One-time superstar ends his career with unfulfilled expectations.
You probably missed it last week, not that it was huge news. Tracy McGrady’s retirement came without much pomp. Most people thought McGrady was already retired, so his making it official was a trifle.
It looked as if he was, sure. For McGrady, 34, didn’t have much to show for his last couple of seasons in the NBA, seasons in which he bounced around like a Ping-Pong ball. T-Mac had spent the 2012-13 season moored like a rusted battleship to the San Antonio Spurs bench. He had been the head cheerleader on a team that would have, if not for Ray Allen of the Heat’s Game 6 miracle, won the 2013 NBA title.
Collecting a paycheck of McGrady’s size (reportedly $1.35 million for 2012) isn’t a bad deal, but the paycheck wasn’t going to be as fat for seasons to come if anyone had the belief that McGrady could still play. His superstar years were long into his yesteryears, which meant he would be a cheerleader wherever else he went. It was a lousy way to see a star end his career.
To make sense of T-Mac’s 16-year career, you need to look closely at what he used to be and then jog your memory to recall what his past was like.
What comes to mind is that McGrady, a two-time NBA scoring champ, was one of the stars in a league short of them. His resume was as glossy as anybody else’s — even Kobe Bryant’s and Tim Duncan’s. He was a highlight reel every night he took the court.
McGrady was also the most luckless superstar to ever play in the NBA. He seemed to have all the planets in the cosmos aligned against him. If he turned left, he should have turned right. Nothing about his NBA fortunes made sense — not like the good luck that trailed others of his generation. Is it possible for a superstar, aside from Allen Iverson, to spend his glory years on more mediocre teams than McGrady?
One thing his career did was serve as a reminder of what title teams are made of. A great player like McGrady does make a poor team strong, but unless he has complementary pieces, he can never lead a poor team to championships. LeBron James proved that during his Cleveland Cavalier years. Now, take note of what LeBron has done with two stars alongside him each night.
Remembered most for his career with the Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic, McGrady might have had a star next to him had he stuck around and teamed with Dwight Howard in Orlando. But McGrady went to Houston, where he was supposed to team with center Yao Ming and turn the Rockets into a power.
Ming’s health ruined those plans, and that’s when T-Mac started hopscotching around the NBA, playing for the New York Knicks, the Detroit Pistons, the Atlanta Hawks and San Antonio.
His presence on those rosters was barely above a journeyman’s, which is why his retirement made no big headlines. At some point in an athlete’s life, he must quit the game or else he risks the game quitting him.
McGrady decided he should do the quitting. His was a decision people can’t say came a day too early. They can argue it came two years too late, but that would add nothing useful to a discussion about a burnt-out star who saw a future that wasn’t much to look at.
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