After announcing his retirement this week, there's been a large debate surrounding the career of Tracy McGrady. That polarization could best be summed up in the split vote in our poll asking whether McGrady should make the Hall of Fame earlier this week. McGrady's peak seasons between 2001-2007 point to a dominant scorer who could also pass the ball and rebound.
T-Mac's 2002-03 season with the Magic saw him post the 16th best PER (Player Efficiency Rating) in NBA history, according to basketball-reference. Despite the numbers and the seven consecutive All-Star game appearances from 2001 through 2007, McGrady never led his team out of the first round of the playoffs.
Grantland's E-I-C, Bill Simmons, wrote a long piece on the Friday before Labor Day weekend in which he blames McGrady's playoff failings almost exclusively on his supporting cast. Radio host for 95.7 The Game Ric Bucher has some thoughts on the matter (Sulia link).
While referencing Simmons' piece — where he spoke with McGrady's former coaches and peers and concluded that McGrady just wasn't hardwired to be a leader — Bucher believes that is a referendum on why McGrady didn't reach his full potential over his career.
Bill Simmons, in his wonderfully written and one of the longer dissertations on the subject, acknowledges TMac was not a leader. That's just it — once you state that and acknowledge how talented TMac was, you've outlined the crippling combination that foretold TMac never would be all that his talent promised. Such players aren't all that unique; Carmelo Anthony is another example. One of the absolutes in the NBA is that when the best player doesn't set the work-ethic bar for everyone else, a team has no hope of reaching its potential. Allen Iverson doesn't get to play the I-never-had-enough-talent-around-me card for the same reason. Both AI and TMac were never the defensive players they could've been. And when your effort to be in pristine condition is a question mark, as it was with McGrady, and injuries become chronic and sometimes debilitating, it's not as easy to blame bad luck and weak supporting casts.
Bucher goes on to write that McGrady chose to go to Orlando and Houston, even if they didn't have the supporting players he could have used to make a larger dint in the playoffs:
The other element either being overlooked or not widely known is that TMac chose to go to both Orlando and Houston, so it's not as if he was some helpless victim cast into inferior situations. Maybe that's how it turned out, maybe management misled him as far as what they intended to do, but he chose those situations over others. I've long said that on pure talent, TMac had more than Kobe; he was one of the rare few who had the pure ability to dominate whatever aspect of the game he chose, no matter who the opponent was. And as personalities go, I can vouch firsthand that few NBA players had a warmer one. All of which makes painting him as a sympathetic figure or a guy who didn't have the luck that so many others enjoyed easy. Dead wrong, but easy.