Tracy McGrady deserves to be in the Hall of Fame for what he did

SPRINGFIELD, MA - SEPTEMBER 08: Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2017 enshrinee Tracy McGrady speaks during the 2017 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Symphony Hall on September 8, 2017 in Springfield, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
SPRINGFIELD, MA - SEPTEMBER 08: Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2017 enshrinee Tracy McGrady speaks during the 2017 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Symphony Hall on September 8, 2017 in Springfield, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

Tracy McGrady entered the Hall of Fame unsure of his place among the sport’s immortals. An examination of what he did should put away any doubt.

Tracy McGrady clearly felt relief and joy as he walked on the stage in Springfield, Mass., to celebrate his enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He shouted, “Yes! Yes!” as he shook hands with his presenter, former Toronto Raptors general manager and coach Isiah Thomas.

It did seem like a relief.

What seemed so certain and such a cinch to the fans and observers who watched McGrady throughout his career, was uncertain for the player himself. There was so much he did not accomplish that seems to stain his career.

How could a player who played so sure of himself, a player who worked to shut down his opponents and go after them with a ferocity and anger bordering on vengeance and a player who did all of this seemingly so easily have doubt?

McGrady opened up his Hall of Fame speech by telling the story of his trip to New Orleans for the Hall of Fame press conference. In the hotel on the way to the ball room the NBA and the Hall of Fame would make the announcement officially announcing McGrady’s impending enshrinement, his wife of 20 years stopped him in the elevator and asked him to say to himself, “I deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.”

McGrady, again a player who seemed so confident on the court, could not bring himself to say the words, even when staring at himself in the mirror inside that hotel elevator. Even when the honor was already given.

Was it disbelief that this honor had been bestowed upon him? Was it a belief he had not done enough to earn the honor? Did McGrady feel like he was not worthy?

He would not share those thoughts. Leave that to the pundits (like us) to have that debate for him.

Certainly, his proponents would argue his virtues and have a strong argument.

In the seven-year prime for McGrady from 2001-07, where he made seven straight All-Sar appearances and seven All-NBA teams including two first teams, he averaged 26.9 points per game, 6.6 rebounds per game and 5.4 assists per game. He finished in the top four in MVP voting twice and won the league’s scoring title twice. As the stat heads will tell you only Hall of Famers had better PERs than McGrady had in 2003 when he had an astounding 30.3 PER.

With the Orlando Magic, he was at his absolute best. He averaged 28.1 points per game during a four-year scoring assault on the NBA.

His rise seemed like destiny. At 6-foot-8, he had the speed, athleticism and fluidity to play like a guard. Yet he could outmuscle everyone. Do not let his sleepy-eyed look and seeming frailty fool you. McGrady was a killer.

After coming off the bench with the Raptors, he blossomed with the Magic and became a superstar, writing his Hall of Fame story.

McGrady could do it all. Watching him play there was no way to stop him. Physically he just blew everyone away.

Yet. . . there is always a yet. And it is those doubts that still haunt McGrady.

As proud and sure of himself as he was when he said with his team up 3-1 in the 2003 Playoffs how great it was to be in the second round, the fall came quickly. McGrady has reason to feel unsure if he belongs in the halls with the greats of the game.

The 2003 Playoffs, of course, was the first year the first round went to best of seven. The Detroit Pistons would shut the door on the eighth-seeded Orlando Magic and deny McGrady the trip to the second round. He would never see the second round of the Playoffs in his career.

If basketball is a team sport, McGrady was the ultimate loner. History does not care that Grant Hill played only 47 games in the four years Tracy McGrady was in Orlando or that Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady struggled with injuries through his time with the Houston Rockets. McGrady’s individual star was bright, but he did not reach the heights. There is a major gap in his resume.

Tracy McGrady’s battle with J.R. Smith — anyone can win a championship, McGrady said, but not everyone can make the Hall of Fame — is at the very heart of most historical debates. McGrady may have had all-time talent, but he did not put himself among the very very best — no matter how many platitudes his contemporaries would bestow on him. He did not win.

The athlete’s mindset is one of invincibility. It is complete confidence and assuredness.

It is how McGrady arrived at a top high school camp rated No. 175 in the nation and left the No. 1 player in the world. It is the way Tracy McGrady shrugged off the estimation of his rookie year coach Darrell Walker, who estimated he would be out of the league in three years, to become a Hall of Fame player. He had every reason and every way to prove his doubters wrong. And consistently he did.

But at this moment, with his career done and nostalgia sweeping over everyone, there is nothing he can do to calm that doubt or silence the criticism. He is in an unfamiliar place — powerless to do anything to prove those doubters wrong.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

If I had to guess, that is what made McGrady pause in that elevator, hesitant to affirm what the Basketball Hall of Fame and countless of his fans already believed. He was pained with the regret and uncertainty that his career was incomplete. Perhaps he could have done more. and now he was powerless to change it.

Perhaps, though, McGrady found his strength in the advice he gave to his children sitting in the audience. His reminder you have to show the same character you have when people are not watching as you do when they are. That is where self-assurance comes from, and ultimately satisfaction. What you do in silence speaks louder than what you do when the lights are on.

The familiar parental advice applied to McGrady too.

Not everyone gets to achieve everything they want — most do not get everything they want in life. But sometimes it is worth it to step back and remember what you have done and accomplished. And if the work is good and your character is good, that may be enough.

McGrady never experienced the Playoff success of others, or maybe even deserved. there is no going back for that. But it is also clear from all he did accomplish on the court he was among the very best to play this game.

Instead of focusing on what he did not do, remember what he did do. He created his legacy in Toronto, Orlando and Houston. He took all the doubt and turned it into belief again and again and again. Until his body could not give any more.

It is with this realization McGrady could look in that mirror and say the words that ring true today, “I deserve to be in the Hall of Famer.”

Next: Tracy McGrady's playing legacy is with Orlando Magic

Yes, you do Tracy. Yes, you do.