If you were an NBA fan during the 2000s, there is a high probability Tracy McGrady was your favorite player growing up. T-Mac was one of the most versatile and skilled players in NBA history, capable of dropping 40 points against any team in the league. During his Orlando Magic days, when he rose to stardom, he won two scoring titles making a case for himself as the most gifted offensive player in the NBA, with numerous young players and kids looking at him as their role model and someone they tried to model their games around.
T-Mac says Penny was his Michael Jordan growing up
Like many people who had T-Mac as their role model growing up, he had one specific player he admired while he was still a kid that was getting into basketball. In a recent interview for The Pivot Podcast, McGrady opened up about his favorite player growing up and what type of impact he had on him early on in his NBA career. That player was none other than the legendary point guard Penny Hardaway who also made his name wearing an Orlando Magic jersey in the early 90's when he formed a dynamic duo with Shaquille O'Neal.
Since McGrady grew up in Florida, he was an avid Magic fan but more so a Penny fan because he loved his versatility and the way he played the game. Penny was a 6'7" point guard that played both ends of the floor, and with his razzle-dazzle moves, he captivated the audiences and, at one point, was one of the most popular players in the country.
McGrady shared how when he got traded to Orlando; he immediately switched his jersey number to match the one Penny wore during his Magic days and explained what made him his lifelong fan.
"Growing up in central Florida, and when Penny came to town, we got Penny. Penny became my idol, Penny became my inspiration because I saw myself in Penny. When I got the opportunity to put on that jersey I couldn't let my guy down. You couldn't say nothing negative to me about Penny Hardaway. That was my Michael Jordan, that motherfu***er was cold. He had it all. The swag, just everything about Penny I just loved, and I couldn't let my guy down so that was my motivation and that is why I wore number 1. My dog put it down in this jersey, I've seen it in person."
Penny was always there to give advice to T-Mac
Penny also served as his mentor during his early days in the NBA and was always available to T-Mac for advice or help to become a better player. Luckily, Penny was one phone call away and interested in helping young McGrady with anything he wanted to know. McGrady was motivated to perform at the best of his abilities wearing his idol's jersey number during his Magic days, which he undeniably achieved despite never making it past the first round of the playoffs.
"Even when I got drafted, I used to call Penny; he would take my calls all the time, so we forever had that bond, and I still talk to him to this day. That was my motivation, and I had to put it down for my guy."
Both T-Mac and Penny were some of the best, most gifted players in the history of the NBA that, unfortunately, shared a similar faith. Injuries derailed their careers for even bigger greatness, and even though they won numerous individual accolades, an NBA championship always seemed so distant to them, especially to T-Mac. However, in their primes, both McGrady and Penny were true generational talents that were pretty much unstoppable on the court and role models for so many kids around the globe that started watching and playing basketball just because of them.