He was really good at basketball.
He wasn't good at staying healthy.
And he wasn't good at making predictions.
But, for a stretch, he was one of the NBA's best -- a tremendous player who put up great numbers on the court.
The Orlando Magic were fortunate to have four of McGrady's best seasons. They were unfortunate to not have had more. But that short span from 2000 to 2004 ended up being one of the brightest (and healthiest) spots in McGrady's career.
It seems relevant to mention not just the accomplishments that McGrady had with Orlando, but also to note the age at which he notched so many of them. He had two scoring titles, four All-NBA nods (including two first-team honors) and a Most Improved Player Award by 26.
In his first season with the Magic after leaving Toronto, the year in which he was recognized as the league's most improved, the 21-year-old McGrady averaged 26.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game. The 21-year-old McGrady also played defense. Really well. He contributed 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals a contest.
So what happened from there?
Well, he kept improving. And he kept playing great basketball. With the Magic, McGrady averaged 28.1 points per game, averaged over 6 rebounds a game each year, and had only one season (the first) in which he averaged fewer than 5 assists a game.
And silly comments in sports bring with them vitriol and scrutiny.
If Twitter existed 10 years ago, the memes would have gone viral.
Unfortunately, the nature of this interaction of competition and commentary can get in the way of appreciating someone who does his job really well. It can also lead franchises to make big moves. Sometimes they work. And sometimes they don't.
A year removed from the disappointing playoff series against Detroit, the coach, the general manager, and soon after, the superstar, were gone from Orlando.
But this isn't supposed to evoke an ethos of what if for McGrady's time with the franchise. There are enough of those already for the McGrady era. What if they had held on against Detroit in the playoffs? What if Grant Hill was healthy? What if the Magic had kept McGrady and paired him alongside a maturing Dwight Howard?
Instead, it is an appreciation of four years in which a player who had 30 games over his 4 seasons with the team in which he scored more than 40 points, averaged 7.5 rebounds per game as a shooting guard in a season in which the team's leader averaged 7.7 , and shot .386 from the 3-point line in a season when the team's sharpshooting specialist shot .396 (a difference of fewer than 5 makes over the season).
It is also an appreciation of a player who was cut out of the archetypical superstar mold. He was an acrobatic player who played shooting guard. He had high-scoring games. He was, for a lack of a better expression, fun to watch.
And he was all of that by the time he was 25 years old.
All in all, congratulations on your retirement from the NBA, T-Mac. Magic fans wish it could have been in an Orlando jersey.
Jeremy Adney lives in Central Florida and is a lifelong Orlando Magic follower. He prides himself in being addicted to the statistical analysis of basketball. This is likely an overcompensation for his complete ineptitude when attempting to play the game himself.
- Sports & Recreation
- Orlando Magic
- Tracy McGrady