Tracy McGrady has deservedly entered the NBA hall of fame.
The prevailing opinion is that that McGrady never quite ‘got there’. And it’s more or less true: he’ll probably never be considered ‘better’ than Kobe, Garnett, Shaq, Duncan, Iverson – or perhaps even Pierce in some people’s eyes. That said, while he lacks the championship or MVP pedigree of his alumni, one simple fact cannot be overlooked: for a brief while – perhaps even for a whole season – peak McGrady was better than Kobe, better than Shaq, better than Duncan, better than Garnett – and pooped all over Iverson, Pierce… and his cousin for good measure.
Let me take you back to 2002-03. It was a simpler time. A time when it was ok to brick a steady diet of long range twos, not have a care in the world about your three point shooting – and perhaps even help yourself to an MVP award in the process:
- McGrady (23) – 32.1ppg, 39.4mpg, 6.5rpg, 5.5apg, 30.1 PER, TS 56.4%, 2.5 stocks, 3pt 38.6% .
- Shaq (30) – 27.5ppg, 37.8mpg, 11.1rpg, 3.1apg, 29.5 PER, TS 60.2%, 3.0 stocks.
- Duncan (26) – 23.3ppg, 39.3mpg, 12.9rpg, 3.9apg, 26.9 PER, TS 56.4%, 3.6 stocks.
- Kobe (24) – 30.0ppg, 41.5mpg, 6.9rpg, 5.9apg, 26.2 PER, TS 55.0%, 3.0 stocks, 3pt 38.3%.
- Garnett (26) – 23.0ppg, 40.5mpg, 13.4rpg, 6.0apg, 26.4 PER, TS 55.3%, 3.0 stocks.
- Iverson (27) – 27.6ppg, 42.5mpg, 4.2rpg, 5.5apg, 21.2 PER, TS 50.0% (yuck!), 2.9 stocks, 3pt 27.7%.
- Pierce (25) – 25.9ppg, 39.2mpg, 7.3rpg, 4.4apg, 22.7 PER, TS 53.2%, 2.6 stocks, 3pt 30.2%.
- Carter (24)* – 27.6ppg, 39.7mpg, 5.5rpg, 3.9apg, 25.0 PER, TS 55.1%, 2.6 stocks, 3pt 40.8%.
(*) NB: to be fair to the Fresh Vince of Thin Air (yep, that’s him at 40), he was injured for almost half the 2002-03 season – so I used his peak numbers from 2000-01 instead.
For that small, special window, McGrady was the best player on the planet.
Much like Anfernee Hardaway and Grant Hill, injuries sadly robbed us of McGrady’s true prime. But what a prime it was. This man could flat-out play and throw down some of the most ridiculous dunks on people’s heads you’ve ever seen: