T-Mac III: McGrady is Finished. HoF Speculation Begins.

Tracy McGrady has announced his retirement, and it’s a black-armband day

Despite years of mediocrity, it was still a story. He was exciting, and such a perfect foil for “what if”s and “if only”s.

for Chinese basketball fans. (Some NBA snobs would say it’s his second retirement, the first being when he came over to Qingdao to play for the Double Star Eagles in the short Chinese Basketball Association season. I would not say that, as I need all the Chinese friends I have.) I’m certain that tears were shed in more than one Middle-Kingdom man-cave, though T-Mac also had a surprisingly big fan-club of starry-eyed young women, too. For a North American, the scenes of his arrival in and departure from Chinese airports were astonishing to watch, even in small doses. “TracyMania”, it was.

While he doesn’t inspire that sort of devotion in America, and certainly not among most Canadian ball-watchers, there’s no time to wait. Like greedy relatives who want to know the contents of the will before the deceased is even cold, writers and fans in the West vault instantly past any of the routine thoughts we have when someone we care about retires. So, what are you looking forward to? Does it feel good to be done? (When it comes to thirty-something men who have been incredibly well-paid for playing games, this would seem like a silly question, though I’m not sure it is, always.) And maybe we’d be bold enough to ask, Are you well set-up financially? How will you fill your days? What gives you a sense of purpose now? None o’ that, in the case of athletes we allegedly love. We are patently uninterested in any of those things. We don’t care a lick about what life for the famous dude will be like. The writers and fanboys go straight at the only question, it seems, that matters to us: is T-Mac a Hall of Famer?  

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CBA Stars versus The League

The opening of the Chinese Basketball Association All-Star game saw Yi Jianlian fed the ball deep in the left block on the South squad’s opening possession. He operated crisply: baseline shake, one-bounce and a drop-step to the middle, and a sweet little leaner off the board. He was a man with a plan – one that included courtesy to his North opponents when they went inside, by the way – as the Guangdong Southern Tigers star notched 34 points and 8 boards on his way to a South division victory, 120-117, and MVP honours for himself. All this, of course, in front of his hometown fans in Guangzhou, where the prodigal son had come home.

Huge man, big cheque. (About $1600 bucks. I hope there was a charity.) Yi takes the prize.

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Back To You, Mai Di: T-Mac II (Updated)

T-Mac, all smiles with Wang Hai, Eagles owner.

It’s time for an update on Tracy McGrady’s sometimes bizarre, steadily surprising adventures as a basketball nomad in Qingdao, a coastal city in China. When last I wrote of the former NBA scoring champion, his Double Star Eagles were on an epic losing streak to the start the season, which eventually reached 12 painful games. Things are looking better recently, though most of my main questions remain the same. I’m not one to sneer at an athlete on the way down, but his career in China so far makes an interesting story, and perhaps a sad one.

The Eagles look to extend a recent winning streak to six when they visit the second-place Shandong Flaming Bulls tonight, who are led by Pooh Jeter, Jackson Vroman and the Jordanian forward Zaid Abbas. (Any bells ringing? Jeter played at Portland — and his sister is the gold medal sprinter — and Vroman at Iowa State.) The game may even make CCTV 5. When I last reported back in December, McGrady (Mai Di, as he is called in this country) was about to break loose for 41 points, albeit in the last game of the big losing streak. Here’s how it has looked since then.

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Cousin Tracy and the Double Star: McGrady in China

T-Mac flies high in the Rocket days.

The I Love Tracy Show just came into my Saturday morning life, not-quite-live from Qingdao, China (that’s a city in Shandong province, just north of Shanghai). With an NBA game coming on at a routine-for-China 10:30 a.m., there was time for CCTV 5, my inscrutable Asian ESPN, to show a mercifully edited version of last night’s CBA game. The Qingdao Double Star Eagles were trying to keep their perfect record with the great T-Mac on board, and they did it! After losing to the Shandong Flaming Bulls — though apparently no animals were harmed in the naming of this team — they are now 0-9, and it wasn’t even that close a match. “Led” by the lethargic former NBA star – still an icon in China, having played much of his fluid prime in Houston alongside Yao Ming – the Eagles don’t guard much. Down 18 with under 5 minutes to play, they were in a flaccid zone, having been unable to contain a quick little American point guard named Pooh Jeter, and Jordanian forward Zaid Abbas (who pretty much had his way with Mr. McGrady). It was another day in the life of Americans trying to find a basketball refuge (and make a few million yuan, in this case) in the Middling Kingdom of pro basketball. 

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