Tracy McGrady is a Magic Hall of Famer and hometown kid who fulfilled a dream
Not everybody gets to play for their hometown team, but T-Mac did just that and he's a legend for it
When Tracy McGrady threw the ball off the backboard during a game, ran up and caught it, only to throw down a dunk, it was one of the most incredible feats of athleticism ever seen. It was also something that was just so incredibly McGrady -- an impossible feat done so with not just ease, but made to look effortless.
McGrady once again made it look easy on Tuesday afternoon. Gathered in front of staff members, media and a few select fans, McGrady was being inducted into the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame. He looked similarly to his playing days, but there's more age and experience. He has a little gray in his beard, but he walks up to the podium with that same confidence he had as a player. This is his moment and his spotlight.
"To be in the Magic Hall of Fame. This is phenomenal … this has been a wonderful, wonderful achievement," McGrady said.
This was always how McGrady wanted it to go. Penny Hardaway was his favorite player and the reason he wore No. 1 during his playing days. As a Central Florida resident, McGrady grew up watching the early Magic teams and became infatuated with the prospect of one day wearing an Orlando jersey. Early in his career and toward the end of his playing days in Toronto, he got that chance.
"[In] 1999 we were playing the Magic and Doc [Rivers] was the coach and we crossed paths at the end of the game. I told Doc to hold a place for me. Nobody had to do any recruiting cause I knew I was coming home."
When McGrady ran around the court it wasn't with the ferocious athleticism of a LeBron James, or the galloping length of Giannis Antetokounmpo, but rather a glide. He floated around, always moving at his own pace. That is, until he needed to flip a switch and leave a defender befuddled as to how he managed to do that.
"Their ability to facilitate at the point forward position." Terry told CBS Sports. "All three of those guys are a point forward. They handle the ball, they can score, but they're great facilitators. They make sure everybody gets the ball and they all make their teammates better.
"McGrady had great range." Terry continued. "He could finish. His athletic ability was still there. There was really no defense against him. Because if you trapped him he always made the right pass he was really unstoppable."
McGrady's ability as a distributor may have been the most under-appreciated part of his game. In only four years of play with the Magic he managed to dish out 1,533 assists, which puts him eighth on the Magic's all-time list. In the modern NBA, he would be valued for his versatility more than the scoring he was known for. That versatility allowed him to stuff box scores like nobody had seen before in Orlando.
"Arguably, the four most productive years of a great career." Magic CEO Alex Martins said. "The impact he made on the organization in a such a short period time is evident in the numbers. He's still our all-time-leading scorer in average. He holds our all-time-leading scoring record in a game. Appears in virtually the top three or four of every one of our statistical categories and he did it in four years. Which was pretty remarkable."
However, while McGrady is in Orlando to celebrate his accomplishments as a player, there's a deeper meaning to it for him. He's already been. He's a multi-time All-Star, All-NBA member and scoring champ. His playing career was a success, but the Magic offer him something different. They give him the reward of being a hometown hero.
"That's exactly what it was. A childhood dream." McGrady said. "Those guys that came before me. They really inspired me. I told myself, one day I'm putting on this uniform."
When McGrady did finally put on that uniform it became exactly everything he wanted it to be. He wasn't just a member of the Magic. He became the star of the Magic. Grant Hill was supposed to be right there with him, but chronic injuries kept Hill sidelined throughout McGrady's peak. Tim Duncan was , but don't ask him about that part.
"I wanna choke the shit out of Doc Rivers' ass cause I just found out about that story right there." McGrady said. "Grant Hill told me about that story. That he actually was at the dinner or lunch or whatever [with] Duncan and Doc about him not allowing family to travel. And then Paul Pierce heard this story and he was like, 'Well, when he was in Boston he let our significant others travel on the plane.'"
Orlando came close to landing a major Big Three in McGrady, Hill and Duncan. Instead, McGrady was left to fend for himself on inferior teams that couldn't live up to the expectations a player like him was setting. It creates a lot of what ifs.
"There's a lot of what could have been with my career," McGrady said. "But no, I don't look back on it. I live on the experiences."
"We all sit around and wonder what it would have been like if he had spent the majority of his career here and finished his career off here after those four years." Martins said. "I think if he had clearly his number would be hanging in the rafters here."
The Magic have never retired a jersey for a player -- not even Shaquille O'Neal. They have one jersey retired, and it's the No. 6 to represent the fans (sixth man). The Magic say they have a set of criteria for what a player needs to do to have their jersey retired, but apparently that criteria has not been met yet.
"Winning championships is part of it," Martins said. "Amount of time that a player has been with the organization is another part of the criteria among many. Our hope is that we'll get to that some point some day."
McGrady, as accomplished as he is, never did get close to a championship with the Magic, and his time with the organization had an ugly ending. Of course, time heals all wounds and all of that is in the past. These days, McGrady is remembered far more fondly for his successes in Orlando than his failures. He's the hometown kid who achieved his dream.
"I just remember during the playoffs." McGrady said. "I just remember the MVP chants and those MVP chants were loud. It was like a radiation in your body. The chills and everything. Just hearing those chants from the fans it just felt loud, man. It wasn't just a standout game. It was a time where our fans were chanting MVP and I was in the spotlight. Especially, Central Florida guy. I'm back home and I'm hearing the fans chanting for me. It was just special."
Every kid grows up dreaming about playing for their favorite team in front of their friends and family. McGrady got to live it.
A dream fulfilled.
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