To this day, former NBA forward Tracy McGrady remains one of the greatest individual scorers the league has ever seen. Unfortunately for younger fans, they did not witness McGrady's greatness as he went toe-to-toe with the likes of all-timers LeBron James and Kobe Bryant in his prime. An important element of his ascension was McGrady's competitive spirit, which was developed in his early days.
McGrady's upbringing was difficult.
Most casual NBA fans fail to understand that behind all the points and game-winners, the level of dedication and personal sacrifice McGrady endured growing up was extraordinary.
Brought up in the inner suburbs of Bartow, Florida, McGrady made the NBA against all odds, persevering through an environment infested with drug and alcohol addiction.
Due to his surroundings, the 7-time All-Star was exposed to the need to change his fortunes daily. Recently, McGrady appeared on "The Pivot Podcast" to discuss his relentless motivation to make it to the NBA.
"My upbringing. I grew up in central Florida, where it is probably the worst drug infested neighbourhood you know, in that area. So grandmother was a janitor at my elementary school. Mom was a housekeeper at Disney. That was my motivation. My grandmother was waking up every morning five o'clock in the morning going to be a janitor. The sh*t that I saw everyday, my mom and my grandma grinding reprogrammed me to want to be better," McGrady said.
He made it out to the other side.
McGrady's commitment to creating a better future for himself and those he loves undoubtedly paid off, as the Toronto Raptors selected him with the 9th overall pick in the 1997 NBA draft. Luckily for them, it was immediately apparent that McGrady had the tools to grow into one of the best offensive weapons in the Association.
By 2001 McGrady was an All-Star, the next season, he received All-NBA honors, and in the two years that followed, he was the league's scoring champion averaging 28 and 32 points, respectively.
Standing at six-foot-eight, McGrady's size and strength overwhelmed opponents. A true three-level scorer with an advanced handle and uncanny shot-making ability, McGrady's skillset was unique for someone with his dimensions.
Hope for the next generation.
The now 43-year-old has stayed close to the NBA since retiring in 2013, being a constant presence on major TV outlets and providing insight into the league and its players.
It's safe to say McGrady did his family proud by reversing his situation and carving out a professional career in sports. Unfortunately, it can't be the same reality for many aspiring young ball players who wish to change their circumstances, but McGrady provides hope for those willing to chase that dream.
Amassing over 18,000 points in his career, McGrady should be proud of what he achieved in the game. We're sure his family is.