First Edition of ‘Rockets Retro’

2009 December 9
by rahat huq

It’s important to periodically break from the monotony of present. In that spirit, now would be appropriate to present the first ever edition of ‘Rockets Retro.’ Every now and then, I will be highlighting a famous/infamous play/moment/game in Rockets history and offering some thoughts and recollections.

With the present drama surrounding Tracy McGrady, I think it is only fitting that the first edition of ‘Rockets Retro’ feature the pinnacle of the Yao/McGrady era.

Quick side note to start off: A lot of what raised this dunk to the level at which it is revered has to do with the broadcast call of the play. This is probably topic for a longer post, but I have argued at length in the past that much of what goes into our perception of what is perceived as a ‘great play’ is influenced by the strength of the call. Case in point: I don’t really feel that Michael Jordan’s ‘unnecessarily switch hands in mid-air to avoid a nonexisting defender’ sequence against the Lakers in the ‘91 Finals was anything particularly special. You see shots made with a much higher degree of difficulty in almost every NBA game. But when that moment is captured in package with Marv Albert’s iconic delivery, it truly becomes “a spectacular move by Michael Jordan.” Similarly, with all due respect, if the above play is dictated as “Tracy with a facey!” by Bill Worrell as opposed to Kevin Harlan’s ’sucking of gravity’, it’s probably not on every list as one of the greatest dunks in NBA history. Still an amazing dunk, but probably robbed of its true historical potential. As presented, McGrady’s slam on Bradley simply had every necessary element for greatness.

The play itself need not require any additional description. Essentially, if you may not have known, Tracy McGrady was this really athletic guard that played for the Rockets in 2005. He goes baseline and posterizes the poster-boy for posterization, the infamous Shawn Bradley. The crowd oohs and aahs. Rockets fall from NBA relevance for the next four years.

But let’s talk of the significance of this play. Other than the opening sequence of ‘Yao-Shaq 1′, this dunk was probably the defining moment in P.C. (post championship) Houston Rockets history. This dunk at the time meant so much more than simply its viewer value. It was the most significant moment in the game that really captured the imaginations of Rockets fans.

I will never forget the TNT post-game discussion after that Game 2 win. It’s really unfortunate that there aren’t any clips online of the conversation. Magic Johnson remarked that “they [Tracy and Yao] remind me a lot of myself and Kareem” and Kenny Smith elaborated upon a potential prolonged dominance of the West. Not sure what Charles said. Not meant as a slight to Charles. (Seriously, I just don’t remember what he said, I’m sure it was insightful.)

The dunk was just the symbol. The game was merely a win. It was the ramifications of that brilliance captured in the ensuing discussions that enlivened Rockets fans. It was the possibilities and that first sudden realization of unthinkable potential. Here were the Rockets, McGrady and Yao, 25 and 24 years of age, each amongst the tops at his position, with a shared decade ahead. Here was the moment, the game, when it seemed to all at last be coming together. A 2-0 lead heading home. It was never about the series itself. It was the mind blowing thought that these two 20-something superstars, (who seemed to get along with each other), were possibly en route to the conference finals (a favorable matchup in the Phoenix Suns lay waiting in the wings in the semis) with merely a band of rag-tag aging journeymen at their aid. Indeed, the future was bright.

The reminiscence is agonizing; the cruelty that that first glimpse of greatness is now remembered as the last hurrah. This clip is really all we have in remembrance of an era of unrealized potential.

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7 Responses leave one →
  1. Justin H permalink
    December 9, 2009

    great article. i was definitely on cloud 9 after that game 2 win. completely dejected after the game 7 blowout. closest ive been to that feeling since was somewhat cloud 9 after game 1 against LA then completely dejected after loss of yao ming in game 2.  

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  2. December 9, 2009

    When I think of McGrady on the Rockets, pretty much the only positive image that comes to my mind is the 13-point explosion.  

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  3. amaar permalink
    December 9, 2009

    I highly doubt what Charles said was insightful. He probably made some comment about Dirk being turrible or made fun of Kenny Smith’s lack of skill.

    Better quality:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKOCy9R-h2A&feature=related  

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  4. December 9, 2009

    Man this article is good……..but effin depressing. You know that dunk was……did you see how high he was……this dude threw an alley oop to himself……in an all star game….against other all stars…..he scored how many points in how many seconds…..and some of you really want to trade him. I like the teamwork…..but how many of you started on a team that was any good? I mean, are you an underdog cheering for an underdog? Cause I like Cinderella Stories too….but I would much rather have as many rings as the Lakers. I think T Mac has so much to prove, and this rubber band theory should pay huge dividends. We play 30-40 games sans McGrady, he comes in and takes a 6 seed to the Finals….and we beat the Celtics or Cavs in 5.  

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  5. Taehee Kim permalink
    December 10, 2009

    Unfortunate that we’ve come to the monotony of the present.. At this point, the storyboard says that TMac and Yao were a failed experiment… If they couldn’t do it back in their primes, when are they ever going to do it in the future?

    I find it unfortunate that Charles Barkley never won a ring, and his efforts late in his career were a sight to see. But I feel like it’s a done deal. Sometimes, you’re not fated for the moment in which you seek.

    I hope that sun will shine on the Rockets sometime in the next few years and allow us to make some nice acquisitions to make it back to greatness. I’m not counting on it. And I like the underdog position just fine.  

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  6. December 10, 2009

    Exactly my point Taehee, I am FINE being an underdog. I would be doing GREAT if we were the NBA POWERHOUSE everyone expected us to be three years ago…..but on the brightside…..were not MAVS fans….that must really suck, haha  

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  7. December 16, 2009

    I love you.  

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