Friday, September 25, 2009

Tracy McGrady, I apologize.



I apologize. I apologize for questioning your talent. For doubting your desire to be great. For not believing you gave 100% on the court. Not because I believe I was wrong, but because now I know it was justified. How do I know? Because for most of my basketball playing days I was you. Yes, I was the Latino T-Mac. Allow me to explain.

First, let me point out I was never a serious threat to play pro-ball. I became more preoccupied with working to make my own money. And well, it's hard out there for someone 5'9 and 160. So I had to be T-Mac of the playgrounds (ok stop laughing). Yeah I was that guy who could keep his team of scrubs in games, scoring 70-80% of points. The guy who didn't always have to drive because he could get his shot over anyone . I would talk trash and guarantee wins because I knew my talent was good enough to take over when I wanted. Practice? We talkin bout practice?? Never heard of it. Never done it. Just laced them up, threw up some warm up shots and my game was on.

However, there was always something missing in my game. I played consistently well, but there always seemed to be that itch I couldn't scratch. I could dribble well, but couldn't handle the rock. I could shoot well, but couldn't stroke the jumper. I could block shots, but didn't swat them. I could get assists, but didn't really throw dimes. Know what I mean? I got the job done, but it wasn't basketball pretty sometimes. My conditioning was great, I was athletic, knew how to play, but yet some let downs had people questioning my effort at times. I could snatch the ball from a fast breaking point like T.J ford used to do, so then why would a guy go around me so easily? I could drain 30 foot jumpers, but I missed that breakaway layup? Grabbin' rim one day and grabbin' net the next?? WTF is going on? Everything felt right to me. Nothing hurt. My brain knew what I wanted to do, it sent that electrical signal ASAP, yet my body was doing its own thing.

"I saw the guy out of the corner of my eye, so I went to change up my shot and no elevation.” -T-Mac, after getting hung on the rim last season

Now I know why. Back in 95' I had suffered a serious left ankle sprain playing for my 7th grade team. No medical treatment. No rehab. No crutches. That big ass ankle brace? My Pennys couldn't squeeze around it. I hobbled around school for almost a month. Came back to the team too early. Eventually the pain went away, but my ankle never felt the same. I just figured it was normal after such an injury. I did visit a few doctors, even specialists, over the span of 10 years. Never got me anywhere. Now, within the last half a year, my whole left side has felt like it was breaking down one piece at a time. The bones in my ankle were grindin' harder than a high school couple. At prom. With hotel reservations for later. My shoulder stayed away from it's joint like it was on probation. Knee was more unstable than Ron Artest. Had a little snap in my hip, a crackle in my thumb and a pop in my elbow. Turns out that old injury caused all this. I had limped around for so long that even after my ankle had "healed", most of my left side was still tight and tense from trying to stay off the foot. Most of the muscles on my right side had become very dominant and now they were just taking the left ones along for the ride. If you were to look at me nothing was obviously wrong. Yet I had a very significant muscle imbalance that was throwing my body alignment out of whack.

"His whole body was imbalanced from basically his shoulder blades down to his feet. He was developing a lot of back problems ... He was developing strength in an imbalanced fashion." - T-Mac's physical therapist, David Reavy .

And that is why I'm T-Mac. Because I too once though I could play through pain, only to have it catch up to me. I too thought I had figured it out and was coming back healthy. Better than ever even. And failed. I too thought I had an easy play once, only to have my body fail me and it too left me looking like a joke. But now I know what was really wrong all this time. Now I can truly rehab. Now I can truly feel the difference. I can feel better than ever. Now I can scratch that itch. I know where it is. And I'm going to scratch it well. Maybe too well. Tmac has been breaking down like me. The root of my imbalance was an old injury, his was scoliosis, an imbalance that became worse with time. Every new injury led to a bigger imbalance because it meant another part of your body has to pick up the slack. Back problems? More imbalance. Knee issues? Shoulder problems? More imbalances. T-mac had them all. Why didn't other trainers or doctors fix this before? Why didn't my doctors fix me? Well sometimes doctors don't care enough, or don't have enough time to look any further. Most of my doctors wouldn't look further into my case simply because the x-rays showed nothing negative. They never asked further questions. Maybe they didn't care enough or didn't know enough. I had my suspicions something was wrong. Some friends and family even accused me of just trying to find something wrong, like if i needed an excuse to not do well. The professionals were telling me everything was fine. So I had to be , right? So I ignored any creeping pain or discomfort over the years. Now, I am lucky enough to have just graduated as an exercise science major. That education allowed me to self-diagnose and now treat myself. T-Mac though, he's got Tim Grover and his staff. The best in the business.

When I got here with these guys, [shoot] I think after the first week when I was working with [Dave] I was feeling good, I was like, "Damn," 'cause he was getting other muscles to fire on my body that hadn't fired in a long time." - T-Mac



Its not just his latest rehab attempt that I respect, but everything he's done so far in his career. Every practice, every weight training session , every shootaround. The 13 in 35. The all-star selections. Scoring leader. The 47 in Utah just last year. Why? Because he did it with his body all jacked up. I make sure I remind my boys at the playground of the same. How I played well back then all out of whack and now I'm fixing myself up. Imagine what I'll be able to do once I'm done. Be afraid, very afraid. They laugh, though. They think I'm crazy and don't take my words very seriously. I'd like to see Kobe Bryant score his 20+ a game with one shoe on, his jersey tucked in too tight, the drawstrings to his shorts tied around his back and then up to his neck, all while turning his hips just slightly to the right. At least that's kind of how I felt, but I imagine T-Mac can relate. This began for me at a young age. I had just seriously started playing sports, after being mostly a couch potato, so I couldn't compare how my movements felt before and after my injury. I hadn't played ball much prior to it. I didn't know my feet could be so much more stable while taking a freebie, among other things. T-Mac is similar because he's had scoliosis, and therefore some degree of muscle imbalance, since he's been playing ball. Just like me, he didn't know how much better he could move. Neither of us knew what right felt like until we were right.

"I think he's gonna be a player like he used to be in his younger days, because his body is balanced now," Reavy says confidently. "He's using all his muscles properly and everything's absorbing a force and creating a force versus just the knee." -Reavy

So yes, i do believe T-Mac will truly be back in All-Star form. It's unfortunate he didn't get his body corrected until this late in his career, so age and wear and tear will stil affect him. I don't think we'll truly know how great he would have been had he done this earlier and stayed with it. But believe it when he says he's coming back this year. Believe it when he says he'll make it right after so much wrong last season. I do. I know how correcting the problem can make simply moving around so much better. So much easier. After years of working harder just to move incorrectly, now we just work hard to move correctly.. So let them think you're all talk. Let them believe they've heard this before. Let them look past you. Let them laugh at you and point fingers. Let them, because in the end, you will have the last laugh.


17 comments:

RV said...

Quotes are from the latest feature ESPN.com had on tmac's rehab, pics are from skillzlab.com, they have been filming throughout his rehab

Hursty said...

Best article this blog has ever produced. Hands down, bar none.

RV, if you care to, send it in to Ryne or Ben at SLAM. Get it put up on the website. I feel quite confident that they'd say yes once they'd read it.

Moose said...

This was great. Awesome to see some stuff out of you, RV.

Roy said...

An absolutely well-written article RV. Great Job! One of the best I've ever read so far. :D

RV said...

Thanks guys, i really appreciate it..i'll see what Ryne thinks

BET said...

i, on behalf of Tracy, accept your apology.

Collin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Collin said...

great peice!!!

i have really bad leg and back problems too. i used to have a 45 inch vert, but now im down to a 25 inch. it sucks having all these injuries, especially when basketball is my number one priority, but im in the middle of rehabing right now. anyway nice peice; could definitely get into SLAM.

Moose said...

ƒorty-five inch vert, Collin? Get outta here. :)

Teddy-the-Bear said...

LET'S GO T-MAC. LET'S GO ROCKETS! Nice work RV.

sevendeu2u said...

Nice post! I'm a big T-Mac fan, having lived in Orlando when he played there and saw him go do his thing on a nightly basis. He's had health issues for a while but still worked his tail off for the Magic. I hope he gets healthy and I think I may have to look into exercise science/physical therapy myself after reading this. You wrote about being "off" and I've defintely felt like that for a while. Best of luck with your game homie!

Blinguo said...

Now we can addendum that punch line joke about "The thing is, T-Mac don't even really like basketball" -since it was nearly killing him.

Interesting also with Yao having a similar story. Overworked, forget what usage % really means, his was over-usage percentage.

Good to know his story doesn't end like Penny's, and thanks for the look in to your own story. Enjoyed the read.

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