T-Mac, Now and Forever
Tracy McGrady is signing with the Spurs.
Tracy McGrady, of two-time scoring champion fame. Of off-the-backboard at the All-Star Game fame. Of too-much-potential, sleepy-eyed, point- guard- vision/shooting-guard-arc fame.
Tracy McGrady, whose crazy awesome talent inspired many a heated conversation in the early 2000’s centered around the question of the day: Kobe or TMac?
Tracy McGrady, the tragic hero, who couldn’t fulfill his immense promise and lead his team to the Promised Land. You know, he still hasn’t reached the second round of the NBA playoffs.
Tracy McGrady, last seen throwin’ ‘bows and gettin’ diarrhea in China.
Tracy McGrady, who conjured a maelstrom from thin air and dropped 13 points in 30 seconds against…wait for it… The Spurs.
I was in 11th grade when it happened. My friend Jeff had an extra ticket to see the Rockets play the Spurs—5th row seats. Boom.
Most of the game was immediately forgettable. The Rockets played like garbage, ruining my notion that I was their good-luck charm when at games in-person. Yao Ming put up a quiet 20 points while T-Mac was bricking everything he shot—and he shot in volume. The Spurs were 34% from the field, yet the Rockets were still down 10 with a minute left.
If I remember right, up to that point Devin Brown would’ve been the player of the game.
And then, this happened:
I remember a few things distinctly:
1) Yao got this started with a dunk before Tmac went off. Yao had a career full of those kinds of moments; ones that were indispensable at the time yet overshadowed by something else in the annals of history. Aside from us die-hard Rockets fans, most will remember Yao for his off-the-court contributions to the game and his Bill Walton/Sam Bowie-esque playing career instead of his brief few years as the most dominant center in the NBA, with remarkable touch and understated defensive impact… but don’t get me started on Yao. (Tear…)
2) At least 1/3 of the crowd had left mid-way through the 4th quarter. Everyone remaining at the 1-minute mark in the game was prepared to stay until the bitter end. This game made it more clear to me than ever that YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE A GAME UNTIL IT IS OVER!!!
3) No one in the crowd wanted to jinx TMac’s crazy mojo, but after the 4 point play we all started to sense what was unfolding. After the following defensive stand we all got up out of our seats for the rest of the game. All of us.
4) This is the most emotion I’ve ever seen from TMac:
5) This look couldn’t have summed up what it felt like to be on the receiving end of this any better:
6) And this is how Rockets fans felt about our future with TMac and Yao, circa 2004:
Unfortunately, that future never came to pass. Yao and TMac are forever linked by their immense unrealized potential. TMac, the best that never was, will have one last shot to ride away a champion with the Spurs. But we’ll always have to wonder what could have been without the injuries and apathy that stole the Real Tracy McGrady from fans, teammates, and the pantheon of NBA greats.
(Guest Post by Nikhil Kumar: Rockets fan since ‘97, Jordan acolyte before, during, and after)