The number 13 has many negative connotations. If you haven’t noticed, most elevators don’t have a 13th floor. Thirteen is associated with bad luck.
Avid believers in superstitions shy away from that number, but if you are an NBA fan, particularly a Houston Rockets fan, you have many reasons to like that number.
James Harden is one reason. Stat heads may pay attention to the 13-13 shooting Klay Thompson had in his 37 point quarter last season. And who doesn’t love Paul George.
Well, those are all great reasons. But, many forget a date in 2004 where 13 points were scored in the most fantastic way possible.
Now these weren’t just any 13 points, they were the most jaw-dropping points in NBA history.
It was the night that Tracy McGrady became the legend that he is today.
A YOUNG SENSATION
Tracy McGrady was polarizing in high school. He performed amazingly well his senior year in highschool.
T-Mac, out of Mount Zion Christian Academy, was coveted by many. He performed well against the top high schoolers in the country on a daily basis.
The nation was ecstatic to find out that he would be declaring for the NBA Draft. McGrady’s hype increased even more when USA Today named him the National Player of the Year.
McGrady wasn’t sure if the move was the right one at the time, as collegiate powerhouses like Kentucky were recruiting him. However, McGrady trusted his gut and declared for the draft.
The ensuing career for McGrady would be a memorable one, perhaps one of the most iconic in NBA history.
FAMILY, BASKETBALL, AND A DESIRE FOR MORE
Tracy McGrady smiled at his cousin during his warm-ups before a game during his tenure with the Toronto Raptors. His cousin smiled back, and proceeded to throw down a 360 dunk.
These cousins were unlike any other. They defied gravity together. Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter, both donning the Raptor purple, may have been the most exciting family duo of all time.
McGrady watched his cousin soar and twist in the air, drawing oohs and aahs from a packed Chicago crowd. T-Mac wanted to out-dunk his relative.
Chicago’s crowd was entreated to an emphatic poster dunk by McGrady over Kornel David, the least cared about player on the Bulls. Fans went into a frenzy over his leap of death, and his poster was, well… literally a poster.
McGrady was becoming a league sensation. His high-flying acts were only rivaled by Vince Carter himself, who turned arenas into dunk contests each night.
Speaking of dunk contests, McGrady and Carter would face off in the official 2000 Slam Dunk contest. Some regard it as the most amazing dunk contest of all time, only to be compared with the Jordan-Nique wars of the 80’s and the Gordon-Lavine battle that was the 2016 contest.
T-Mac had no easy task, as his family member was bound to create the most memorable dunk contest performance in history.
However, McGrady was still spectacular, as he stepped up to the challenge with emphatic dunks. His dunks weren’t the decade defining dunks that were Vince Carter’s, but they were impressive nonetheless.
McGrady’s legend was quickly rising to the ranks as an all-time NBA favorite, but he was tired of being his cousin’s second fiddle.
Vince Carter was the absolute star of the team that year. Carter led the team to its first playoff appearance in franchise history. However, that dream was short-lived when the New York Knicks swept the Raptors in the first round of the playoffs.
McGrady, contender for Sixth Man of the Year, wanted a bigger role in his career. He knew he was capable of being a star.
All he needed was the opportunity.
WHERE MAGIC HAPPENS
Putting pen to paper was a sigh of relief for T-Mac. As he gazed at the freshly printed ink on the dotted line, he knew that he finally found his big chance.
McGrady signed a $67.5 million dollar contract to play with the Orlando Magic, who were in need of a star and he did not disappoint.
His career with Orlando swept the league in awe of his talents. He became the player people wanted to see every night. His highlights were the league’s highlights.
McGrady would see his first NBA All-Star appearance, and would be considered a top league talent by many in front offices. His scoring was the league’s best.
McGrady’s Magic career was full of highlights, but the Magic struggled to find success. Tracy was the lone bright spot for the team.
His successes did come with issues as well. McGrady became infamous for guaranteeing a series victory over the Detroit Pistons after holding a 3-1 series lead.
Let’s just say that the Pistons played pretty well in the next three games.
McGrady’s antics were creating friction between the general manager, John Weisbrod, and T-Mac himself. Sure enough, that would result in an eventual trade.
SOARING TO LEGENDARY STATUS
McGrady’s next year would be seeing him in a Houston Rockets jersey. Alongside him, or towering over him, was Yao Ming. The Great Wall and T-Mac were becoming the NBA’s next great duo.
T-Mac was injury riddled, but produced some of the most polarizing dunks of his time, including this one over Shawn Bradley.
McGrady suffered from issues in regards to playoff success. However, he was still astonishing to watch, and was a league sensation.
Tracy was still as dominant as ever. His talents were rivaled by only Kobe Bryant himself, who refers to McGrady as the hardest player Bryant has ever had to guard.
However, T-Mac was about to do something that may never be replicated by another player in NBA history.
THE NUMBER 13
Now, you might be asking, why did I cut the Rockets section short? Well, of all of the moments of Tracy’s career, one moment shines above all.
McGrady was pretty pissed. His Rockets were about to blow a game against the San Antonio Spurs. Down 76-68 with under 40 seconds left, he decided that it was time for him to take over.
He pulled up for three over a Spurs’ defender, and drained it. People were still piling out of the Toyota Center, as the three was perceived as harmless to the Spurs’ lead.
The Rockets had to foul, and proceeded to do so. Two made free throws resulted in a 78-71 lead.
Surely that capped it off right? Well, it didn’t.
McGrady called for a screen as he took the ball up, McGrady drove around the screen, only to see that Tim Duncan was lurking. McGrady pump faked, and let go a prayer.
Prayers do get answered, and one was answered. McGrady made a four-point play.
The Rockets fans still in the building were astonished. People were slowly starting to realize that the game wasn’t all out of reach.
T-Mac called for the ball on the next possession. He hesitated, and pulled up over Bruce Bowen.
McGrady was having an NBA Jam moment. He nailed the three.
An angry Gregg Popovich called a timeout, shocked that his Spurs were giving up this lead to one player.
Popovich ended up making a huge mistake. It wasn’t his fault that he couldn’t see the future, and his team turned over the ball.
Tracy picked it up, and ran down the court.
Destiny has its way of getting to people. McGrady was demolishing the Spurs, and it was fate or perhaps the Basketball Gods that decided that T-Mac deserved this moment.
As he let it go, Rockets fans jumped out of their seats. They couldn’t believe their eyes.
McGrady just drained a decade defining, or maybe century defining shot.
This, was where the legend of T-Mac officially took off. However, his career would never be the same.
McGrady became a revolutionary player. Sadly, the number 13 has many negative connotations.
After that 13, his back wouldn’t let him go further. His game was slowly fading away from him, as he stayed out for weeks. Sadly, his game would never stay the same.
McGrady’s career ended in misery, as he and the Spurs lost in 2013, after one Ray Allen, of the eventual NBA Champion Miami Heat, hit another century defining shot.
T-Mac is a legend. Whether you like him or not, he is one of the most popular players of the modern NBA age. He was a perfect blend of streetball, fundamental basketball, and raw athleticism.
Regardless of his fallacies, he changed the game forever. People wanted to be like T-Mac. He is easily one of the league’s most popular retired players.
One of the greatest players to never win a ring? Potentially.
One of the most decade defining players in NBA history? Definitely.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Thank you for tuning into this week’s Feature Friday. I apologize for not uploading timely in recent weeks, I have had issues with my computer. Thank you once again, and stay tuned!