Despite never winning a championship, NBA Hall-of-Famer Tracy McGrady still has the legacy of one of the best players the league has seen. The former Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets All-Star is easily considered one of the most complete scorers in NBA history. After all, he's a 7-time All-Star and 2-time scoring champion who went toe-to-toe with all-time greats in his era, like Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson.
But before McGrady stamped his name and competed against the best of the best, he needed direction from his mentors and even competitors. He admits that making it to the league without collegiate basketball experience wasn't easy, but thanks to 4 specific people, T-Mac managed to find his way. Here are the 4 most impactful NBA players and coaches that changed McGrady's life, according to the Hall-of-Famer.
During his early days in the league
Before McGrady took a solid leap in his third season, he was a bellow average player in his rookie and sophomore years, which he spent with the Toronto Raptors. He came off the bench and averaged just 8.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and only started 19 times in those two seasons.
McGrady admitted that he got a little impatient during his first few years, but thanks to his teammate Dee Brown and coach Butch Carter, he followed their advice to stay the course and trust the process.
"[Dee Brown is] my big brother. One of the guys who helped me out during my early days. Just brothers man. He was very inspirational in my early days because he was my teammate in Toronto and Orlando as well and we both lived in Orlando so that's my guy," McGrady, who recently appeared on the NBA History and Legends on CLNS podcast, said.
"[Butch Carter] gave me structure when it was really most needed as a rookie. Derrick Walker was my first coach, we clashed heads every single day. Butch Carter took over after All-Star break and really just gave me that structure and mentorship that really helped me get through a tough first half of the season to overcome a lot of bullcrap I would say," McGrady added.
Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant
Meanwhile, in terms of contemporaries, T-Mac looked up to Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant the most. Both Carter (his cousin) and Bryant (friend and competitor) embodied traits that McGrady wanted to imitate during his first few years. Luckily for T-Mac, he had a close relationship with both of them, so it wasn't too hard for him to get up close and study how Carter and Bryant approached their crafts.
"[Vince Carter is] family. Someone that I took a back seat to and really learned from and how to handle stardom because he came in his rookie year and took the league by storm. Very electrifying. He was the number one All-Star voter so Vince hit stardom extremely fast and for me, it was just sit back and learn and take notes so when the time comes, I made sure to handle it the same way," McGrady said.
"Inspirational. Kob and I became really good friends in my rookie year. I stayed with him and his family in the summer after my rookie year and we became really close friends. Just to be in his presence and learn and pick up some gems from him. He was a gym rat, eat, sleep, basketball, that was his life at 19 years old. I never met a kid so confident at that age and really believed that he was the greatest player in the world at 19 years old. Just the killer mentality man, anything that was in his way, he just wanted to destroy it and to be around him and catch on to those things early on really helped me in my career," McGrady concluded.
Despite a non-ideal way to start his career, McGrady eventually blossomed into superstardom. Aside from his hard work and dedication, it helped that McGrady followed the advice and example his competitors, teammates, and veterans set for him.
From the outside looking in, here's a reminder that we can all be like T-Mac and take inspiration from the people we encounter in our lives — whether they're our competitors, colleagues, or veterans of the game. Wisdom is around us, we just have to be ready to receive it.