Tuesday, April 04, 2017

That Time When Tracy McGrady Became the Greatest Basketballer Ever for 35 Seconds

Kobe Bryant is my most favorite player that ever played in the NBA.  Haters gonna hate, but he was the greatest in the league for many years.  That means that at their primes, he was superior to Tracy McGrady.  Sure, when they battled, there were some times that T-Mac outplayed him.  But, overall, Kobe came up on top.  At the defensive end, one-on-one, he made T-Mac work hard for his points, even utterly shutting him down in a couple of notable moments.  On the other hand, T-Mac at his prime might have been as amazing (though not as dominating) as Kobe at offense, but he had never been the dogged, lockdown perimeter defender that Kobe was.  Kobe was simply in a different level.  This is an objective fact.  Even T-Mac acknowledged this in some interviews.

That said, at the 2013 “Kobe Up Close” TV special, Kobe referred to Tracy McGrady as the toughest player he had ever played against – tougher than Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and Allen Iverson (whom he also mentioned were notably tough opponents for him).  Indeed, T-Mac was a beast.  He was an incredible, versatile scorer who could have probably had a much better legacy than what he eventually ended up with if he hadn’t been hindered by problematic back injuries.  As far as talents are concerned, T-Mac was the closest player I’ve ever seen to a Kobe Bryant clone.

But a basketball god Kobe may be, there’s at least one legendary feat that he hasn’t accomplished in his career but T-Mac was able to do.

On December 9, 2004, T-Mac would steal a win for the Houston Rockets against the eventual champions of that season, the San Antonio Spurs.  The Spurs were up by ten with only about a minute left in the game.  The win was virtually theirs.  Many Rocket fans had even headed out to the exits already.

But the Rockets got within eight points with about 35 seconds remaining, and that was when T-Mac entered “The Zone”, his eyes flickering with electricity (Kuroko no Basuke reference).  Seven seconds in the shot clock, he drained a three-pointer to cut the lead down to five, despite a decent contest from Malik Rose.
Spurs were fouled and hit two free-throws at the other end, their lead increasing to seven.

With the ball back at McGrady’s hands, Yao Ming set a pick for him behind the arc that freed him from Bruce Bowen – one of the greatest perimeter defenders of all time.
Tim Duncan, a Basketball Titan belonging in the same pantheon as Kobe’s, moved to meet him.  But all his celestial powers couldn’t save him from T-Mac in Super Saiyan 3 mode.  T-Mac pump-faked him, drew the foul… and still somehow made the shot over Duncan’s towering arms!
He made the free throw.  Four-point play.  Rockets down by three.  24.3 seconds remaining.

Spurs made two free-throws again, their lead up by five.  Spurs almost denied the Rockets from inbounding the ball on time, but managed to get it into their hero.  This time, T-Mac couldn’t avoid Bruce Bowen, who played great defense on him as expected.  Didn’t matter.  He took the shot, draining another three and Bowen’s soul.
Spurs’ lead cut to two!

With around 11 seconds left, Spurs struggled a bit in inbounding the ball, and when they finally did, it was too late: T-Mac had already finished casting a hex spell which he learned as an Orlando Magic.   Devin Brown fumbled the ball into his hands.
T-Mac sprinted towards the other side of the court as the clock ticked down, as a Mortal Kombat voiceover thundered in Toyata Center, urging him to “Finish them!”  So, like an assassin, T-Mac delivered the killing blow.  Whish!
Rockets up 81-80.  1.7 seconds remaining.  Spurs had exhausted their time outs.  The hex was still in the air, and Tony Parker couldn’t sink a prayer attempt at the buzzer.  Rockets won the game!
Traumatized.  Spurs had to spend a small fortune for Brown's therapy.

13 points in 35 seconds.  Four straight three-pointers, one of which was a four-point play.  All of them necessary for the win.  During that stretch, T-Mac was scoring 0.39 points per second.  If he had maintained such pace during that 2004-05 season (he averaged 40.8 minutes in 78 games), he would have scored 74,468 points all in all (averaging 954.72 points a game).

The whole thing was quite ridiculous.  It makes as much as sense as T-Mac having to shoot a mythical 13-pointer from across the court while he’s blindfolded and the Monstars are quintuple-teaming him.

T-Mac – with his phenomenal dunking prowess, outstanding athleticism, and explosive skill set – had plenty of highlights throughout his career.  But this game is undoubtedly his most epic moment.  The stuff which inspire bards to compose immortal songs of.  13 points in 35 seconds.  He might not have won a ring, but he had done something that no champion or any basketball player has ever done (the closest thing is probably Reggie Miller’s 8 points in 9 seconds).

Tracy McGrady has been recently announced to be part of the 2017 Hall of Fame class, and a first ballot selection at that.  Truly, he’s a legend who’s absolutely deserving of such honor.


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