If you had to come up with a list of NBA players whose careers would have benefited greatly or adversely affected by today’s social media cycle, Tracy McGrady is one of those names that could top both lists. On one hand, he would have been an even bigger superstar than he was because he had a knack for making meme-worthy moments like this dunk over Shawn Bradley. You could see adidas making “T-Mac Dunk Face” shirts with that one.
And then there was the time when he bounced the ball off the backboard and slammed it home during the NBA All-Star Game. Commonplace now, but mind-blowing back in those halcyon days of the early 2000s.
Oh, and what about his crazy comeback against the San Antonio Spurs, when he scored 13 points in 33 seconds? The day after, if Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were around ESPN at that time, they would be calling this the greatest moment in the history of the world (#embracedebate while I #bangmyheadagainstthewall).
Wait, what was my other point? Sorry, you could see how easy it was to fall down that rabbit hole of T-Mac highlights. More than any other player from his generation, McGrady made everything seem effortless; whether it was a graceful glide to the rim that was occasionally punctuated by some poor sap trying to block his shot or shooting three-pointers from crazy distances just because he can, T-Mac in his prime was akin to putting a video game on easy mode and watching the carnage it wrought.
But like another Orlando Magic superstar that wore #1 (Penny Hardaway, not Gilbert Arenas, kids), injuries and bad luck (word to Grant Hill) would rob us of watching McGrady perform on a stage that’s a little more important than the All-Star Game. Some say a trip to the Darfur region of the Sudan changed his life outlook and his humanitarian efforts actually affected his play, while others are quick to point out that he just never had the same maniacal dedication to the game that a Kobe Bryant did (who just recently said that McGrady was the toughest guy he ever had to guard). McGrady was so highly thought of by his fans and his peers that they expected more from him and it’s a shame that we’ll probably never know if we did see him peak or if he was holding back just a tad, not because he wanted to troll us, but because it wasn’t in his nature.
Just how much did McGrady matter? When word got out that he was going to sign with the Spurs for the stretch run this past season, he became a trending topic and when he checked into a game to play garbage minutes in the Western Conference Finals, he got a standing ovation while they played Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack”. He went from people trashing him for his failures to sympathizing with him all the way to Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Fans don’t do that unless that player made an impact in the league for the better. We’ll always wonder what could have been with Tracy Mcgrady, but we should appreciate that what we did get from him was pretty good too.
It’s not inconceivable we will be talking about T-Mac making it to the Hall of Fame someday. He might be punished by the voting committee for reasons unknown (see guys like Bernard King and how long they had to wait to get in) and not get in on the first ballot, but McGrady will get there eventually. Maybe we’ll even get a “Hall of Fame” colorway of the iconic adidas T-Mac 1 and 2 when that happens.
When we talked to adidas guys Harrison Barnes and Kenneth Faried last week, both were excited to tell us that they were going to be wearing the T-Mac 2 this upcoming season. If the retro rollout this upcoming season is done correctly, adidas could have second model (the Crazy 8 being the first) in their hands that could become an evergreen sneaker much in the same way the Air Jordan 1 has become a staple for Jordan Brand and the Question is for Reebok.
With that in mind, here’s a look back at Tracy McGrady’s career in pictures and GIFs and videos not only with the Raptors, Magic, Rockets, Knicks, Pistons, Hawks and Spurs (well, damn, that was a lot of teams) as a member of the adidas Brotherhood (remember those commercials?).