Deconstructing Tracy McGrady

T-Mac, #1, All-Star, injured, and disappointment are just a few words that people have used to describe former Houston Rockets guard Tracy McGrady, who after having successful microfracture knee surgery on February 24, 2009, was out for the remainder of the 2008-09 NBA season.

That February day changed his public perception as a player and teammate forever.

Tracy McGrady is a unique individual. Ever since being drafted out of Mount Zion Christian Academy High School, he has been a major topic of discussion in the National Basketball Association. Whether it was his feud with cousin Vince Carter, inability to win big games, or unbelievable talent, T-Mac always was in the spotlight and still is, now amidst the bright lights of New York City.

In recent years, Tracy McGrady has been called a superstar when healthy by analysts like Stephen A. Smith, yet selfish and disappointing by some such as ESPN Page 2 columnist Bill Simmons.

The question is this.

What has Tracy McGrady done to earn constant criticism (or not done)?

The answer is not simple. There are many factors as to why he may never be in the class of elite players as Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Dwayne Wade, etc.

One of them is health.

Face it: It is not a good sign for a basketball player if they have never played a full 82 game season in the NBA. That is especially not a good sign if they started playing professional basketball at the young age of 18. At least Bill Walton won an MVP Award and NBA Championship with the Portland Trail Blazers in his one healthy season as the alpha dog of the team.

Check the stats and see what I mean:

Tracy McGrady's Last Four Seasons

2008-09: 47 games missed (Knee, ankle)

2007-08: 16 games missed(Elbow, flu, knee, shoulder)

2006-07: 11 games missed (Back, flu)

2005-06: 35 games missed (Back)

Yet one can argue that when Tracy McGrady is 100%, he is a game changer. I mean the man didn’t win the scoring title twice (2003, 2004) or lead his teams to the playoffs seven times by accident. Yes, he has never gotten out of the first round (minus the Rockets improbably doing so last season when McGrady was out with his knee injury), but playoff appearances are not always easy to come by.

Did I mention he is also a seven time All-Star?

Perhaps, McGrady should have gone to college to develop. Sure, it would not be as strenuous as an NBA season, but college ball would have helped gear T-Mac up for the big leagues. He didn’t exactly set the world on fire his rookie or sophomore seasons, only averaging 7.0 and 9.3 points per game for the Toronto Raptors.

His the 1999-00 season was a good improvement, averaging 15.4 points, 3.3 assists, and 6.4 rebounds per game. In the summer of 2000, T-Mac was dealt via sign-and-trade to the Orlando Magic to play alongside newly signed Grant Hill. The duo was supposed to help the Magic rise to prominence for the first time since Shaquille O’Neal left the team in 1996.

The result was anything but success. Yes, the Magic were led by McGrady to three straight playoff appearances from 2001-2003, but the results were the same—losing in the first round. What made McGrady’s tenure with Orlando a strenuous one was all of the injuries Grant Hill suffered and the medical complications that followed.

Grant Hill ended up playing only 47 games in his first four seasons with the Magic, hampering any chances of Orlando obtaining their second NBA Finals berth (until Dwight Howard and Co. led them in 2009), let alone advancing to the second round of the playoffs (which Dwight Howard and Co. also did in 2009).

The Magic came close to winning a playoff round Grant Hill-less in 2003, but after mustering up a 3-1 lead as a No. 8 seed, they dropped three straight to lose the series in seven games to Hill's old team—the Detroit Pistons.