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NBA 75 Series: #62 Tracy McGrady

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

Ranked at #62 in my 75 Greatest NBA Players of All Time is one of my favorite players of all time and one of the most talented players to ever touch a basketball, and that is Tracy Lamar McGrady Jr. McGrady was born on May 24, 1979, in Bartlow, Florida to his mother Melanise WIlford and father Tracy McGrady Sr. Growing up, McGrady’s father was not a part of his life, meanwhile his mother and grandmother helped raise him.

McGrady was talented from a very young age in both basketball and baseball, playing both his first three years of high school at Auburndale High. McGrady would average 23.1 ppg and 12.2 rebs with 4 ast and 4.9 blocks per game his junior year of high school, which would’ve had any player receiving recruiting letters from top schools, but he oddly didn’t. No one had an idea who this skinny 6-foot-8 kid McGrady was until he fortunately was lucky enough to get invited to the Adidas ABCD Camp, which was a prestigious camp that was made up of the top 175 players in the nation at the time.

McGrady would go one to blow the scouts away with his unique skill at his size and his explosive athleticism which propelled him to be ranked number one in his class. He would continue that momentum into his senior season, now at Mount Zion Christian Academy in Durham, North Carolina. His team ranked second in the nation and he was the main catalyst, averaging 27.5 ppg 8.7 rebs 7.7 ast 2.8 stl and 2 blocks per game while earning McDonald’s All American and being named the National Player Of the Year award.

After his incredible senior year, he weighed his options of whether to go straight to the NBA or attend the University of Kentucky and become a Wildcat. He was fearful of playing poorly and dropping his stock while in college so he opted to enter his name in the 1997 NBA Draft.

McGrady was drafted ninth overall by the then expansion team Toronto Raptors, signing a $4.7 million dollar contract with the team, which was the max for a rookie at the time. Prior to the draft, he agreed to a $12 million dollar endorsement deal with Adidas. He would feel lonely his rookie season in a new country that was miles away from home. He would describe his rookie season as “hell” and would barely get playing time his rookie season averaging just 13 minutes per game.

The very next season though things would be different, as his distant cousin Vince Carter would soon join him and would become an instant highflying superstar sensation there being dubbed the nickname “Air Canada.” By the 1999-2000 season the duo would develop a reputation for their electrifying dunks and McGrady would become a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year Candidate, averaging 15.4 pts, 6.3 rebs, 3.3 ast, 1.9 blk, and 1 steal a game. and participate in the slam dunk contest alongside Carter where they would put on a show.

However questions were looming over what McGrady would do in the offseason of 2000 as he was a budding young star in the making, but people were wondering if he would want to be in the shadow of Carter who was clearly the man in Toronto.

McGrady would ultimately end up choosing Orlando and would become an absolute superstar in his time there. Earning his nickname known as “Tmac,” he was one of the most talented players and scorers that have ever graced an NBA court. He was so effortless with his scoring it seemed like he was just being lazy out there. He led the NBA in scoring twice (2003, 2004) averaging 32.1, and 28 points per game respectively. McGrady had an array of moves: the turnaround jumper, a killer crossover, the finger roll, a smooth looking shot, and could throw it down on anyone. His bag of tricks offensively is only challenged by very few in the league’s history.

He unfortunately didn’t have much help on his teams in his prime years with the Magic and Rockets, due to injuries to star players such as Grant Hill and Yao Ming. He was never able to get past the first round until he was a benchwarmer his last year in the league with the 2013 Spurs, which knocks him down on my list. Despite that, McGrady is a seven-time All-Star, seven-time All-NBA selection, won Most Improved Player in 2001, and was inducted to the Hall Of Fame in 2017.

Injuries and lack of team success sadly derailed McGrady’s prime and legacy, but, for a brief period in the early 2000s there were people really saying is he better than Kobe? Even the late great Kobe Bryant said Tmac was the toughest player he ever had to guard… that speaks volumes on his greatness.


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