After 16 seasons in the NBA, Tracy McGrady announced he was retiring this week.
McGrady, once one of the top superstars in the NBA, will go down as one of the least fortunate superstars of his generation and possibly all-time.
McGrady didn’t get out of the first round of the playoffs until last season, when he jumped on the end of San Antonio’s bench and didn’t play a meaningful minute with the team all season.
McGrady began his career in Toronto with Vince Carter, but Vince left before McGrady really started to blossom. He first became a real superstar in Orlando and Grant Hill and he were supposed to form a dynamic duo, but they never met expectations.
McGrady had his best chances for success with the Houston Rockets as he was teamed up with Yao Ming and later Ron Artest. A tough Western Conference did not smile on Houston as each season ended in more disappointment.
No one will ever deny McGrady’s talent. In the 2002-03 season, he averaged 32.1 points, 5.5 assists and 6.5 rebounds per game. He led the league in scoring again the season after. He was a career 43.5 percent shooter and probably took too many threes.
But more than anything, McGrady found himself time and time again in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
Championship windows are so fragile in the NBA. We forget this because of the greats that have won multiple titles. But we forget how many others, who eventually become seen as less great, were so close and never won.
There was a point in McGrady’s young career where he was probably viewed similarly to Kevin Durant now. Sure, Durant has already been to the NBA Finals, but last year experienced that it doesn’t simply just keep getting better because it’s another year later.
Post James Harden trade, many believe the Thunder are in trouble and that they may have missed their championship window. This coming season might be the first that OKC wins less games than the year before in franchise history.
The point is this: the league isn’t going to politely wait until it’s “Durant’s time” and hand him championships. McGrady is an example of that as much as anything.
When we look back on T-Mac’s career, the emotion that will come up more than anything is feeling sorry for him. I don’t think any NBA player wants that.
If the Thunder don’t win a title over the next 4-5 years, people will feel sorry for Durant too. The window to win championships could be beginning to close on the Thunder, or it could be starting to open. For legacy sake, it’s imperative the Thunder take advantage of the window and win, otherwise it will just be sad.