There have been 15 NBA players who retired having scored more than 18,000 points, grabbed more than 5,000 rebounds and made more than 4,000 assists. Each and every one of them is in the Hall of Fame. (Via ESPN Stats and Info.)
Now Tracy McGrady makes it 16 players as he is going to retire from the NBA. But his Hall of Fame credentials are on shakier ground. It’s because the peak of his career wasn’t that long and was cut short by injuries, and it’s because in an era obsessed with titles McGrady did not define himself in the playoffs.
Still McGrady belongs in the Hall. Whether he gets in or not, who knows — the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame selection process seems to be a roulette wheel of chance with the well connected getting in along with the best players.
To me, the Hall should be for the top players of a generation, and McGrady is that. When we talk about the NBA of the early 2000s we often focus on the Shaq/Kobe Lakers, but McGrady was right there as the best player in the league for five years.
This isn’t one of those “there is no doubt” first ballot picks, I’d personally even put Allen Iverson in ahead of him (because Iverson had a bigger impact on the culture of and around the game), but McGrady has the credentials. He deserves to be inducted.
First, he is a two-time NBA scoring champion — every scoring champion except Max Zaslofsky is in. For eight consecutive seasons McGrady scored 20 points a game (and averaged better than 5 rebounds and 4 assists a game all those years, too). People sometimes remember the end of a career, and in McGrady’s case that wasn’t pretty as he battled through knee and back injuries to try and stay on the court, but if you look back at his peak (when people wondered if he or Kobe Bryant was better) then he is one of his generations best.
McGrady was a two-time All-NBA First Team selection (he made the second team five times) and was a seven-time All-Star.
Did his teams struggle in the playoffs? Yes, save for last year’s Spurs (where he rode the bench). But that was not really about McGrady as it was he was largely on teams that were not that good. It’s not like he was on great teams getting upset, he was on the underdog but he played well — he averaged 19.6 points a game for his regular season career, but 22.2 in the playoffs. He had a career regular season PER of 22.1, he had a playoff career PER of 23.4. He didn’t falter in the postseason, his teams did. This is the problem with the “count the rings” argument — basketball is still a team game. Nobody — not Bill Russell, not Michael Jordan, not Magic Johnson — won a ring by themselves, they had good talent around them. McGrady never had that. Should we really hold that against him?
McGrady is going to take a few rounds to get into the Hall of Fame.
But he should eventually get in. His peak may have been short, but he was one of the best of his generation.