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Looking back at Tracy McGrady’s amazing 2002-03 season

Scott Leedy of Hardwood Paroxysm has a look back at Tracy McGrady‘s MVP-caliber 2002-03 season with the Orlando Magic. McGrady was phenomenal that season, willing a team that didn’t have Grant Hill and was essentially a collection of spare parts into the playoffs.

Unfortunately, what happened in the playoffs against the Pistons, fair or not, went a long way in cementing McGrady’s well-documented legacy of postseason shortcomings:

After game 4, McGrady would unknowingly utter the words that would come to define him. A sentence that would live on in infamy, forever haunting his place in history. “It feels good  to finally be in the second round.” What happened next is well-documented. The Pistons, with the help of some incredible defense by their unheralded rookie Tayshaun Prince, would lock down both McGrady and the Magic; winning the next three games by an average of more than 20 points. Instead of the Pistons, it was McGrady who had “choked”. His momentary slip-up, a brief display of arrogance, had invited an avalanche of criticism. Suddenly, we were blaming McGrady for failing to achieve the impossible.

I’ve always wondered whether criticism of McGrady would’ve had a different trajectory had he never given that quote. After all, as Leedy points out, it’s not like the Magic should’ve been all that competitive in that series anyway. McGrady is painted as the ‘choker,’ but the reality is it was the Pistons who were in danger of losing to the eighth seed in the first round, which would’ve put them in rare company. They would’ve been the first No. 1 seed to lose to an eight seed in the first round in a seven game series, sparing the 2007 Dallas Mavericks of claiming that title.


  • Aug 22, 20111:34 pm
    by RyanK


    It was an incredible performance.  I didn’t know how good TMac was until that series.  Over the regular season when Prince did get on the floor, I saw him lockdown the likes of Kobe, Tmac, and others for short periods of time.  They didn’t know how to handle his length until Richard Jefferson showed them you attack him like a shot blocker instead of trying to go over him.
    People forget the Rick Carlisle had Michael Curry guarding TMac when he was going off for nearly 50 per game while Prince sat and watched.  I’ve heard the talk about what a great coach Carlisle is and how the Pistons screwed up firing him.  Well, Carlisle has become a better coach over time, but this is just one example of poor coaching.  Rick got it right eventually, but shouldn’t it have been obvious after one 50 point game that Curry couldn’t even challenge TMac?
    Tmac’s comments haven’t followed him…his half effort defensively and his lack of leadership qualities have dogged him throughout his career.  If he set the tone on the defensive end for the rest of his team, he would prove to be a leader and would have advanced in the playoffs multiple times.

    • Aug 22, 201110:32 pm
      by tarsier


      Come on? TMac wasn’t a great defensive player. But it’s not like he didn’t try on that end. He didn’t give it maximum effort when playing long minutes because that would fatigue him more and cause slippage on the offensive end–where he was really valuable.
      And that quote really has hurt his reputation because it is so memorable and mockable. And what else can explain his reputation for not showing up when it matters most? Sure he’s never gotten past the first round. But his playoff stats are incredible. He has not only shown up. but dominated in the playoffs. His team has just never matched him in that regard.

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