In last week’s edition, we took a look at some of the lesser known yet interesting former Raptors. This week, we will focus on a generational talent who had a brief and controversial stint with Toronto.
This past Friday, the Toronto Raptors honoured Tracy McGrady in a match against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Similar to the tribute bestowed to Vince Carter, a video was shown highlighting McGrady’s spectacular dunks from his three seasons in Toronto. The crowd gave a standing ovation and the former scoring champion was basking in the moment. It got me thinking…what if T-Mac stuck around? How could teams defend a duo of McGrady and Carter? How many championships would we be in? How many would we win?
I’m sure most Raptor fans have performed the same mental exercise. Thinking counterfactually illuminates just how good he was and how he could have been a part of something special…
On June 25, 1997, the Toronto Raptors selected Tracy Lamar McGrady Jr from Mount Zion Chrsitian Academy high school with the ninth overall pick. An 18-year-old loaded with a versatile skillset, McGrady was projected to be a top five pick, but teams passed on him due to his immaturity and attitude. As a new franchise with limited success and no “superstar” to speak of, the Toronto Raptors took the long term approach. They knew he was going to be an All-Star down the road, and were in no hurry to win, so it was a worth the risk.
In his first season with the purple and red, T-Mac averaged 7.0 points and 4.2 rebounds. Nothing spectacular, but he had limited minutes to showcase his talents (18.4 per game). As a sophomore, his averages increased across the board and had more of a role in the offense. It wasn’t until his third season when we finally saw signs of T-Mac being the steal of the 1997 draft. McGrady and the newly drafted Vince Carter, a cousin of his, formed an athletic guard and wing duo in the 1999-00 season. The Raptors were becoming the envy of many teams. In McGrady and Carter, they had a ballhandling forward blessed with great vision and scoring and an acrobatic and explosive guard who later became one of the best dunkers. For a modern NBA comparison, it would be like having a young and blossoming Kevin Durant and Dwayne Wade on the same team.
We all know how the story ended. After a successful third campaign with the Raptors where he averaged 15.4 points and led the team to their inaugural postseason appearance, T-Mac was signed as a free agent by the Orlando Magic in 2000. He wanted his own team and was tired of playing in Vince Carter’s shadow. McGrady went on to build a Hall of Fame career with the Magic and Houston Rockets, but is still remembered as the guy who never made it past the first round of the playoffs.
T-Mac only played in 196 games with the Raptors but to this day, he regrets leaving the franchise. The now 35-year-old recently quoted “In hindsight, looking back, I wish I had stayed in Toronto” and added “there’s no doubt we would have contended for a championship…I think about that often.”
As does Raptornation T-Mac. We pull our hair out reminiscing about your following accomplishments.
- Seven Straight All-Star appearances (2001-07)
- Two All-NBA First Team (2002-03)
- Three All-NBA Second Team (2001, 2004, 2007)
- Two All-NBA Third Team (2005, 2008)
- Two Time Scoring Champion (2003-04)
- Most Improved Player (2001)
And if you still think McGrady was an overrated scorer on bad teams. Watch this video. You’ll come to terms with how T-Mac was one of the best talents in the 21st century; an impressive scorer, a great ballhandler, a clutch player and a human-highlight reel.