There is a statistical benchmark in the NBA that few have ever met. This mark was hit 15 times by a total of seven players.
Wilt Chamberlain did it 3 times between 1962 and 1964. Then it was not accomplished again for 24 years. Michael Jordan was the next. He made it 4 times from 1988-1991. Then there’s another short gap before David Robinson managed it in 1994. Six years passed before Shaquille O’Neal broke the drought in 2000 and 2001. Then eight years went by before Dwyane Wade got one and LeBron James ran off three seasons at the benchmark. Only one player hit the mark between 2001 and 2009. Not Kobe Bryant. Not Tim Duncan. Not Dirk Nowitzki. Not Kevin Garnett.
Have you guessed yet?
The mark is a PER over 30. The player is, of course, Tracy McGrady.
As you probably know, PER is a one-number metric devised by professor John Hollinger of ESPN.com for the purpose of measuring a player’s positive contributions in a single season relative to the rest of the league. PER favors high usage, high efficiency scorers. At his peak in the early 2000s, TMac was as explosive and efficient a scorer as the league had to offer.
But wait, there’s more!
Tracy McGrady was not just a scoring machine. He was a highly versatile swingman and something of a point forward when necessary. He is one of only three players to ever record a season average of 9% Rebound Rate, 30% Assist Rate, and 30% Usage Rate. The other two are Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Good company. Like Jordan and James, McGrady had a play-style both well-rounded and highly aggressive. He was one of the few true swing players that I’ve ever seen, equally capable of defending the shooting guard or small forward, attacking off the dribble, shooting from deep, or posting up. Among all the players I’ve seen over the years, only TMac, Clyde Drexler, Scottie Pippen, and Grant Hill have had the combination of size, quickness, and skills to seamlessly transition between guard and forward at that high a level.
TMac made 7 All-NBA teams (2 times a first-teamer) and was seven times an all-star.
Despite putting up solid, sometimes spectacular, individual stats, McGrady’s teams never made it out of the first round of the playoffs. In Orlando his teams were hamstrung by injuries to their highest paid player, Grant Hill, leaving TMac to carry the offensive load. In Houston injuries to Yao Ming and McGrady himself held the team back – though while they were healthy and working together under Rick Adleman and Tom Thibodeau, they ran off the second longest regular season win-streak of all time.
Tracy’s NBA legacy may be one of missed opportunities and unreached potential, but he was a remarkable talent, and he left us with some impressive statistical achievements and amazing highlights.