The legend known as “T-Mac” was in full effect as he scorched the Wizards en route to a Orlando Magic win.
The seven-time NBA all-star was unstoppable and the Wizards had to pay for sleeping on the scoring great. On March. 10, 2004, the Tracy McGrady dropped a career high 62 points which consisted of shooting 20-for-37 from the field while hitting 5 three’s as the Magic defeated the Wizards 108-99. McGrady’s 62 points broke the previous franchise record of 53 points which was set by Shaquille O’Neal. In addition, he became the 7th player to put up a double-double while dropping over 60 points, joining an elite list such as Michael Jordan, David Robinson, Rick Barry, Wilt Chamberlain, and Elgin Baylor. “We could have stopped him by fouling him real hard, but you don’t want to play dirty basketball. You just got to let him play and once he gets it rolling, he’s really hard to stop said Gilbert Arenas who was the Wizards franchise player during that time. Check out highlights of this epic game as he proves to haters that his game is legendary enough to be elected into the hall of fame.
When finalists for this year’s Basketball Hall of Fame class were announced, one name stood out above the rest: Tracy McGrady.
McGrady is one of the greatest “what-if” stories in NBA history. At his peak, he was one of the most dynamic players the NBA had ever seen–a do-it-all wing with a flair for the dramatic. Unfortunately, injuries sapped him of his athleticism and robbed him — and his fans — of his peak.
THE CASE FOR MCGRADY
The best case for McGrady would be going the “peak-prime” route since injuries derailed his career. At his best, he was certainly a Hall-of-Fame talent; there wasn’t much he couldn’t do on a basketball court, especially when he got going.
He showed flashes during his first three seasons in Toronto. He was a springy swiss army knife, forming half of the most athletic duo in the NBA with his cousin Vince Carter. He dunked on fools on one end, then punked ’em on the other by swatting shots and picking pockets.
Once he left for Orlando — and later, Houston — McGrady unleashed one of the most prolific eight-year stretches from a wing in NBA history.
In four seasons with Orlando, he averaged 28.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.5 steals, and a block. His all-around game was on full display, but it was his scoring that garnered the most attention. McGrady topped 40 points 30 times, and 50 points four times — both ranking second in the NBA in that time span.
His most memorable performance was his 62-point explosion against the Washington Wizards.
McGrady’s numbers dipped in his next four years in Houston, but he still averaged 24.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.4 steals. McGrady’s most notable achievements included leading Houston’s 22-game win streak during the 07-08 season, and giving us the greatest individual comeback in NBA history in 2004.
From 2000-01 to 2007-08, McGrady averaged 26.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.4 steals, and 0.8 blocks with a 24.2 PER.
Here are some eight-year runs from other notable perimeter players:
Michael Jordan: 33 points, 6.4 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 2.8 steals, 1.0 blocks, 30.2 PER
LeBron James: 28.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.9 blocks, 28.4 PER
Kobe Bryant: 29 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.6 blocks, 25.0 PER
Dwyane Wade: 26.2 points, 6.4 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 1.8 steals, 1.1 blocks, 26.6 PER
Kevin Durant: 28.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.0 blocks, 26.2 PER
Dominique Wilkins: 28.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.6 blocks, 23.4 PER
George Gervin: 28.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.9 blocks, 22.6 PER
All seven of those players are either in the Hall or would be sure-fire, first-ballot HOFers if they were eligible today.
If you look at McGrady’s first 11 seasons (749 games), he accumulated 16,744 points, 4,422 rebounds, 3,525 assists, 998 steals, and 729 blocks. Michael Jordan is the only other player in league history to match those numbers in his first 749 games.
THE CASE AGAINST MCGRADY
McGrady’s peak numbers were great, but his efficiency left a bit to be desired. During his eight year reign, he only shot 43.6 percent from the field, 34 percent from deep, and 75.6 percent from the line. His true shooting percentage (52.4) was modest at best. During his entire career, he never posted a field goal percentage above 45.7. He was a tough shot-taker like Kobe Bryant but wasn’t the shot-maker the Mamba was.
Beyond that, those numbers didn’t lead to a lot of winning.
The Magic won 43, 42, 44, and 21 games while McGrady was there. They made the postseason in those 40-win seasons but were eliminated in the first round each time. While one could argue that his supporting cast wasn’t great — or even above-average — one could also bring up the 02-03 season, where McGrady’s Magic held a 3-1 lead against the Detroit Pistons before losing the next three games by 31, 15, and 15.
McGrady wasn’t much more successful in Houston. In the following four years (to cap off his prime), the Rockets won 51, 34, 52, and 55 games with playoff appearances in the 50-win seasons. But once again, he failed to lead Houston past the first round. The Rockets won 53 games and made it to the second round in 08-09, but most of their success came without him; Houston was 20-15 with McGrady in the lineup but 33-14 when he was out. McGrady was shut down for the year in late February, so he had no bearing on Houston’s playoff run.
McGrady’s lone playoff appearance in which he made it past the first round came in 2012-13 as a tag-along with the San Antonio Spurs; he played 31 total minutes in six games and went scoreless.
The other reason that much of the Pro-McGrady case rests in his eight-year stretch is that his body completely fell apart soon after.
He averaged 15.6 points and missed 47 games in 2008-09, his last “full” season in Houston. He appeared in six games for the Rockets the next season before being traded to the New York Knicks, where he averaged 9.4 points in 26.1 minutes while shooting a shade under 39 percent from the floor. He spent the next two seasons in Detroit (72 games) and Atlanta (52 games during the lockout year), averaging 6.8 points on 44 percent shooting in 20.3 minutes.
By the eye test, McGrady is one of the most talented players of the modern era. At his peak, there was a real debate between him and Kobe as the NBA’s best perimeter player. Overall, his regular season resume, especially at his peak, rivals some of the best wings in NBA history.
On the other side of the coin, his production fell off a cliff due to injuries. And even when he was upright, his numbers didn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things. It’s not that they were empty; they just didn’t lead to much success. Outside of the San Antonio berth, T-never played in a game past the first round of the playoffs. That kind of thing should matter when it comes to his induction.
Then, there’s the very similar case of Mitch Richmond, who was inducted in 2014. He averaged 21 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.5 assists during his 14-year career. He was named an All-Star six times, earned five All-NBA team selections (2x 2nd, 3x 3rd), and has the Rookie of the Year award under his belt. Richmond also had limited playoff success, only appearing three times in his prime with Golden State, and once as a towel-waver with the Lakers during the 2001-02 season.
McGrady’s resume stacks up favorably to Richmond’s, as well as other HOFers like Chris Mullin (5x All-Star, 4x All-NBA) and Bernard King (4x All-Star, 4x All-NBA, past first round twice). Even if McGrady misses out on the first ballot, it’s hard to envision McGrady not getting in eventually.