At 38 years of age Tracy McGrady has already accomplished what most people could only dream of. He has played 16 seasons for the National Basketball Association, was the recipient of the 2001 NBA Most Improved Player Award, made seven All-Star appearances and in September of 2017 was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
In addition to his career on the court Tracy is a husband, father to four, a regular NBA analyst for ESPN, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He has maintained an endorsement relationship with Adidas that began over 20 years ago. Tracy has an incredible and inspiring past and his future is looking equally as bright.
What was your favorite toy growing up?
Tracy: The Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robot, that was one of them. When you’d hit them in the head, it would pop off. That was probably my favorite.
If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
Tracy: I would go into the offices of a lot of entrepreneur’s and very smart businessmen. Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and so on. I’d go walk around and see what the politicians in the White House are talking about. Central Intelligence, I want to know what is being said.
If you could eat only three meals for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Tracy: Shrimp and penne pasta with Alfredo sauce, grilled chicken pizza and then macaroni and cheese, baked beans, collard greens and some cornbread.
What would your best friend say is your worst quality?
Tracy: I’m stubborn. I’m a stubborn ass individual. [laughs] That is my worst quality. If you try to tell me something and I know you’re right, I’m still gonna tell you you’re wrong. I believe in me. [laughs]
What would they say is your best quality?
Tracy: I think I’m one of the most generous people that you could ever meet. Very loyal, very loyal friend.
What’s your charity of choice?
Tracy: It’s all about the kids for me. I’m all about the youth. They are our future so I do a lot there.
Where are you from originally?
Tracy: Auburndale, Florida. I am from Auburndale, Florida which is probably dead center in between Orlando and Tampa. It takes me 30 minutes to get to Orlando and 30 minutes to get to Tampa.
How did you get into basketball?
Tracy: I got into basketball by being bullied by my cousins. I was a baseball player. Baseball was my first love. I started playing at five years old then I played football at eight years old. We always used to go to the park. My cousins were older and they used to play basketball. I never really wanted to play. Around nine or ten years old, one particular day they actually needed another guy to play. It was me and they all picked on me and slapped me upside the head. That’s how I got into basketball. I started getting bullied and picked on. From that point on, I went out there and worked to beat their asses.
At what point in your life did you realize that the NBA was a possibility?
Tracy: My senior year. I went to this basketball camp. It was Adidas camp and it was the top players in the nation. My high school was there. I became the best player out of this camp and they ranked me number one in the nation. I go through my senior year and you hear the noise about me being a projection lottery pick in the 1997 NBA Draft. That actually just continued to grow throughout my senior year.
It was a hard decision because I did want to experience the college life. I wanted to go to Kentucky which was my choice of college. Adidas came in and they said, “Well, son, we’ll give you six years for $12 million dollars if you make yourself eligible for the NBA” and that was that and I didn’t turn back.
How did you feel the first time you played in an NBA game?
Tracy: I was extremely nervous. You’re out there on the court with guys that you watched through the airwaves, that you idolized. Here I am in uniform playing against these guys as an 18-year old, going up against grown men. When I started I thought, “Okay, these guys are professional players. They get paid to play the game. They can do everything.” What really softened it a little bit for me is, after I got around these guys every day and was able to see, “He doesn’t work that hard. He doesn’t have a left hand. He can’t go left, he can’t go right.” I’m like, “Okay.” and that softened it a little bit for me. The anticipation building up to my first game is why I was so nervous but once I got out there and started moving around, it was fine.
Did you have any mentors early on?
Tracy: I came out of high school and Kobe came out the previous year. I used to talk to Kobe all the time because we had a similar experience. He was frustrated in his rookie year. You go from being the man on your high school team and everybody is boasting about you, and then you come to a team where you hardly even play. You play 10 minutes one night, you might not see the court the next night. It’s a very frustrating transition but I used to talk to him, we talked all the time. I used to come out here and stay with him. That’s how I got through.
What is your favorite career moment to date?
Tracy: Getting drafted out of high school. That, to me, is one hell of an achievement. Playing high school basketball for four years then at 18 years old you go to make a million dollars and your playing with the best players in the world. Not only getting drafted but getting drafted ninth overall. Guys play three to four years in college but then this high school kid gets drafted ahead a lot of them.
Do you have a most embarrassing career moment?
Tracy: In my rookie year we were playing the Seattle Supersonics and I was positive I was not going to play. Sure enough coach called me, “Hey, kid. You’re in.” I didn’t think I was going to play so I had untied my shorts. I took off my warm-ups but couldn’t tie my shorts before it was time to go in so I had one hand on the shorts and I’m guarding Gary Payton. I was trying to guard him with my hand on my damn shorts. It was a very embarrassing moment. I couldn’t wait till there’s a dead ball so I could get my shorts right.
How do you think the NBA has changed since you started?
Tracy: Well, for one, we were not making $200 million like a lot of these guys. [laughs] A lot of rules have changed. I think there was a lot more physical play back in my playing days. I think the league wants it to be more exciting in terms of the amount of points that are put on the board. You got guys like Lebron James, James Harden, some of the greatest scorers in the world and they are really tough to defend. Now, you can’t touch these guys. I think those are some of the changes.
Also, everybody wants to join each other on the same team whereas we wanted to knock each other’s heads off. We wanted to compete with the best. I couldn’t see myself going to play with Kobe and Shaq in Orlando or going to play with these other superstars. I couldn’t do that. I wanted to beat those guys although, who’s to say that we wouldn’t have done it if our salary cap was $90 million like it is now? We couldn’t do it because you’d be sacrificing so much money. Teams didn’t have that much money to give out to the big time players. Now, they can play three max players. In my day, it was one and a half.
Do you feel that the NCAA is taking advantage of young athletes?
Tracy: I mean, this is the biggest scandal in the world, right? You have this organization that is making billions of dollars off these kids and they see nothing. That is wrong. You’re selling their jerseys and their images but they gain nothing from that? Then you get upset and punish these kids when they receive a pair of shoes from a company that they shouldn’t be receiving shoes from, or some cash that helps their family out. Some of these kids come from poor situations. If you’re punishing them for doing something to help their struggling family out while you’re gaining from them being a part of your organization, that’s just not cool to me.
What was it like being inducted into the Hall of Fame?
Tracy: That’s the pinnacle of our sport, right? The elite class, the best of the best get in there. I came from Auburndale, Florida. I came from a town with a population of 10,000 people. It’s the ultimate achievement.
Your relationship with Adidas has stood the test of time. What’s in the future with them?
Tracy: My first check came from Adidas, it was $500,000. NBA is the first job I ever had, go figure. It’s just great partnership. I’ve sold a lot of shoes for the brand. As far as basketball goes, I’m one of the guys that sold the most shoes out of all players that they have. When you talk about icons and ambassadors for your brand, I am that guy. What Jordan or Lebron are for Nike. I am that to Adidas. We’re coming back out with my line of shoes and apparel. I look forward to that in the spring of 2019.
Anything else you want to go OnRCRD about?
Tracy: I’d say to the guys entering the league, stay true to who you are. It’s all about the work that you want to put in when it comes down to it. Whatever you put in is what you’re going to get out. I heard that a long time ago and I thought somebody was just shooting bullshit at me, “You work hard or you work hard every day, and you do this and you do that.” Well, it’s actually true because I was a product of busting my ass every day.
I couldn’t shoot when I entered the league and I became a great shooter throughout my career. I became an explosive and versatile player because of the work that I put in offseason. It’s just following advise from people that really know what they’re talking about, not people that are telling you shit that you need to hear or that you want to hear. Listen to people have experienced it and been through it. I was given a lot of great advice that I followed throughout my career.
To keep up with Tracy follow @tmac213