From Our CBS Music Sites
Houston (CBS Houston) – Former Houston Rocket Tracy McGrady announced his retirement from the NBA on Monday. Whether he plays in China, his NBA career is officially over.
“Officially retired from the NBA,” McGrady said in his announcement on ESPN. “Door’s still open.”
First Allen Iverson, now Tracy McGrady. It seems as if the best early-2000 players are calling it quits.
McGrady, 34, is ending his well accomplished 16-year career. T-Mac won back-to-back NBA scoring titles, making seven straight All-Star games and led the Rockets to that huge 22-game winning streak in the 2007-2008 season. And let’s not forget McGrady’s 13 points in 35 seconds against the San Antonio Spurs in December 2004.
But what many Rockets’ fans might remember is what didn’t get accomplished.
Within seconds of McGrady announcing his retirement, debate and discussion appeared on if T-Mac is a Hall Of Famer?
So I ask you, did Houston fans get to witness the best version of T-Mac? Do injuries to teammates plague your career? Is the Hall of Fame about Championships?
McGrady entered the NBA in 1997 being drafted ninth overall by the Toronto Raptors, a year after Kobe Bryant entered the league. He never received the Kobe Bryant publicity and being the distant cousin of Vince Carter he was out-shined early on in his career. He was averaging 15.4 points, 6.3 rebounds he yearned for wanting to play with another great so he took his talents to Orlando to team up with Grant Hill and sign a massive free agent contract.
Even with Hill and McGrady hardly on the court at the same time, to me, this was the best version of McGrady. In 2002-2003 he averaged 32.1 points a game and won his first scoring title. He led the Magic, using 35.2 percent of the team’s offense when he was on the court. He had a PER of 30.3 that season.
McGrady, once again, was ousted in the first-round of the playoffs.
After the Magic missed the postseason in 2003-2004, McGrady was traded to the Rockets. Here in Houston is where he scored 13 points in 35 seconds to lift the Rockets over the Spurs. But McGrady started to have health issues and when McGrady and Yao Ming teamed up and was thought they formed a contender, but both stars were injury prone and their bodies gave-up.
“My career has a lot of what-ifs around it,” McGrady told Grantland in June. “What if Grant Hill was healthy and what if Yao and Tracy were healthy? It’s the story of my career, man. I was getting on Timmy [Duncan] yesterday about this on the [team] bus because he was supposed to sign [with Orlando]. Hey man, it didn’t work out for me the way I wanted it to, and for Grant as well. We both had unbelievable careers until our injuries. That’s what this league is really based on. If you can stay injury free, especially if you are a great player, you can do great things in this league, and I wasn’t able to do that.”
McGrady had microfracture surgery on his knee in 2009, which limited him to 65 games over the next two seasons. The Rockets made it to the second round in 2009 with both McGrady and Yao on the bench with injuries, only adding fuel to his decline.
Where was McGrady’s passion?
How badly did McGrady really want it?
“There were some dark days and dark nights; there was a dark cloud hanging over me,” said McGrady, who has yet to score while seeing 17 total minutes in four postseason games. “I was in a depression stage in my career, wondering why this is happening to me. For so long I played well in this league and made a name for myself. Individually, playoff success was great for me — as far as a team aspect it wasn’t so great for me. And the time I felt like I had a team to excel in the playoffs I was hurt. To sit in Chicago with my leg up in a machine that I had to keep in for eight hours a day and my team is advancing to the second round, that hurt. That really hurt me.”
Covering the Rockets around the McGrady/Yao era was painful to watch. Two of the biggest potentials in the NBA and their talents were plagued by injuries.
“I said this team was going to go as far as I could take them,” McGrady said, tears welling up in his eyes. “And I tried my best. … I tried, man. I tried.”
He then played for the Knicks, Pistons Hawks and began last season last season playing in China and was later picked up by the San Antonio Spurs. He played 31 minutes as his team made a run to the NBA Finals.
So is he a Hall of Famer?
The Hall of Fame should be about the history of the game. And I find it hard to think of the 2000’s and not think about Tracy McGrady. He was one of the games best pure scorers. He did lack playoff success, he did play on injury plagued teams and at times it seemed his injuries got the best of him.
But he also had seven straight seasons of at least 24.4 points, 4.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds. Six of those among the league’s top 10 (first- or second-team All-NBA).
McGrady is a good candidate. He has a lot of “what ifs,” around him, so I imagine he’s not an automatic but eventually he’ll get there.
Just like he eventually got to the NBA Finals.
Follow Julie Takahashi on Twitter: @Julie_Takahashi