The Case for Tracy McGrady's Hall of Fame Bid

The 16-year NBA veteran wasn't a natural leader--but so what?


Bill Simmons' retrospective on McGrady is really good. There's a subtle point in here about how we view we manage to view team accomplishments through the lens of the individual. Basketball is actually more sensible about this than football. 

Nevertheless, Simmons lines up the forces that influenced McGrady's career--the era he entered the league, Grant Hill's injury, his amazing basketball skills being at odds with the temperament you want from a team leader:

His personality never matched his talents, Morey believed, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing. For his first three Houston seasons, it fell upon coach Jeff Van Gundy to supply that leadership -- by default -- and as Morey accurately points out, you never want your team drawing its entire personality and toughness from someone wearing a suit. (Even in Chicago, where the Bulls assumed Tom Thibodeau's rugged personality over these last three years, that wouldn't work if lunch-pail guys like Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler weren't involved.) 
After Morey fired Van Gundy before the 2007-08 season, new hire Rick Adelman was hoping McGrady would take on a bigger leadership role. Adelman was a more laid-back coach, Morey explains, someone who'd rather delegate to his players. So they met with McGrady to tell him that they needed his help.

What happened? McGrady politely turned them down. He just wasn't wired that way, he told them.

"So who did everyone consider the team's leader during your 22-game winning streak?" I asked Daryl.

"Probably Chuck Hayes," Daryl said

There's a tendency when you hear these stories to go in on the player for not remaking their entire self for their sport. But at the same time, I wonder if--outside of basketball--people like McGrady are ultimately healthier. It's easy to forget that Tracy McGrady is a person, not a basketball career. But he was great. And I think Simmons case is air-tight.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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