Back in February, when it was announced that former NBA star Tracy McGrady was making a serious run at fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a professional baseball player, most assumed McGrady was trying to snatch some shines or setting himself up for a reality show…you know washed up NBA scoring machine, on the social network praise and prey cycle.
McGrady’s mission became less of a pipe dream when he pitched well enough (showing high 80’s velocity and a desire to learn) to make the opening day roster with the Sugarland Skeeters of the Independent Atlantic League.
While the 2014 NBA playoffs heat up like an episode of Davinci’s Demons, McGrady attempts to once again re-invent himself as an athlete. First he went from a poor man’s Kobe Bryant to a glorified, future Hall of Fame bench piece.
Now he’s pulling a Michael Jordan and on Saturday, McGrady made his official pro baseball debut with the Sugar Land Skeeters against the Somerset Patriots as a relief pitcher.
Twenty years ago Jordan shocked the sports world and retired from basketball in his prime to pursue a baseball career (To this day, no one knows why the hell Jordan did it. Rumors are endless, from Mob pressures to gambling debts to a promise he made to his murdered pops).
The greatest rim-wrecker God ever invented ditched his signature 23 for the number 45 and had an inauspicious debut with the Chicago White Sox, going 0-for-1 at the plate.
In April of 1994, he made his debut with the franchise’s Class AA squad in Birmingham, hitting a respectable .202 for the season.
McGrady was one of the greatest basketball players of his generation. Twice NBA scoring champion and a seven-time all-star, he played for Toronto, Orlando, Houston, New York, Detroit and Atlanta in an impactful 16-year career that ended last summer in the NBA Finals with the San Antonio Spurs.
McGrady spent his career hopelessly chasing MJ status, but he’s seemed to find a sport in which he can match MJ in mediocrity. McGrady didn’t astound in his 1 2/3 innings of work. He didn’t embarrass himself either. He wasn’t the gimmick that his 6-8 presence – which reportedly boosted attendance significantly - implied.
McGrady won’t be equaling feats like the 32.1 points per game he averaged in an NBA season. Or when he detonated with 62 on the Washington Wizards and 42 and 10 against the Bucks in a 2001 Game 3.
And with a 35-year-old birthday occurring this month and an E.R.A close to 11.00, McGrady will have to do some gem work in the near future to remain on the Skeeters.
If anything McGrady’s baseball venture shows his freakish versatility as an athlete, and sheds some light on the sport of baseball. McGrady embraced the sport at age five and played it with passion until he transferred to a high school that didn’t have a baseball squad. Guys like Russell Wilson and T-Mac and their public, life-long love affair with baseball, sends a message to kids that if the diamond is good enough for MJ and McGrady, the sport must have its attractive athletic qualities.