From 2000-2008, Tracy McGrady, alongside Kobe Bryant, helped revolutionize the shooting guard position in the modern era of the NBA.
At 6’8 and 225 pounds, McGrady used his size, speed and strength to overpower smaller two guards and blow past bigger ones who attempted to match up to him on the perimeter. Drafted number nine overall by the Toronto Raptors, he was a minor contributor (7 points and 4.2 rebounds a game) his first season there. Once his distant cousin Vince Carter was drafted by the team the next year, optimism set in for McGrady, increasing his average to 9.3 points and 5.7 RPG. The next year, with averages of 15.4 points, 6.3 rebounds and a career high 1.9 blocks per game, it appeared McGrady would be ready to take the next step and become the premier player for his own team.
Signing a six-year, 67 million dollar contract with the Orlando Magic in the summer of 2000, 21-year-old McGrady became the superstar player he may have never been had he stayed with Toronto, averaging 28.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.2 assists a game in his four years there. The last two years there (2003, 2004) he took home the scoring title with averages of 32.1 and 28 PPG respectively.
He spent the last four years of being an elite player with the Houston Rockets, where he teamed up with Yao Ming to bring some of the most exciting basketball to the franchise in recent memory. On December 9, 2004, the Rockets were down 76-68 to the San Antonio Spurs when McGrady scored 13 points in the last 35 seconds, including four 3 pointers (one counted for a four point play) to beat the Spurs 81-80. Sadly during this time, injuries took a toll on McGrady’s body, with knee and back ailments sidelining him and slowing him down.
One of the last great moments for McGrady was helping the Rockets to 22 consecutive wins in the 2008 NBA season and a playoff birth. That year, McGrady averaged 21.6 points per game, the last time he ever would average more than 20 PPG. The next two seasons McGrady would only play in 41 combined games for the Rockets before being traded to the New York Knicks, where he played and started in 24 games but was only a fraction of the player he once was. Before ending his playing career on the playoff roster for the San Antonio Spurs in 2013, he signed a one year deal in the fall of 2012 to play for the Qingdao Eagles for the Chinese Basketball Association. There, he averaged 25 points, 7.2 rebounds and 5.1 assist a game. In August 2013, McGrady announced his retirement.
McGrady, although a near lock for the Hall of Fame, is now considered a “what if” due to the injuries that plagued his career. By the time he had his last season as a top NBA player, he turned 29 years old that May, and soon, the takeover of LeBron James had begun. Although his career didn’t turn out the way he intended, he left his mark on the league and the hearts of fans.