The 2017 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame class has been announced. This year’s class contains six former players, three coaches and two basketball executives. The most notable of this year’s class includes Bill Self, veteran of University of Kansas Men’s Basketball Coach, Rebecca Lobo, 1995 NCAA Division 1 National Champion and 1996 Gold Medalist, Jerry Krause, six-time NBA-championship-earning executive and Tracy McGrady, seven-time National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star and two-time NBA scoring leader. McGrady is by-far the most popular of these names, and news of his induction was met with joyfully surprised reactions by most. McGrady had many fans throughout his 16-year NBA career, but most thought he would not have been voted into The Hall of Fame so early after his retirement. While T-Mac was most known for his years with the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets, he started his career with the Toronto Raptors, and was somewhat of a journeyman later in his career, going from team-to-team before retiring in 2013.
Tracy McGrady was drafted ninth overall in the 1997 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors, straight out of his high school Mount Zion Christian Prep. Academy. In the early stages of his career in Toronto, McGrady showed great promise, as a young, long and lanky wing, with a decent shooting touch. After being traded to the Orlando Magic in 2000 due to wanting the ball in his hands more than fellow Toronto star (and coincidentally McGrady’s cousin) Vince Carter, McGrady went from a young offensive weapon to one of the best players in the NBA at that time and one of the greatest scorers in NBA history. McGrady became a consistent All-Star and All-Pro throughout his 10 years with Orlando and Houston, and led the NBA in scoring in 2003 and 2004. In an era where great players like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Drik Nowitski, Steve Nash and Jason Kidd were dominating the league, this scoring machine was right up there as the best of the best. Kobe Bryant even called McGrady the toughest player he’s ever guarded. McGrady had limitless range, sinking 35-foot three-pointers with the same ease he could drop a turn-around 15-foot jump shot. This, combined with his jump-out-the-gym athleticism he used to continuously posterize (the art of dunking on someone, thus putting them on your poster) any player that stood between him and the rim, made T-Mac one of the best offensive players of my lifetime, if not ever. Unfortunately, injuries and a lack of consistent or exceptional teams around him kept him from championship gold. Tracy McGrady never advanced past the first round of the playoffs as a starter in his entire career in the NBA.
What made McGrady so popular was the fact that he was so fun to watch. He was able to score from anywhere on the floor and anytime he stepped in the gym there was a very real chance he could go off for 30, 40, 50 or even 60 points. This presence on the floor was married with the silent swagger that he carried. He wasn’t a trash-talker or a braggadocios player, but he was a competitor, and he had this confidence in the way he carried himself and the way he played that no one would stop him. Regardless of the player he was facing, he was going to do whatever he needed to do to win, even if all by himself. It was inspiring to witness, and the fact that it never provided any postseason success was equally as heartbreaking.
“This team’s gonna go as far as I take them, and I tried man… I tried my best,” McGrady said after his Rockets lost in the first round of the 2007 playoffs to the Utah Jazz.
Every great player has their defining moment. Tracy McGrady’s defining moment came Dec. 9, 2004. McGrady and his Houston Rockets squad were down eight with 40 seconds left in the game. What can only be described as greatness happened next, as McGrady took over the game, drilling contested three-pointer after contested three-pointer, and even nailing one fouled three-pointer and getting a four-point play out of it. When the dust settled, McGrady had scored 13 points in 35 seconds and had lifted the Rockets to a one-point victory over the rival San Antonio Spurs. One of the more unbelievable moments in NBA history cemented McGrady’s legacy as a basketball star. Now because of that moment, on top of many others that made up a truly great but underachieving career, Tracy McGrady will enter the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017.