SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – There is no way, really, for Tracy McGrady to comprehend this so soon, no way to process his adopted hometown taking the fury of Hurricane Harvey and then later watching as his home state braces for the projected mayhem of Hurricane Irma, one historical storm turned personal followed by another hellacious weather event that will be personal, both wrapped around his celebration of enshrinement into the Hall of Fame.
So he won’t try. McGrady will not attempt to separate the ricocheting emotions when he takes the stage inside stately Symphony Hall on Friday night as the biggest NBA name among the Class of 2017. He will talk about the sadness of destruction and the joy of induction, together.
McGrady, born and raised in Florida, living in Houston, didn’t say so the day before. He promised it.
“Absolutely I open up with that,” he said Thursday. “Although this weekend is awesome and I’m humbled, I’m honored, what I left behind is way more important. Way more important.”
McGrady comfortably rode out Harvey from his home about 20 miles southwest of Houston, certainly more crowded than usual as family and friends took refuge for about three days, but without a problem more serious than a leaky roof. They didn’t lose power. They had plenty of supplies. While there was the brief uneasy feeling of being confined in being unable to get around the flooded neighborhood, he said, the greatest personal inconvenience was probably dealing with the recovering from foot surgery.
If it happens to me, I’m financially stable. If it happens to me, I can pick back up where I started. These people, they don’t know what there next move is. That in itself is heartbreaking.
Tracy McGrady on the destruction caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma
He plans to talk about what Houston has been through, though, and maybe about what Florida is about to endure. Even if more of a traditional speech follows, even if he doesn’t talk about the real world for long, McGrady wants his time at the podium to be more than the typical floral moments to loved ones and supporters.
Rarely has a player entered the Hall like McGrady, with the bonus confirmation of the first year of eligibility but also while hearing criticism he didn’t accomplish enough to be elected at all, on any try. And rarely has a winner had an induction like this, surrounded by major life events. In that case, he won’t try for typical.
“It’s been tough, honestly,” he said after inductees or their representatives were presented the traditional ceremonial orange jackets. “I’m from Florida. We go through hurricanes all the time, and I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s one thing for people to see it on the news, but actually to be in it is devastating. To have friends and friends of the family going through it, I mean, what do you tell somebody that losses everything? And where do they go from there? If it happens to me, I’m financially stable. If it happens to me, I can pick back up where I started. These people, they don’t know what there next move is. That in itself is heartbreaking. Going through it, helping my friends, old teammates who were in an area where they had to be mandatory evacuated. My house is big enough to host some friends and family came over. It’s a tough situation.
“I’ve been home. I just had foot surgery like five weeks ago, so I was home the whole time. I couldn’t move. I was just sitting up in the house. You can’t go nowhere. My street was flooded. You look around. My sister was at the house and I was trying to take her home, and driving to her house and just seeing cars under water and you don’t know if people are in there. It’s real. It is real. It is real out there.”
One of the former Rockets teammates, Mike James, had a truck big enough to power through. The families who bunked at the McGrady house eventually got home to minimal or no damage.
McGrady talked about being changed by the experience, though. His life was inconvenienced, nothing more, but also very different.
“At this time, yes,” he was saying Thursday, trying to peel through the emotions. “I think about what I left. Even coming here last night, when I was on my way to the airport. The airport is (usually) like 20 minutes – I flew private last night – and a 20-minute ride took me two hours to get to the airport because the normal route, I couldn’t go because there’s still places that are 15 feet under water, you understand? I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday. Trying to get to my doctor’s appointment for my foot because I had a cast on last night. I wanted to take my cast off. I actually ended up taking my cast off myself last night in my room because I couldn’t get to my doctor. Every route I tried to take, there were police officers with road blocks. They’re all over the city. It would have taken me three hours to go around the while city to get to my doctor’s appointment. That’s just how bad it was.”
In the hotel room here, he ripped off the tape and slid the cast on the left foot out from around the toes. He was wearing black sneakers – two of them – Thursday. Tracy McGrady would not be entering the Hall of Fame in a cast, Tracy McGrady insisted. He would walk in with a pair of shoes, step to the podium and talk about what he left behind being way more important.
Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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