Written by Staff Writer, Austin de Ocampo, CNN
When you’re a former NBA MVP and a three-time All-Star, will your thoughts ever stray toward the sport you chose over 12 other options? When this question comes from NBA star James Harden, you are going to say, “Hell no! That would make no sense at all!”
If you’re Tracy McGrady, the answer might just be “yes.”
“I have never been a fan of predicting the NBA Finals, or maybe the World Series or anything,” says McGrady. “It seems like everybody always says San Antonio or Golden State or whoever is going to win, so I never get to see the greatest city in America until the end of the NBA season.
“It’s like playoff baseball, you know? I would look forward to watching the Spurs and the Bulls every single year and then you’d see that in October, November and December it’s pretty awesome to see the NBA Finals.”
After a tough start to the season, and a foray into the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), McGrady is now back with the Golden State Warriors. He was released this past week, but is expected to rejoin the team once the CBA season finishes.
During the 35-year-old’s five years in the NBA, he had played for nine different teams, but says it still feels like a homecoming.
“I have grown up in the Warriors’ town,” McGrady said during a Q&A on the social media platform Twitter. “When you’re on the bench, you see a bunch of kids around your locker that could be your kids.”
McGrady signed a one-year deal with the Warriors in March, but it was cut short just seven games into the season. He said of his time in California, “It’s going to be a hell of a run. I’m just excited to be back home and play in front of my friends and my family.”
His time with the Warriors (which included a 3-0 sweep of his former team, the Houston Rockets) was considered a success when considered in context of his first nine seasons.
In his first year, 1996-97, McGrady was MVP of the NBA and the Eastern Conference Player of the Year, before joining the San Antonio Spurs in 1997. The following year, he led the league in scoring, but would be traded to the Orlando Magic for a second round draft pick in 1999 and Donyell Marshall at the draft in 2001.
McGrady credits his coach Pat Riley, whom he called his “puppet master,” for helping him to achieve his NBA success.
“I saw the great players that he coached, and I just tried to take every piece of advice that he gave me and make myself better,” McGrady said. “I had a great time here, and I will never forget this.”
After being traded to Toronto, McGrady saw his scoring totals drop in the early part of the 2001-02 season, when it appeared he was past his prime.
McGrady considers it a blessing to have played in Miami, then with the Detroit Pistons, for a season. He also worked out with his long-time friend and confidant, Iman Shumpert.
McGrady, now 5’11”, also looks back at some of his craziest highlights, like skyrocketing dunk after leaping over trainers on the baseline.
We also asked McGrady, who retired in 2013 after an outstanding 14-year NBA career, which “Dunk of the Century” he would pick, and did it come as a surprise? He offered a surprising choice…
“When I was playing with the Magic, I played against the Portland Trail Blazers,” he said. “I got dunked on by Buck Williams and Kenny Smith. So I picked Kenny Smith. I remember watching his dunk on Muggsy Bogues, I said ‘I’m going to do it.'”
McGrady, who won two NBA championships with the Charlotte Hornets in 2005 and 2006, also spoke about life after basketball, in which he currently coaches at Miami Dade Senior High School. In addition to a Baccalaureate degree from Howard University and his BBA, he has a Masters in Human Services Management.