Tracy McGrady‘s play on the court speaks for itself, but in a career filled with unfortunate twists of fate, validation from the Hall of Fame would be nice.
A couple of weeks ago, ESPN’s Rachel Nichols surprised former Orlando Magic legend Tracy McGrady on television with the news that he had been nominated for the Basketball Hall of Fame.
It was a touching moment, especially for Magic fans who got to see McGrady grow up before their eyes and turn into a basketball icon. Now potentially he could become the first Hall of Fame basketball player most well-known for his work in Orlando.
There are certainly holes in McGrady’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Despite his prolific scoring numbers and his unquestioned place as one of the very best players in the league for a five-year run, McGrady lacks Playoff glory to cement his legacy. In his four years in Orlando, his team was eliminated in the first round of the Playoffs three times.
But those four years in Orlando were particularly special. He averaged 28.1 points per game, making him perhaps the best scorer in team history. McGrady is firmly within the Magic’s Mount Rushmore of players.
Without those Playoff moments to remember him, it is easy to forget McGrady. And perhaps that is what will make his Hall of Fame candidacy such an interesting debate. McGrady was brilliant. But his star shined for such a short term with the Magic and the Houston Rockets before injuries derailed his career.
At the newly-launched 16 Wins A Ring, I wrote about what McGrady meant to Orlando, some of the unfair perceptions surrounding his career, and why he deserves the Hall of Fame (even if his accomplishments do not require any more validation):
"“As a kid growing up in Orlando when McGrady was at his Magic apex, I felt like McGrady never needed any external validation. Sure, we can recite many of the epic moments that everyone knows now by heart: 13 points in 35 seconds, 62 vs. the Wizards, the dunk on Shawn Bradley, the self-oop in the All-Star Game, etc. But for Orlando kids, the feelings were perhaps a bit more visceral. The smoothness and ruthless devastation of his pull-up jumpers (you better believe I practiced that slight leg kick on the driveway hoop) and his body control to finish at any angle around the rim (no matter how long he’d been in the air already) let us know that we could believe in big things, even in a town that everyone associates with fun and generally not being serious. That sleepy look on his face let us know that we shouldn’t be afraid to make those big things look easy.”"
When discussing McGrady, basketball fans often get caught up in the fact he never led a team past the first round of the playoffs. While that is true, it should be interpreted (in my opinion) less as an indictment of his basketball talents and more as a fluke product of bad luck.
And given all of the bad luck he dealt with during his career, a Hall enshrinement seems like it would only be fair considering his individual accomplishments.