Tracy McGrady's chronic knee issues cost him large chunks of his NBA prime, sapped his athleticism and are arguably the reason why he stands on the borderline of Hall of Fame consideration rather than a lock. Now that the seven-time All-Star is retired, he's speaking out on just how frustrating those injury issues were.
Appearing on NBATV's Open Court, McGrady revealed for the first time that he considered taking performance-enhancing drugs to recover from a knee injury.
“I actually considered—I considered—getting an advantage," McGrady told the panel, via Pro Basketball Talk's Brett Pollakoff. "And whatever that was, doing it illegally…I considered that to get back.”
McGrady claims he never took the substances. He admitted that he thought about cheating because he wasn't confident that he could return to peak form naturally. Beyond that, he doesn't delve into many specifics—no particular season, banned substance or the name of anyone who would have offered him drugs is mentioned.
The former All-NBA selection fell victim to numerous knee issues during his time with the Houston Rockets, beginning with the 2007-08 campaign. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery during the summer of 2008, needed a microfracture procedure less than a year later and saw his status within the Houston organization dwindle.
Having averaged at least 20 points per game in the eight seasons prior to his major knee problems, McGrady was never the same player. He shot only 38.8 percent before the microfracture procedure in 2008-09 and never averaged more than 10 points per game afterward.
With injuries taking away his once-prodigious athleticism, McGrady bounced around to four NBA teams and even had a stint in China before deciding to retire. He last played for the San Antonio Spurs for six games during the 2013 NBA playoffs, failing to score a field goal and receiving only 5.2 minutes per game.
He officially announced his retirement this August, finishing with career averages of 19.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists. The 34-year-old guard won two league scoring titles and made seven All-NBA teams. McGrady noted that his inability to reach that same level of excellence played a large role in him considering PED use, per Pollakoff:
I’ve never said this to nobody. Because I was playing at such a high level for so many years, and when I had my knee injury, I was doing everything in my will power to get back to that level. Naturally, I couldn’t do it. Because I just didn’t have the strength, I didn’t have the confidence, and I just didn’t believe that I was going to get there doing it naturally.
Of the United States' four major professional sports leagues, the NBA typically gets the least amount of attention for performance-enhancing drug use. Suspensions for PEDs have been scarce and have normally been served largely by players in the lower rung of the league's hierarchy.
Recent calls have been made for the NBA to increase the stringency of its plan, which allows for no more than four regular-season tests and two tests during the summer for non-offenders. Once those tests are completed, a player cannot be tested again until the next season.
Perhaps with people like McGrady weighing in with his thoughts about PED use, incoming NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the NBAPA can work out a more viable system.
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