NBA PM: Better Legacy – Iverson or McGrady?
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This week, two of the league’s biggest stars since the late 1990′s in Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson officially announced their retirement. It was really more of a technicality than anything since both are years removed from their productive days, but it does allow us to now take a complete look at their careers and see how they stack up to each other.
Before we get more in depth, let’s take a quick look at their career highlights.
- 11x All-Star (2 MVPs)
- 2000-01 Most Valuable Player
- 2001 NBA Finals appearance
- 3x 1st team all-NBA selection (3x 2nd team, 1x 3rd)
- 18th in career points (19,906)
- 4x scoring champion (1998-99 – 26.8 ppg, 2000-01 – 31.1, 2001-02 – 31.4, 2004-05 – 30.7)
- 12th all-time in free throws made (6,375)
- 13th all-time in total steals (1,983)
- 9th all-time in career steals per game average (2.2)
- 6th all-time in career points per game average (26.7)
- Played in 972 games (901 regular season, 71 postseason) in 14 years
- 7x All-Star
- 2000-01 Most Improve Player
- 2x 1st team all-NBA selection (3x 2nd team, 2x 3rd)
- 60th in career points (18,381)
- 28th in career PER (22.1)
- 2x scoring champion (2002-03 – 32.1 ppg, 2003-04 28)
- 2013 NBA Finals appearance
- Played in 753 games (703 regular season, 50 postseason) in 16 years
Iverson: Started Strong, Finished Dreadfully
The moment Iverson stepped foot on an NBA court, he was a star. As a rookie he averaged 23.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 7.5 assists. Small in stature but with a heart that was as big as anyone’s to ever play the game, Iverson was easy to relate to and root for. He may not have played the game in a traditional fashion, but he was as enjoyable to watch as he was explosive offensively.
To paint a rosy picture of his time in the NBA and make him out to be this model idol for the youth, which he was anyway for better or worse, would be inaccurate, though.
As passionate and enthusiastic as Iverson was on the court, he was equally hard to play with and coach. For a guy who averaged six assists for his career, he’ll always be associated with the term ball-dominant. The 76ers were never able to build on what their Finals appearance in 2001; stuck in mediocrity and unable to get past the second round again, they traded Iverson to the Denver Nuggets during the 2006-07 season.
Iverson proved that he still had plenty in the tank with the Nuggets, but they won just one playoff game with him in two years. Upon trading him to the Detroit Pistons midseason in 2008-09, they made a run to the Western Conference Finals.
That signified a crossroad in Iverson’s career. That was the point where no team was willing to use him as a number one option.
The Memphis Grizzlies brought him in the following season in hopes of using him in short spurts for some instant offense, but Iverson loathed the role. He hated not being a featured option and watching more than he played. So the relationship between the two was short, three games to be exact.
Iverson went on to re-join the 76ers in hopes of recapturing his stardom, but it just didn’t happen. The 76ers were ready to move on at season’s end, as was the rest of the league.
There’s no telling what Iverson would have been able to accomplish over the last four years had he been willing to adjust properly to his decline and accept a smaller role. He could have been a fine sixth man, but that just wasn’t something he was open to. His confidence and aggressiveness were two traits that made him great early in his career, but by the end of it they were an even bigger part of his undoing.
McGrady: Marred by Injuries, Early Playoff Exits
Unlike Iverson, McGrady grew into his stardom at a little bit of a slower pace. He had a small role with the Toronto Raptors his first two years in the league before exploding in his third. By the time his fourth year came around, he had a team to call his own in the Orlando Magic, and he proved to be every bit worth the honor.
From 2000-2007, McGrady was one of the league’s most prolific scorers, never averaging less than 24 points a game during that stretch. He was explosive, versatile, exciting and downright unstoppable when he caught his stride.
Being the man isn’t easy, though, as McGrady learned. He wanted to go to Orlando to get out from under Vince Carter’s shadow, but then didn’t have a teammate nearly as capable of Carter to help him in Orlando. As great as McGrady was, he wasn’t good enough to carry the Magic past the first round without a second star by his side.
The Magic decided to send McGrady to Houston prior to the 2004-05 season where he would finally play alongside another star: Yao Ming.
Unfortunately, they were never able to live up to the immense expectations that form when two All-Star players join forces like they did. The primary reason was injuries. The two of them were rarely healthy period, let alone when it mattered most.
The only time Houston was able to advance past the first round during that era was 2008-09, the season in which they lost McGrady for the year in February due to knee surgery.
Foot injuries robbed Yao of his career after that, while McGrady was never the same either. He played the next four years with four different teams, but was clearly a fraction of his former self. He finally experienced a deep playoff run last season with the San Antonio Spurs, whom he joined very late in the year, but just like in Houston’s run in 08-09, McGrady didn’t have a role in it other than watching from the sidelines.
Conclusion: When it comes down to it, it’s awfully difficult to say that McGrady had the better career than Iverson without going into what ifs. Maybe if he had a better supporting cast throughout his prime and didn’t have the bad string of injuries that he did he may have finished with a better resume than Iverson, but you can only go off of what actually happened. Iverson was not only more accomplished and successful from a team perspective, but the impact he made on the game was more significant. Iverson inspired and influenced the young culture that has arguably become the NBA’s most important demographic in a way that few others have. McGrady at one point was as marketable as anyone in the NBA, but his presence wasn’t as impactful and postseason success always escaped him during his prime.
All in all, both players are probably Hall of Fame bound, but the case for McGrady will probably take a little longer to make.
Granger On Schedule: One of the most impressive parts about the Indiana Pacers’ run to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they came just one win shy of upsetting the Miami HEAT, was that they did so without their highest-paid player Danny Granger.
Granger had been the Pacers’ primary option since 2007, but knee injuries basically cost him all of last season. He gave it a go for five games, but just wasn’t healthy enough to play any more than that.
The Pacers made some solid moves this offseason, re-signing David West, bringing in C.J. Watson, Chris Copeland and rookie Solomon Hill and trading for Luis Scola, but their biggest improvement could come from Granger’s return to the lineup.
Granger has been working diligently this summer to get back to 100 percent and according to his coach, he’s right where he needs to be.
“It’s really exciting,” Frank Vogel said to Pacers.com. “Danny is on schedule, looks really good, he’s making progress each week and we’re hoping that were going to be having a full-strength Danny Granger this year to add to this team that made a lot of noise last year.”
If Granger is able to come back, he’ll have the luxury of being a secondary option behind Roy Hibbert and Paul George, who have emerged in his absence.
The Pacers and the rest of the NBA open up training camp in roughly six weeks.