ESPN is counting down the best players in the NBA from 500-1. Former NBA great Tracy McGrady ranks 240 on the list.
McGrady spent last season with the Atlanta Hawks and averaged 5.3 points, 2.1 assists, and 3.0 rebounds per game during the 2011-12 campaign.
The former first round pick was drafted in 1997 straight out of high school by the Toronto Raptors with the ninth overall selection. He played his first three years of high school basketball at Auburndale High School in Auburndale, Florida, then transferred to Mount Zion Christian Academy, in Durham, North Carolina. In his senior season at Mount Zion, McGrady was named High School Player of the Year by USA Today.
T-Mac’s best season in Toronto came in his third and final year as he averaged 15.4 points in 31.2 minutes per game. That same year in 2000, the duo of McGrady and third cousin Vince Carter helped the Raptors reach the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. However, the team was swept 3–0 by the New York Knicks in the first round.
McGrady then became a free agent in the summer and expressed interest in playing for family and friends in his native Florida. Shorly after, he agreed to a sign-and-trade deal that shipped him to the Orlando Magic in exchange for a first round draft pick.
Orlando was indeed magic for McGrady as his career skyrocketed. He became a full-time starter, averaged 25+ ppg for a season, and was selected as an All-Star, all for the first time in his NBA career during the ’00-’01 campaign.
In that season, he finished with an accurate scoring average of 26.8 ppg and was awarded Most Improved Player in the NBA.
The following year, McGrady continued his great play. He made his second All-Star team and First Team All-NBA while averaging 26 points per game. The Magic posted a 44–38 record but were beaten again in the first round of the playoffs, this time by the Charlotte Hornets.
In 2002-03, T-Mac averaged 32.1 points per game and captured the NBA scoring title, becoming the youngest player to do so since the ABA-NBA merger. Despite McGrady’s personal success, the Magic failed to reach the second round of the playoffs.
During the 2003 Playoffs, the Magic (who were the #8 seed) surprisingly took a 3–1 series lead against the heavily favored #1 seeded Detroit Pistons. Before the fifth game in Detroit, McGrady was quoted as saying how wonderful it was to “finally be in the position to advance to the second round (of the playoffs)”. Orlando, however, lost Games 5, 6, and 7 by an average of more than 20 points, and Detroit advanced to the second round.
McGrady had the game of his life in March of ’04 when set a career-high with 62 points against the Washington Wizards. At season’s end, McGrady had won the scoring title again, averaging 28 points per game. The Magic team as a whole, however, were decimated by injuries and limped to a 21-61 season, earning them the first overall pick in the 2004 draft (which turned out to be Dwight Howard).
Four days after the ’04 Draft, the Magic traded McGrady, Juwan Howard, Tyronn Lue, and Reece Gaines to the Houston Rockets in a seven-player deal that sent Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley, and Kelvin Cato to Orlando.
McGrady continued his stellar play his first year in Houston. He averaged 25.7 ppg, and was selected to another All-Star game, while playing 40.8 minutes in his 78 started games (both career-highs).
In the 2005-06, T-Mac was hampered by lingering back spasms. The spasms at one point were so bad that he had to be taken out at halftime in a game against the Denver Nuggets on a stretcher and rushed to the hospital because of severe back spasms. He finished the season with an average of 24.4 ppg in 47 starts.
From 2006-10, McGrady had a very tough time staying healthy, his production suffered as a result. In his last three years in Houston, T-Mac’s scoring average and number of games played decreased significantly.
On Feb. 18, 2010, McGrady was traded to the New York Knicks as part of a three-team trade involving Houston, New York, and the Sacramento Kings. McGrady made his debut for the Knicks two days later against the Oklahoma City Thunder to a sold-out Madison Square Garden, amid many “We Want T-Mac!” chants. He scored 26 points, grabbed 4 rebounds, and dished 5 assists in 32 minutes of play as New York lost in overtime. This was McGrady’s first game since December 23, 2009 against the Orlando Magic. He played in the final 24 games of the ’09-’10 season and average 9.4 points in 26.1 minutes per game.
In the off-season, McGrady signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Pistons. On December 7, 2010, McGrady returned to Houston for the first time to a mixture of applause and boos, he scored 11 points, grabbed 3 rebounds, and dished 3 assists in a 97-83 loss. A month later, McGrady scored a season-high 22 points in a 101-95 victory over the Toronto Raptors. T-Mac averaged 8.0 points, 3.5 assists, and 3.5 rebounds in 23.4 minutes for the Pistons but they failed to make the playoffs for the second year in a row.
McGrady spent last season with the Atlanta Hawks. In his debut, McGrady finished with 12 points, 2 rebounds, a steal and a block in less than 20 minutes of action in a 106-70 blowout win over the New Jersey Nets. Less than a week later, he dropped 13 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter against the then-undefeated Miami Heat, to lead the Hawks to a comeback victory. McGrady appeared in 52 games for Atlanta and averaged a career-low 5.3 ppg in 16 minutes per contest.
Once considered one of the NBA’s elite players, McGrady’s career has been a roller coaster of a ride. The fact that his 2011 ESPN NBA rank of 178 plummeted 62 spots to the current mark of 240 reflects just that.