No one wants to spend their twilight years alone. It's often said that when the years are winding down, people want to be around their loved ones, around people who appreciate them and would do anything for them.
If that is indeed true, then Tracy McGrady's signing a one-year contract with Qingdao of the Chinese Basketball Association makes perfect sense, because no non-Chinese player in NBA history is more adored by the Chinese community than Tracy McGrady.
After making a mini-tour to work out for various NBA teams over the last several weeks and failing to secure a guaranteed commitment from a team in the association, McGrady decided this week to cash in his NBA chips and head overseas to China, where he will likely be greeted with a hero's welcome, due almost wholly to his relationship with former teammate Yao Ming.
The two played together in Houston from 2004 through 2010, although by the last couple years it was a crapshoot as to whether either of the two would make it on the floor by himself, let alone along with the other guy. They made five playoff appearances that were probably best known for their brevity more than anything else.
Individually, at his peak, Tracy McGrady was one of the most spectacular scorers in league history, winning two NBA scoring titles (2002-03 and 2003-04) before becoming the centerpiece to a trade that would pair him with Yao in Houston and send Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley (as a couple, we refer to them as "Stuttino") and the bloated contract of Kelvin Cato to Orlando. In Houston, McGrady would take the Chinese love that Francis was able to sop off of the Yao Ming Gravy Train to a whole new level.
The Chinese really liked Steve Francis. They loved Tracy McGrady. Still do, as you will see in a moment.
McGrady posted a heartfelt entry to his blog announcing his decision earlier this week:
There are times in life that a new road presents itself and it appears this time has come for me now. I am so proud of what I have accomplished these past 15 years playing in the NBA. It was a dream entering the league as I just turned 18 years old. I worked hard and poured my heart and soul into this game. I consider myself a student of the game as I have watched, studied and played with and against the best players in the world. The NBA was my University and I learned so much. The gratitude I feel is really immeasurable. I have experienced the best moments a player can experience and have had some dark ones too. Both equally important in helping shape me into the man I am today.
As I leave the league for now, there have been so many profound people who inspired me along my way. I have to say thank you for guiding me and having an enormous influence on the way I played basketball. Isaiah Thomas, Rich Devos, Leslie Alexander and John Gabriel, you believed in me and I thank you. Jeff Van Gundy, you exemplified the brilliance of what a great coach is. Steven A. Smith, you gave us players a voice and for that I thank you. Doug Christy, Charles Oakley, Dee Brown, Mugsy Bogues, Antonio Davis, Dell Curry, Kevin Willis, you all showed a young kid from Auburndale Florida how to be a better player. Kobe, you made me work harder and it was an honor to play against you. And Yao, we shared an experience together that will always be with me, thank you. Sonny & Pam Vaccarro showed me how there is loyalty and genuine friendship in this business. Arn Tellem and Tim Hoy, 15 years and you are still my agents. Thank you for guiding me throughout my career. When all is said and done, there is so many that made an impact on my life. I am one blessed man to have the love and never ending support of my wife CleRenda and the best 4 kids a man can ask for. But most important, I give glory and thanks to God. It is thru Him that I have been so blessed and I am forever thankful.
As I enter this next chapter, I am excited to play for Qingdao Eagles in China. I have been to China several times in the last few years and I love the people and the country. It will be an honor to play for them. Thank you to every fan that has followed me and believed in me. Injuries and all, I wouldn't have changed a thing. I am proud of the mark I left on this game and am grateful to have been a part this league. It was a dream to play in front of all of you, each night, in every stadium. Thank you.
A few observations on McGrady's good bye and the next chapter in his career:
6. I find it interesting that McGrady thanked every owner he ever played for (the guys who signed his ample paychecks, no coincidence), but only one coach he played for in the NBA, Jeff Van Gundy. (Van Gundy has always been a big McGrady fan, calling Tracy one of the smartest players he had a chance to coach.) Apparently, the scorched earth Tracy left behind in most places he played included relationships with coaches. Speaking specifically to Houston, one of McGrady's final salvos on the way out the door was his announcing to the media that he was going to undergo microfracture surgery on his knee before telling the Rockets brass. Classy, huh.
5. Steven A. Smith getting thanked for "[giving] the players a voice" confirms what we all knew already -- Steven A. is a jock sniff honk and a shill for "his guys" around the league. And a really, really loud shill, at that.
4. Underrated T-Mac self-delusional quote of the post: "Kobe, you made me work harder and it was an honor to play against you." First, McGrady employs the sneaky genius tactic of "adulation by association." In other words, by mentioning Kobe (the best player of the chronological footprint of T-Mac's career) and only Kobe as a guy who "made [him] work harder," it subliminally puts Tracy on Kobe's level, even though Kobe was always better than Tracy, oftentimes much better, and Tracy's period of dominance was a fraction of Kobe's period of dominance, which is actually still going. Second, the notion of Tracy "working harder" is pretty funny. Tracy was not exactly a workout warrior nor a rehab demon when coming off of injuries.
3. Apparently, after going over to China a couple years ago, Stephon Marbury has become like the LeBron James of the Chinese Basketball Association or something. I have no idea what Marbury's numbers are over there, and don't really care, but they are reportedly pretty good. I only bring this up because I'm angry we didn't get some twisted YouTube moments from Tracy like this one we got from from Starbury before he left to go over there:
2. Back in the day, on my old afternoon show with John Harris on 1560-AM, we used to read entries in Tracy McGrady's blog, myopic as they were, and then read the comments section, which were 98 percent pro-Tracy and, not surprisingly, about 98 percent from Chinese people. Well, as you can imagine, the Chinese folks are ecstatic to be getting Tracy to themselves, with a chance to now see him in person (even if he is in the "broken down WWE superstar doing independent cards in local armories" part of his career). Here are some samplings of their bliss -- their fractured English, awkwardly metaphorical bliss:
(NOTE: Harris and I would always read the comments from the Chinese fans verbatim with Dionne Warwick's "That's What Friends Are For" playing in the background. The comments are much funnier this way, so for special effects, play this video...
...okay, NOW begin reading.)
Kimi | 13 hours, 3 minutes ago T-Mac, you are No.1 and god in my heart.I will support you forever. Best wished to you and good luck in China.
JSTAR | 13 hours, 24 minutes ago T-MAC you are the best ,I alawy watch you play THIS game since I watch the nba,so what,I WILL LOVE you FOREVER .never give UP
(NOTE: I should also point out that the Chinese support posts for T-Mac usually include many fans telling him to "Never give up" or "Always keep trying" or some form of sappy encouragement. The Chinese are like one big collective, supportive significant other, essentially the bizarro Adrienne "You can't win!" Balboa from the Rocky movies. Okay, back to the comments...)
Robel | 13 hours, 24 minutes ago Tracy, I truly enjoyed watching you play, from your Orlando days all the way till your Atlanta. Your inspiration through your passion and will. You will never be forgotten. Its not hard to find a skilled player, buts its almost impossible to find a player with your amount of passion. I pray that you have a great carrer in China. May god bless your family and yourself. Youve been a true hero. Thank you Tmac..
Xianliu Wang | 13 hours, 32 minutes ago I will always support you.
kelland | 14 hours, 17 minutes ago Mac,I can not help crying after reading your words. You are always be best player in my mind. And welcome to China. All your chinese fans will be waiting for you here and try to watch your game every night. Hope everything goes with you in China.
Strak47 | 14 hours, 39 minutes ago Tmac, it's so lucky of me to have u as my idol . It's all we fans' fortune ! Wish u the best !!
sol | 15 hours, 2 minutes ago this brings tears to my eyes........ You are my hero man, no.1........ body and soul u gave it all......... just wish that nba teams didnt treated u like this......... You will always be a hall of famer in my book!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WE SUPPORT YOU ALL THE WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!
And there's always one tortured, conflicted soul in the bunch....
WANG RUIZHONG | 15 hours, 55 minutes ago I love you ，but do not come please！
Why, Wang?!? WHY???!!!???
1. While there are probably a few Americans sad to see McGrady go (I'm just guessing there may be one or two), here's the really good news: For the months of January through July 2012, our trade deficit with China totaled an estimated $174 million, according to the Census Bureau. In his 15 years in the NBA, Tracy McGrady made an estimated $163 million, according to basketball-reference.com.
So while he has been a shell of his former self on the basketball court the last couple years, Tracy McGrady managed to singlehandedly balance the 2012 trade deficit with China. And he did it by making himself disappear.
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Maybe he does have some of the old magic left!
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.