Over the past 20 years, the marker that separates great from all-time great in the NBA has become more about how many rings an elite player wins than almost anything else. You see it in other sports like football, but the ring conversation is always most prominent with fans, media, and even players when discussing the association. Whether it’s fair to evaluate someone’s legacy primarily based on how many championships they’ve won is debatable, but the conversation always moves the needle. Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady spoke with GQ Sports recently and was asked about some current NBA topics, including forced trades and, more specifically, the James Harden situation in Philadelphia.
“That makes zero sense to me. McGrady said. Not only that, but I look at all the teammates he’s played with. James has probably played with more Hall of Famers than anybody in the league, and he doesn’t have a ring to show for it. I don’t know what he’s looking for. And maybe there’s some internal bullshit that is going on that we don’t know about. Because it doesn’t make any sense to me to leave the MVP, and the Eastern Conference, where you have a shot to at least play for a championship. It’s got to be something deeper than what you know. Get over it, man.”
Many in the comments section of this tweet were not feeling T-Mac’s attack on Harden. Others cracked jokes, and some tried to keep it all above board. Some feel like McGrady holds a grudge against Harden for snatching records he set while playing in Houston. Whatever the reason, McGrady simply answered a question. He didn’t have to go as hard as he did on Harden, but there is some truth to what he said.
Requesting to leave the team immediately after playing an entire season with the league’s MVP sounds insane. For better or worse, as things currently stand, Harden is the No. 2 option for the 76ers. Tyrese Maxey is coming, but he’s still No. 3 behind Harden at best. The Sixers have a nice squad and are contenders in the eastern conference. If Harden truly wants to return to the Rockets, that only validates what McGrady is saying.
That’s if Harden’s main goal is winning a ring. It’s hard for fans to grasp this sometimes, but not every star player values winning a title as much as the next. For some, winning championships is the end all be all, especially if they are in that elite class at the top of the NBA. Then you have the select few in the conversation of top 10-15 all-time, in which most of those players have multiple rings on their resume. But that may not be the most important thing to Harden.
Harden isn’t considered a top 15 player of all time, but if he retired today, he’d probably go down as one of the top 10 scorers the game has ever seen. The same goes for McGrady; maybe not top 10, but definitely one of the best bucket-getters we’ve seen in the last 25 years. T-Mac certainly left his mark on the NBA, but, like Harden, he never won a ring. McGrady’s teams never got out of the first round, even in his prime. The Raptors made it to the east semifinals after McGrady exited the building. And McGrady is no stranger to requesting trades as he did the same thing to escape Orlando, making his way to Houston.
T-Mac probably sees his criticism of Harden as “constructive,” but when looking back at their careers and some similarities, it’s easy to see how his words can be misconstrued. The best place for Harden to play basketball right now is in Philly. Not Houston, Phoenix, or any other team that’s been rumored to be interested in Harden. All is quiet on the homefront for now, but we’re still a couple months away from NBA training camps, and as we know, anything can happen.