Who Is Tracy McGrady?
By now most NBA fans would be aware that Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady was drafted by the Toronto Raptors and played alongside Vince Carter, who is a future Hall of Famer in his own right. Tracy McGrady’s individual development would come a little later on when he decided he was not going to play second fiddle to Vince Carter and became a member of the Orlando Magic. There, McGrady became a scoring champion, but never really had much playoff success, mainly because he lacked a good supporting cast. By the time he got to the Houston Rockets, he did get a good enough supporting crew, but injuries plagued him and the other Hall of Famer Yao Ming, and basketball fans could only dream of the success they could have had if only fate was on their side.
There are one or two interviews out there wherein Kobe Bryant recognizes Tracy McGrady as the one person whom he had the most trouble guarding during his NBA career. And the reason for this was that Tracy was basically a taller version of Kobe. He was at least two inches taller than the Black Mamba but had the same skill set and skill level. If you interchanged their career positions in a fictional what-if scenario, Tracy McGrady would have probably won the same number of rings as Kobe had.
Tracy McGrady led the league in scoring twice in his NBA career. If it wasn’t for those injuries in Houston, he would have won more due to his skill level at his size alone.
While a Hall of Famer, he never won an NBA championship. And winning it all seems to be the common barometer on an NBA player’s greatness. Ask Michael Jordan, who keeps rubbing it in everyone’s face when asked to assess Harden’s and Westbrook’s historical season. Because of never being able to hold the Larry O’Brien trophy in his hands, Tracy McGrady is often ranked lower than players like Tim Duncan or Larry Bird—both of whom won multiple NBA championships while never leading the league in scoring in their entire NBA careers.
Many NBA fans today fantasize that, had Tracy McGrady stayed in Toronto all that time, he would have eventually won an NBA championship. This fantasy is, unfortunately, one wild idea since we could fantasize the same for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who once had three recent MVPs in Durant, Westbrook, and Harden. The thing is, T-Mac would not have been able to discover the true extent of his basketball talent had he stayed a second option to Vince Carter.
Now that we’ve established Tracy McGrady’s background as a player, we now move on to his descendants. Just how does one qualify to become a former NBA player’s descendant? There are no stringent criteria, but these three players are the closest we have in today’s game that have almost the same skill level and talent while having the same size as T-Mac.
Paul George started out as a defensive specialist for the Indiana Pacers. He somewhat has the same career trajectory as Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard – both started as defensive-minded players but eventually improved enough to become great offensive players in their own right. Paul George is just one of the best two-way players the league has today. While constantly being on top of the Steals-Per-Game charts, he has had an MVP-worthy season by being just second in scoring.
Paul George wasn’t popular at all until an opportunity came knocking when Danny Granger (then the Pacer’s first offensive option) went down with an injury. Paul George relished the playing time opportunity and eventually won Most Improved Player in 2013. This was during the very entertaining but short-lived Pacers-Heat rivalry, where Indiana didn’t win a single playoff series against the Heat but always somehow scared them enough. Paul George was starting to become un-guardable because of his talent at his size, and T-Mac comparisons were beginning to be whispered.
When Paul George got traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, it was a move which meant he wanted to win a championship and hoped he wouldn’t end up like T-Mac. The first year ended up below expectations as they were dominated by the Utah Jazz, but this year looks a lot different as the Thunder seem to be the favorites out West to dethrone the Golden State Warriors.
From starting out as a defensive specialist, Paul George is now a valid MVP candidate – and that’s while he’s playing alongside former MVP Russell Westbrook. He might just win Defensive Player of the Year while he’s at it.
We now move on to the guy from the next generation, Jayson Tatum. Like both T-Mac and PG-13, Tatum is at least 6’8’’ and has a very high level of skill at that size. He was only drafted by the Boston Celtics last year but seems to be mature beyond his years.
Like the first two NBA stars discussed, Tatum is another big perimeter player with excellent footwork. He is big enough to have played Center in the small-ball era (no one knows for sure when this was) but talented enough in the half-court to have possibly excelled in the ’90s.
Jayson Tatum caught everyone’s attention during last year’s postseason when he was one of the focal points of the Boston Celtics’ offense when Kyrie Irving was out. He notably dunked on LeBron in Game 7. Sure the Celtics lost the series, but he earned everyone’s respect on how he played in a high-stake playoff series and against the best player in the world.
Today, Jayson Tatum continues to impress. He may not be having the best statistical year from a year-on-year perspective, but he’s good enough to be tied up in trade rumors with Anthony Davis. He’s also good enough to be featured in a Kobe Bryant special analysis video.
Here’s another T-Mac descendant in Kyle Kuzma. Entered the league on the same draft class as Jayson Tatum, he’s another guy who is 6’8” and reminds everyone of Tracy McGrady. While comparing Kuzma to T-Mac might be the biggest stretch in this article, his multiple 30-point games this season show that he’s possessed with the same scoring gene T-Mac had.
The situation Kyle Kuzma is in is a little unfortunate because he always ends up being overshadowed by someone on his team. Be it Lonzo Ball when the Lakers selected Lonzo first over him, and be it Brandon Ingram who others consider the Lakers’ second-best player. But after seeing Kuzma’s games this season, the whispers are starting to get loud and are forming the argument that Kyle Kuzma is the Los Langeles Lakers’ best young player.
Kuzma won this year’s Rising Stars Challenge MVP. That was a statement game for him, being around the best players in the league who are in their early 20s. Kuzma right now may not be in the best situation for him to grow individually, but there will come a time when perhaps LeBron will hand him the keys to team and everyone will just have to accept that he’s better than Brandom Ingram will ever be.
What Sets T-Mac Apart From These Current NBA Stars?
These three players may draw the nearest comparisons to T-Mac, but there were distinct attributes that set T-Mac apart from any of his current descendants.
First, he had big hands. Michael Jordan isn’t the only player who used a one-hand pump fake. T-Mac’s big hands enabled him to use the same type of move and it was always against smaller players, causing a double-advantage.
Second, he has way more fluid moves than these three players. This certainly is the most arguable point since only qualitative video evidence can provide any proof, but somehow, T-Mac looked way cooler with his moves. Jayson Tatum already looks pretty smooth, but he’s not quite at the T-Mac level yet.
Here’s one achievement or milestone none of these three players will ever boast about – dunking over Shawn Bradley. Bradley was seven-and-a-half feet tall, and McGrady put him on the best playoff poster dunk of all time.
Fourth, T-Mac went for 13 points in 33 seconds. This is one feat which probably only Stephen Curry has a chance of eclipsing (probably Harden too since the refs always call him 4-point plays). Until we see any further proof, these four descendants of the great T-Mac have not been able to pull off an almost impossible scoring outburst.
Who are Some Honorable Mentions?
While I end this article dedicated to T-Mac, it’s worth mentioning some honorable mentions: Jimmy Butler, Carmelo Anthony (when he was relevant), and Andrew Wiggins.