There’s a lot of great story lines from this year’s NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, but there’s one that’s most relevant to NiuBBall and to Chinese basketball in general:
Tracy McGrady is one win away from an NBA championship.
OK well there’s actually three: Besides T-Mac, Miami’s Chris Anderson (Jiangsu Dragons, 2001) and San Antonio’s Patty Mills (Xinjiang Flying Tigers, 2012) both have played in China as well.
But it’s Mai Di who has the cult following in China and whose mere hand wave causes grown men to cry. And it’s McGrady who to go through what was arguably the most unique — and that’s putting it politically correct — experience in China foreign player history. Yet T-Mac, staying classy as always, had nothing but good things to say when asked by American media during these Finals.
“My experience in China was great,” McGrady said in an interview with Alex Kennedy at HoopsWorld. “I had a lot of fun over there. Chinese fans are unbelievable and they made me feel like a rock star. Every arena I showed up to was [sold out], and thousands of people were waiting just for my bus to pull up. The airport was just flooded with people.”
Who he actually he played against while in those arenas? Not so memorable, according to a transcript published by Chinese media outlet, NetEase. Prior to Game 2 of the Finals, a journalist interviewed McGrady, leading off with the question that every Chinese NBA fan wants to know: Is there anybody in China who has a shot to play in The League one day?
Here’s what was said, generally (the interview was conducted in English and translated into Chinese, which means I have the weird task of translating back into English — so this won’t be exactly what he said):
Journalist: Tracy, this past season you played in the CBA. Which Chinese players do you think have the potential to play in the NBA?
McGrady: None. Not one.
Journalist: What about Wang Zhelin?
McGrady: I don’t know who that is.
Journalist: That young Chinese player… He’s tall, he plays for Fujian.
McGrady: I don’t know. I can’t remember.
Journalist: The really tall one, taller than 2.13 meters.
McGrady: I don’t know him. China has a lot of tall young guys. I can’t remember.
No biggie, right? After all, he’s right: There are a ton of tall young guys walking around in China.
And yet, it is kind of a biggie. Wang is the most hyped youngster in China right now and is considered by some to have a shot at playing in the NBA someday down the line. Oh, and his absence from the national team last year caused the Chinese internet to almost break.
The worst part? Forget not thinking Wang is good enough to play in the NBA — McGrady doesn’t even remember who dude is. That doesn’t exactly reflect well on the state of Chinese basketball, current or future.
McGrady, who we all know played in the Chinese Basketball Association this past season with the Qingdao Eagles, may not be contributing in the NBA right now was back in his prime, but don’t let that fact deceive you on his importance to the Spurs title run. In practices, he’s taken on the role of simulating LeBron James as well as hoops whisperer for the team’s younger players. Considering how well the Spurs have bottled up the two-time reigning MVP, we’d say McGrady’s been a nice pickup.
In the meantime, however, good luck to T-Mac, who would likely break the Chinese internet again if the Spurs can grab one more game in Miami. Game 6 is Wednesday morning; make sure to plan accordingly, China people.