The excitement and energy still whistles through the air when Tracy McGrady steps into the light.
“Yo, is T-Mac here?”
Yep. Still tall as a center, even though he isn’t one. He wasn’t rocking any of his signature sneaks from adidas—instead, he supported the new blood in the Three Stripe family with a pair of lovely RG3 energy boosts that were snapping necks left and right.
When T-Mac arrived at the Next Level Sports Complex in Garden Grove, CA, this past weekend for adidas Nations, the superstar aura was still there despite his humility. He was there to support the next generation of ballers, not to bask in his greatness. During an evening session at Nations, he stepped on to the floor to join the college counselors in their pickup games. The biggest beneficiary of his appearance may have been Arizona’s Stanley Johnson, who ended up defending him on the floor, soaking up everything he could. Shortly after his arrival at the first session on Sunday, T-Mac was kind enough to give SLAM a few minutes of his time.
SLAM: What is your role here for adidas?
Tracy McGrady: Just really telling them about my personal experience and what it’s going to be like for them. There will be people coming after them because some of these guys are extremely talented and are going to be playing in the NBA one day. I try to walk them through those steps so they know.
SLAM: What are the most common questions the kids ask of you?
TM: Of course, who was my toughest opponent in the NBA. What did it take for you to become an All-Star? How did you feel when you scored 13 points in 35 seconds? [Laughs]
SLAM: You’ve been a member of the adidas family for so long. What has the journey been like?
TM: It’s been a fun ride, man. Adidas is truly a family—I’ve been with these guys since my junior year in high school. I’ve seen the company grow and achieve a lot of great things. And I’ve seen a lot of talent come through at the events. The brand has been good to me—they’ve been loyal in this relationship. To be able to be here for my entire career and not have to go anywhere else doesn’t really happen too often.
SLAM: Joakim Noah recently told me that you had a big impact on him when he was a ball boy at ABCD Camp. Seeing you in action, and then seeing you fulfill your dream of the NBA opened his eyes. That must feel rewarding.
TM: Oh, really? Wow. It is really rewarding to have someone like Joakim validate what I did in my career and how I inspired him when I was younger. That’s what it’s all about: inspiring these young kids, man. We want them to carry on and be something in life. I’m glad I’m a part of that.
SLAM: Do you still watch the NBA quite a bit?
TM: I do, I watch a lot.
SLAM: What players do you enjoy watching today?
TM: Well obviously, LeBron and KD. I really like watching Damian Lillard. I like him because of his will. He’s relentless and he’s not afraid. He’s not afraid of the moment. So, there are a few guys out there that I enjoy watching.
SLAM: How do you pick out your sneakers each day?
TM: You know what, I’m really not big on fashion. I’m quite simple believe it or not. I have so many shoes in my closet that whatever attracts my eye—that’s what I go and grab. I don’t sit there and try to match things—that’s not what I’m about. It’s a feel, man.