By Josh Cohen Feb. 23, 2018
LAKELAND, Fla. – Tracy McGrady distinctly remembers when he had to rely on, as he describes it, the “TV sets” to gain inspiration from professional athletes and all the NBA superstars he admired as a kid. At that time, while in the infantile stages of his basketball development and personal growth, there wasn’t a pro hoops team close enough for him to get an in-person look at his all-time favorite players.
Now, more than 20 years after we first learned of his name and remarkable talents, McGrady is elated knowing there is a pro team in his backyard for today’s local youth to reap encouragement from as they chase their own dreams.
T-Mac, who grew up in nearby Auburndale before starring for the Orlando Magic and several other teams during his spectacular NBA career, is ecstatic that Lakeland and Polk County is the home of the Magic’s G-League squad. Aware of how ambitious and gifted so many of the children are in this community, McGrady is confident the Magic’s presence will have a tremendous influence on all of their aspirations.
“I’m extremely proud,” said McGrady, who was honored during Lakeland’s game on Friday against the Maine Red Claws at the RP Funding Center where he signed autographs, took pictures with fans and was given a rousing ovation from the crowd during the in-game presentation. “I think it’s great for our community. Obviously, this is where it all started for me. Potentially these guys can do so well and make it to the NBA and to have the inspiration they can give to this community is pretty good.”
While the opportunity to share this occasion with his neighbors and those who have followed his entire career from the very beginning was special and something he dreamed of during his childhood, McGrady was already feeling quite jolly after news came out Thursday that he would be inducted into the Magic Hall of Fame.
T-Mac had his best years in Orlando, where he led the league in scoring twice, set the franchise record for most points in a game when he erupted for 62 against the Wizards in 2004 and guided the Magic to the playoffs in three of his four seasons with the team. With all those accomplishments, it was only a matter of time before he would join Magic royalty.
McGrady will become the seventh member of the Magic Hall of Fame, joining owner and senior chairman Rich DeVos, co-founders Pat Williams and Jimmy Hewitt and players Nick Anderson, Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway.
“You look back where it all started, just a kid being from this area watching Penny, Shaq, Nick and Dennis and those guys and everybody knows I love Penny and one day I just felt like I want to wear that uniform,” said McGrady, who signed with the Magic in 2000 after a three-year stint with the Raptors. “I want to wear that uniform and I want to represent it well, being that it’s close to home. The DeVos family gave me an opportunity to do that and for those four years I think I did a great job of representing that.”
“It feels great that I come back home and the kids just go crazy when I’m here because I played for the Magic,” he added. “Magic was our hometown team. I’m getting inducted into their Hall of Fame which is phenomenal.”
The Hall of Fame ceremony for T-Mac will take place on March 20 at Amway Center when the Magic host the Raptors. Last year, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.