July 28, 2008

Crammed-On Chronicles IV: T-Mac ON Shawn Bradley (Put Out to Pasture with a Poster)

April 25, 2005

Dropping 34 on the host Dallas Mavericks in the opening game of their first-round playoff series, the Rockets’ newest star, Tracy McGrady, announced his intention to cement himself as a bonafide NBA superstar. With the recent expectation of a second child and a 1-0 playoff lead on the road, certainly his spirits were as high as ever. But as Game 2 approached, one could envision McGrady searching for something a little extra special to bring home to Houston.

What might his future kid see when he (if it’s a ‘he’) opens his eyes to the world every morning? How might Tracy show Junior how Daddy takes care of business? Certainly, the 6-foot-8 superstar has basketball accolades galore in his award room but let’s face it, toddlers love pictures. They gawk at posters, not trophies. After Game 1, you can imagine McGrady exploring Dallas’ Academy Sporting Goods for posters of his current stardom, only to find glossies of Kobe dunking and Dirk Nowitzki launching jumpers. If they had any Rocket posters, they’d be of Yao Ming, or, worse, Steve “The Former Franchise” Francis.

Tracy knew that if he was going to find a worthy poster of his likeness in a Rockets’ jersey, he’d just have to make one himself. He couldn’t throw down on Yao, now that he’s a teammate. But maybe he could get a little help from him.

Game 2, first quarter. While Dirk is riding T-Mac’s back in the left corner trying to strip the ball, Yao Ming is strategically backing the straw-legged Shawn Bradley into the paint. Trying to deny the toss-in to Yao, Dirk swipes at the ball on the left, leaving the baseline to the right exposed. In a burst, McGrady is gone, leaving Dirk in the vapors, and Shawn Bradley is out of position.

Bradley tries to swim around Yao’s shoulders to meet McGrady at the baseline. But Yao continued to back into Bradley, until the 7-foot-6’er was stuck at ground zero, directly in front of the hoop. The Mavs’ center leaped feebly in an attempt to meet McGrady at his apex. But with McGrady’s outstretched right arm elevating the ball high above the white rectangle, Shawn had never been this high. Not without a ladder and an oxygen mask.

T-Mac shook the Texas boomtown with a boom of his own, arguably the biggest of his career, screaming as he crushed the rim, ricocheting the ball off a cowering Bradley’s shoulder. The echo from this boom could be heard as far as the Salt Lake City office of the AARP. A stunned Rick Kamla explained, “This is what they call ‘dunkin’ on your whole family.’ And he’s from Utah, he’s got a lot of them!”

Climbing down from Mount Bradley, oblivious to teammates rolling on the floor and tossing towels, McGrady turned his attention to photographers behind the basket, as if to ask, “Did you get that? Did you get THAT?”

Meanwhile, you could look at Shawn and sense the exasperation, probably what Roberto Duran looked like when he begged, “¡No más! ¡No más!” Flash back to a career of getting punked by everyone from Shaq to Robert Pack, from Mo Taylor to Keon Clark, from Chris Webber to Ed O’Bannon, from Earl Watson to Mark Davis. An 11-year career with over 2,000 blocks, brought to an unfortunate end with one devastating “punk-tuation.” Mr. Bradley, you have AARP on line two.

McGrady’s best Game 2 highlight actually came when he brought the ball down the court with just nine seconds left in a tie game. Seven seconds and one jumper off a Yao screen later, he had his 2-0 Rockets lead to bring back to Houston. But at T-Mac’s triumphant postgame press conference, he revealed his ulterior motive, to send something better than a postcard back to Clutch City.

“That's a poster for my kids,” McGrady said. “I was hoping he was going to jump.”
Now with one glance, Tracy’s kid will wake up every morning without any doubt that he’s got quite a legacy to uphold. Keep drinking your milk, son.

Dallas would come back to bring down the Rockets in the series, solving Yao and Tracy’s two-man game and shutting down the whole team in a convincing Game 7. But for most people outside the Metroplex, the series will be remembered for the moment Tracy McGrady rode Shawn Bradley into the sunset.

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