towards a positive resolution.

This article has been submitted by The Imaginary Player, Trevor Smith.

2 Responses to “Imaginary Player - Tracy Takes On…”

  1. AJ Says:

    Nice T-Sizzle! A bit off topic, but will Yao ever become a primetime player? The dude is only a year younger than T-Mac, albeit with significantly fewer miles, but these injuries don’t seem to be going away…

  2. d-rob Says:

    yay trev! i still dispise tmac.

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