By Josh Cohen
Sept. 7, 2017
ORLANDO — The Orlando Magic knew they had acquired a good player in 2000 when Tracy McGrady chose to sign with the NBA team he grew up watching from nearby Auburndale in Polk County.
What they found out almost instantly upon his arrival was that they actually landed one of the greatest players in NBA history.
T-Mac, as many hoop heads call him, had the best years of his playing career while in Orlando. He led the league in scoring in back-to-back seasons (2002-03 and 2003-04) and guided the Magic to the playoffs in three of his four years with the team.
An All-Star throughout his tenure with the Magic, McGrady still holds the franchise record for most points in a game (62 against Wizards in March of 2004) and the most 50-plus scoring performances (four).
Not to take anything away from what he accomplished during his years before and after Orlando, it seems fair to say that his amazingness with the Magic is a major reason why he is being inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday.
McGrady will be enshrined with other Class of 2017 all-time greats including Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self, former UConn and WNBA star Rebecca Lobo and ABA legend George McGinnis.
The Magic overhauled their roster in the summer of 2000 and tried to form a megastar Big Three. They acquired T-Mac and Grant Hill in two separate sign-and-trade deals and reportedly came close to convincing Tim Duncan to hop aboard.
While Duncan ultimately decided to stay in San Antonio and Hill endured significant ankle injuries, McGrady flourished and became an unstoppable offensive machine. He averaged 28.1 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists with the Magic.
The Magic honored McGrady in 2013 on opening night during their 25th anniversary season. At that time, he was still in awe of what he achieved in Orlando and how far he had come as a basketball player and person.
He was quick to reflect back on some of his most memorable performances, including the series he nearly helped the Magic pull off the upset over the highly favored Pistons. While Orlando wasn’t able to finish Detroit off after going up 3-1 in the First Round, T-Mac was dazzling with 43 and 46-point scoring efforts in Games 1 and 2.
“Honestly, when I’m sitting home and I don’t have anything to watch on TV, I pop those tapes in from the playoffs with the Magic and watch them,’’ McGrady said prior to the Magic honoring him nearly four years ago. “I’ll probably do it three or four times a week. I’ll watch those games from Orlando and Houston, watch my playoff games and reflect on what I was doing out there. When you are in the moment like that, you don’t fully grasp it. But now that I can sit back and analyze it, and see stretches where I scored like 15 straight points, I kind of amaze myself with some of the stuff that I was able to accomplish.’’
He also gushed about the fans and the support he received while his game blossomed to unforeseen heights.
“I played there for four years, and playing in front of that crowd every night and trying to entertain them, I think they always appreciated what I brought to the organization,” he had said.
One can only assume that we will hear much of the same from McGrady when he steps up on stage and delivers his Hall of Fame speech in Springfield, Mass.