Tracy McGrady’s Career Is Defined by Injuries, Playoff Failure

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

At 34, Tracy McGrady has decided to retire from the game of basketball. He will go down as one of the NBA‘s preeminent scorers during his peak. A rash of injuries severely plagued him through is mid-20s, and followed him through the rest of his career. He decides to hang up the jersey and sneakers after reaching the NBA Finals for the first time last season with the San Antonio Spurs. Last year’s run by the Spurs was also McGrady’s first ever time playing farther than the 2nd round. He will leave the game of basketball without a ring, two scoring titles, and seven All-Star game appearances.

One has to wonder what the landscape of the NBA would be like today if Tracy McGrady was able to stay healthy. All players have injuries, but he seemed to catch them like the common cold. His infamous string of 1st round losses and relative NBA Playoff failure may not ever be matched by someone of his caliber.

Starting off his career straight from high school, he was drafted by the Toronto Raptors and played alongside his 3rd cousin Vince Carter. While overshadowed by Carter, the duo led the Raptors to the NBA Playoffs in 2000 for the first time in franchise history. The stay was short as they were swept by the New York Knicks in the first round.

McGrady became a free-agent in the summer of 2000 and was then dealt to the Orlando Magic. He played beside Grant Hill who was also signed the same summer. Ironically, an injury is what put McGrady on the map in Orlando. With Grant Hill being limited to four games due to an ankle injury, McGrady became the top scoring option and the unquestioned leader. He was later named to the All-Star game and named the NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2001. Despite McGrady’s growth, the Magic lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Hill’s injuries made Orlando a one-man show the following season. McGrady was named to another All-Star team and averaged 26 points per game. The Magic still met their demise in the first round, this time to the Charlotte Hornets. His last two seasons in Orlando saw him win two scoring titles in a row and two more All-Star games. Despite McGrady’s efforts, the Magic failed to get out of the first round. In 2002, the Magic had a 3-1 lead on the Detroit Pistons in the playoffs. McGrady was quoted saying how good it felt to finally have a chance at the 2nd round. The Magic lost the series by more than 20 points per game. Heavily depleted by injuries, the Magic limped to a 21-61 record in 2003 and won the No.1 overall draft pick.

The Houston Rockets acquired McGrady in a seven-man trade with Orlando. He would continue to rack up the scoring numbers and All-Star game appearances while being paired with 7-foot-6 Chinese sensation Yao Ming. In 2005, McGrady highlighted the Rockets’ 2-0 lead on the Dallas Mavericks with his Game 2 dunk over 7-foot-6 Shawn Bradley and hitting the game winner. Dallas pushed the series to Game 7, where McGrady missed six of his first seven shots. The Mavericks won by 40 points.

McGrady missed 20 games in the next two seasons due to back spasms. The Rockets would grab a No.5 seed in the playoffs as McGrady re-established himself as one of the best in the league. Houston’s first round series with Utah would end in seven games. Before the game, McGrady was quoted saying if the Rockets failed to get out of the first round again, it was on him. The Jazz won, and McGrady spoke a very emotional message in the post-game interviews. He said:

“I tried man, I tried.”

In 2007, McGrady started taking pain-killing injections to nurse shoulder and knee injuries. He had to have both joints drained before being able to play. The Jazz once again eliminated the Rockets in six games, despite 40 points from McGrady in the 113-91 loss. The shoulder and knee issues eventually led to surgery. McGrady played 41 games in his last two seasons with the Rockets before being traded to New York. He finished his career by bouncing around from the Atlanta Hawks, to China, and then to San Antonio.

While he is now facing retirement from the NBA, he is still leaving the door open to playing overseas. He leaves playing 16 seasons in the NBA and providing some of the best comeback stories that could never be duplicated.

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