You may not remember that Tracy McGrady shoes were a big thing back in the early 2000’s. And you also might not remember that Tracy McGrady was a seriously big deal as a player. In fact, Kobe Bryant, who I know you know, considered Tracy the best player he ever played against. Not LeBron, not Kevin Durant, but Tracy McGrady. That’s saying something.
Tracy McGrady was a tall, lanky, versatile killer on the court. He was 6’8”, with guard-like handles and a smooth jump shot- he could jump out of the gym! The word unfair comes to mind. He also had an air of providence about him. He seemed to be sent by the basketball gods to pick up where Penny Hardaway left off. They had a similar frame, a similar game, played on the same teams and wore the same number. Coincidence? Or divine intervention?
Sneaker-wise he was also similar to Penny. TMac’s were never the top signature shoe in the NBA. TMac had to compete with the likes of Kobe, Allen Iverson and LeBron James in the sneakerverse and his shoes always felt like the cool sleek alternative, a little like what happened with the Air Penny line versus Jordan Brand.
This is one of those articles I was really looking forward to writing…if just for the trip down memory lane. So without any further ado, let’s jump right into it and get into all the TMac goodness.
Table of Contents
- Tracy McGrady Shoes in High School
- Tracy McGrady Shoes: Toronto Raptors
- Tracy McGrady Shoes: Orlando Magic
- Tracy McGrady Shoes: Houston Rockets
- Tracy McGrady Shoes: New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, China and San Antonio
Tracy McGrady Shoes in High School
The Tracy McGrady saga started in high school. Tracy was one of the last super stars to jump straight from high school to the NBA. This was pre-Instagram (can you imagine?) so Tracy was a bit of an unknown prospect before entering the 1996 ABCD Camp. Back in the social media stone age, hidden gems could still go unnoticed. Living in rural Auburndale, Florida, Tracy wasn’t in the spotlight. Until he was…
During the ABCD camp, Tracy put on a legendary show. It was so legendary, he left the camp as a top 15 prospect for the next year’s draft. Grainy footage of his performances surfaced and the whole country was buzzing, wondering if this young kid could cut it in the NBA.
“My mindset was – this is that opportunity that you’ve been waiting for!” remembered Tracy McGrady in a 2016 interview. “Growing up in Florida, yeah, I had a name around my area and in my county, but outside of that nobody really knew who I was. He (Lamar Odom) was the first person I played – and I put it down. I realized that I had just as much game as anybody there, it was on from that point.”
At the time, there was a debate surrounding high-school players making the jump to the league. Most high-school players who made the transition hadn’t really panned out with a few exceptions such as Kobe and Kevin Garnett. So there was a push to ban high schoolers from the league. Tracy entered the NBA with a high degree of scrutiny.
Aside from ballin’ out of control at the ABCD camp, Tracy established a relationship with ex-Nike exec and then Adidas exec, Sonny Vaccaro. When Tracy left the camp, he moved on to play his senior year at (Adidas-sponsored) Mt. Zion Christian Academy. So, even though TMac considered other sneaker brands before signing his deal, it seemed clear that it was most likely going to be with the three stripes.
Tracy most famously rocked the Adidas Top Ten 2000 in high school, but I’m pretty sure he’s wearing the Jordan 9 in this highlight:
Adidas Top Ten 2000
With Tracy at the helm, Mt. Zion emerged as the number-two-ranked team in the country, and McGrady was named a McDonald’s All-American, USA Today High School Basketball Player of the Year, and North Carolina’s Mr. Basketball by the Associated Press.
Believe it or not, sneakers were actually the reason TMac ultimately opted to jump from high school to the NBA, in a way of speaking. Tracy had already made up his mind that he was going to play for the University of Kentucky after his senior year, but Adidas offered him a six-year, $12 million, shoe-endorsement deal. This changed everything for Tracy.
“I’m sitting in my Coach’s office, he’s like, ‘I know you want to go to Kentucky but after I tell you this, you are going to forget all about that.’ I’m like, ‘After you tell me what?’ He’s like, ‘I got a $12 million deal for you.’ I said, ‘From who?’ He said, ‘From Adidas.’ I said, ‘Oh. Let’s sign!’ … My college dream went out the window. I signed for that bag and that was it.” TMac remembered on the All The Smoke podcast.
The contract McGrady signed out of high school was a big deal at the time and it was worth more than what Adidas was paying Kobe Bryant before he left for Nike.
Tracy’s senior year averages were 27.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 2.8 steals, and 2 blocks per game. So, with an Adidas hook up under one arm and an impressive senior season under the other, TMac entered the 1997 NBA draft.
Tracy McGrady Shoes: Toronto Raptors
Tracy McGrady would be drafted 9th overall in the 1997 NBA Draft and get the chance to play with his cousin, Raptor’s star Vince Carter. It wouldn’t be immediately obvious that Tracy was destined to be a hall-of-famer. He definitely had flashes of greatness, but over his two first seasons with the Raptors, TMac would only average 8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, and 1.9 apg. Not bad, but not great.
In his third season, TMac finally figured out the NBA. He boosted up his stats to a very respectable 15.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 3.3 apg with 1.1 stls and 1.9 blks. AND he put on a SHOW during the 2000 NBA Dunk contest. TMac didn’t win, but in his defense, nobody could have beaten Vince Carter that night.
During his time with the Raptors, TMac played in a bunch of different Adidas models, but the most iconic were the Adidas Real Deal, Adidas Silk, Adidas KB8 II and the Adidas KB8 III.
Adidas Real Deal
Adidas KB8 II
Adidas KB8 III
After his breakout season, TMac became a hot commodity in the NBA. TMac wasn’t really interested in staying in Toronto and was courted by Orlando, Chicago, Miami and Toronto. McGrady was interested in his hometown Orlando Magic, but was initially disappointed when the Magic did not offer him the maximum contract he wanted.
The Heat had two separate sign-and-trade deals on the table to land McGrady, but both fell through. So Orlando would snatch up TMac in a sign-and-trade deal. McGrady signed a seven-year $92.8 million contract with Orlando and officially became the new Penny Hardaway.
It sucks to play the “what if” game, but a Vince Carter and TMac led Raptors would have been sweet over the long term.
Tracy McGrady Shoes: Orlando Magic
Tracy hit the ground running as soon as he landed in Orlando. He immediately blossomed into the player everyone hoped he would be. His numbers ballooned to an impressive 26.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1.5 stls and 1.5 blks. Insane. He took home that year’s NBAs Most Improved Player award and was named to the All-Star team and to the All-NBA second team.
During his first season in Orlando, TMac wore several different Adidas models, all of which felt like TMac signature shoe prototypes. He wore the Adidas Mad Handle, Adidas Amazing Handle and Adidas Amazing Bromium II.
Adidas Mad Handle
Adidas Amazing Handle
Adidas Bromium II
Unfortunately, the Magic’s season didn’t go as well. The Magic had paired TMac with another of the most versatile wings the NBA has ever seen, Grant Hill. Hill would only be able to play in 4 games that season before an ankle injury sidelined him and the shorthanded Magic were mediocre the whole year. They did make the playoffs, but they were booted in the first round without putting up much of a fight against the Milwaukee Bucks.
During his second season with the Magic, TMac remained “en fuego”. He averaged 25.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.6 stls and a block. He was again named to the All-Star team, was named to the All NBA First Team and ended up 4th in the MVP race. He also gave us this moment, which I can’t explain how amazing it was to watch live:
Grant Hill was again a non-factor due to injury. He appeared in only 14 games that season and the team was again unable to get off the ground. They basically had the same exact season, winning only 1 more game in the regular season and falling in the same exact fashion in the first round, this time to the Charlotte Hornets.
On a more positive note, TMac got his first signature shoe, the Adidas TMac 1.
The shoe has been retroed several times over the years and it has a reputation of being a brick, but the OG version does seem to have been a bit better than the retros. The shoe featured a tumbled leather upper, a distinctive shell toe, adiPRENE+ cushion and herringbone traction. The shoe is supportive, low to the ground and responsive.
The shoe gained an extra bit of notoriety when a teenager, by the name of LeBron James, started wearing them during his dominant high school performances.
Adidas TMac 1
In April of 2002, TMac signed a lifetime endorsement deal with Adidas. Tracy was in the 6th and final year of his first deal with Adidas at the time. The deal, which would span the duration of McGrady’s basketball career and beyond, was the most significant contract Adidas had ever signed with a professional athlete up to that point.
In his third year with the Magic, Tracy must have been sick of waiting for Grant Hill to get healthy because he went nuts. He increased his already hefty averages to 32.1 ppg (which led the NBA), 6.5 rpg, 5.5 apg, and 1.7 stls. He was of course an All Star, was again named to the All-NBA First Team and again finished 4th in the MVP race.
All this output was for nothing though, as the team finished with practically the same record and again fell in the first round, although they did push the Pistons to the limit.
But, the world got the very cool Adidas TMac 2 instead of a victory. The TMac 1, TMac 2 and TMac 3 are great examples of a good use of shared design language. All of these models look similar and at the same time totally different and all look cool on their own.
The TMac 2 were recently “restomod-ed” with adidas switching out the OG adiPRENE+ cushion for Bounce, but pretty much keeping everything else the same.
These also got the LeBron nod. He reached for them during his senior year of high school.
Adidas TMac 2
There was a great USA colorway of this shoe that Tracy wore during the 2003 Tournament of the Americas. In 2002, the US lost in the Basketball World Cup in Indianapolis and had to play the tourney to qualify for the Olympics. The team would bring home gold and go 10-0 that summer, qualifying the US for the ill-fated 2004 Olympics in Athens.
He also had a role in the classic 2002 sports film starring Lil’ Bow Wow, Like Mike:
TMac’s 4th year with the Magic would be his last. And who could blame him? TMac had another monster year averaging a league-leading 28 ppg, 6 rpg, 5.5 apg, and 1.7 apg. He was an All-Star and was named to the All-NBA Second Team. But, the Magic stunk. They won only 21 games that season. Grant Hill missed the entire season due to injury and Doc Rivers was fired after going 1-10 in the first 11 games! It was a disaster and it tainted TMac’s awesome year. Understandably, McGrady demanded a trade at the end of the year.
The TMac 3 was a good looking shoe, but it was again a bit of a brick on-court. The shoe was recently re-released with some tech updates. Most of TMac’s shoes are very supportive to the point of being stiff, which might be well-suited for large guards like TMac. But for most players they’re a bit much. The TMac 3 is no different. But, they did have one of my favorite sneaker commercials EVER.
Adidas TMac 3
During that year’s All Star game, TMac made NBA sneaker history, when he became the first NBA player to rock mis-matched shoes in a game:
TMac also broke out a 3.5 version of the shoe. The 3.5 featured a molded synthetic-leather upper with soft synthetic-leather finish, an internal bootie, Adidas’ integrated 3D Torsion® System, herringbone traction and a adiPRENE and forefoot cushioning insert.
Adidas TMac 3.5
TMac famously put up a career high 62 points in these bad boys, so he probably liked them quite a bit.
Tracy McGrady Shoes: Houston Rockets
TMac was shipped to Houston in a monster trade in exchange for Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley and several other pieces. Tracy would join a promising Houston Rockets roster that was built around the towering Yao Ming. As soon as he landed in Houston, the Rockets started to feel like title contenders and there was an air of excitement about the team’s chances.
Tracy’s first year was pretty darn good. He averaged 25.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 5.7 apg, and 1.7 stls. He made the All Star team and was named to the All-NBA Third Team. The team also racked up 51 wins and made the playoffs in a stacked western division. They ultimately ran out of steam in the first round of the playoffs but they did push a very good Dallas Mavericks team, lead by Dirk Nowitzki, to the limit.
TMac’s shoe for the year, the TMac 4, was equal parts weird and awesome. Adidas tried their hand at creating a laceless hoop shoe and came up with the TMAC 4 and its HUG lockdown system.
“Hug is a laceless compression-closure system that, with the flip of a lever, locks your foot into a zone of total comfort, security and control.”
The HUG system was developed by looking at High-Tech Downhill Ski Boots. The shoe featured a revolutionary closure system that would lock your foot securely in place, providing “superior comfort and fit”. The HUG system fit over the top area of the foot and was attached to the rear of the shoe by cables which kept the HUG system under tension, which was then maintained by a closure device on the heel counter. This closure device, a slider/lever system, was used to control the fit. Turning the adjustment wheel moves the slider up and down on the thread, giving the athlete the most precise fit possible. More of a gimmick than anything else, but still super cool. The shoe is actually very comfortable to play in, but it’s very heavy.
The shoe also came out in several different versions. There was a 4.5, which was almost identical to the TMac 4, except for some aesthetic updates. There was a team version as well, the Team Mac 1. That was more inexpensive and did away with the HUG system. There would be several other Team Mac shoes, but to my knowledge TMac never wore them on court.
Adidas TMac 4
Adidas TMac 4.5
Adidas Team Mac 1, 2 and 3
I should also mention that this was the year, and these were the sneakers, with which TMac pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in NBA history. He scored 13 points in 35 seconds to beat the San Antonio Spurs. He also gave us one of the best-scoring duels ever against Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. Tracy put up 48 and Dirk 53 – for those who don’t remember:
Year two in Houston wasn’t great for Tracy. He played in only 47 games that season due to a severe back spasm that kept him away from the court and affected him when he did get on the floor. His numbers were still great, but he just couldn’t stay in the game. He averaged 24.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 4.8 apg, 1.3 stls, but his minutes per game dipped down to 37 a contest. It would seem that, as the successor to Penny Hardaway, his career would take the same disappointing path.
He was again named to the All-Star team, but this year he missed out on being named to an All-NBA team. The Rockets also performed poorly with their superstar hobbled and did not reach the playoffs that season.
This season marked the beginning of the end for TMac, who would never really be able to get back to the height of his powers.
The TMac 5 was another great-looking, but stiff shoe in the TMac line. The shoe once again featured an Adidas Torsion system (the main culprit of the shoe’s rigidity), adiPRENE+ as the cushion system, a midfoot strap for added containment, a beefy heel counter and some pretty great traction. Most of TMac’s shoes have this super rigid set up, which is hard to understand for a casual user, but keep in mind that TMac was an explosive, quick, 225 pound, 6’8″ wing. He probably needed that type of containment just to feel secure bustin’ moves out on the hardwood.
Adidas TMac 5
He also broke out a Houston version of the TMac 1 for a couple of games which was nice to see.
Though TMac definitely was not in peak physical shape, he was still able to leave us with some monster highlights like this one that is still up there as one of the best poster dunks of all time.
The following season was a bit more of the same. To give a bit of context to the 2006-07 season, at this time in the NBA, the Western conference was stacked. The best team in the Eastern conference at the time was the Detroit Pistons. They finished with a record of 53-29 as the number 1 team in the East.
The Rockets had a really solid season. Yao Ming had established himself as one of the premier centers in the league and they had added some effective role players, including Shan Battier, who brought some much needed defense to the roster. They racked up 52 wins that season, which would have meant finishing second in the East, but it only earned them the 3rd slot in the Southwest Division and 4th overall in the Western conference.
Yao would also go down with a stress fracture in his tibia in December, but made it back to play in Houston’s match up with the Utah Jazz. All this to say that the Rockets would once again be stopped in the first round of the playoffs and would be unable to capitalize on a solid regular season.
Tracy had another great individual season, adapting his game to his injuries and taking on more of a facilitating role. He averaged his usual 24.6 ppg but upped his assists 6.5 per game to go along with 5.3 boards and 1.3 steals. He was an All-Star, was named to the All-NBA Second Team, and was back in the MVP conversation, ultimately ending up 6th in the voting.
The 2006-07 season also brought us the TMac 6. I really like this one and clearly, Adidas was trying to push the performance envelope with this shoe. It featured Adidas’ version of Nike Shox in a way called Ground Control System™. This system was developed alongside the outdoor and running shoe company, Salomon. The main idea with this set-up was to extend the contact process of the foot to the ground through the outsole’s unique structure, while providing stability and support.
Adidas TMac 6
Adidas implemented this tech in several different signature models. The shoe’s soles were basically split in two with conventional cushioning on one half to ensure comfort and cushioning support for both feet when jumping vertically, while the inner part of the shoe would consist of independent pods, held together with a TPU for stability.
This tech was data-driven for each player and, supposedly, each pod provided different levels of cushioning and control that catered to the specific athlete. It’s doubtful that this was actually effective, but no one can deny that this was a very innovative concept. It does seem like these were great on-court performers and there was also a low version of the TMac 6 which looked great. The TMac 6 would be the last proper signature shoe that Tracy would get.
The following season, the Rockets as an organization began to gel. In the off-season they brought in coach Rick Adelman as the head coach and GM Daryl Morey. Morey, who is well known for his use and development of advanced statistics, built the perfect team (on paper) to surround Yao and Tracy. The Rockets switched out Jeff Van Gundy’s defensive-minded playing style for Rick Adelman’s free-flowing offensive style.
This new set-up allowed TMac to offload some of the scoring responsibilities he had to carry during previous seasons. He remained an effective superstar averaging 21.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 5.9 apg and 1.0 stl. He also saw his playing time reduced to its lowest level since his days in Toronto. Tracy didn’t make that year’s All-Star Game, but he was named to the All-NBA Third Team.
The team finished with 55 wins, made the playoffs…and fell again in the first round against the Utah Jazz. But, the team definitely felt like a contender.
TMac wore several different Adidas models that season including several different PE’s. His main “weapon of choice” was the TS Lightspeed. The shoe dropped in a bunch of different colorways and PE’s. There was a PE for Chauncey Billups, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard and, of course, Tracy McGrady. The shoes didn’t change tech-wise from version to version and all featured a synthetic-leather upper, AdiPRENE+ in forefoot, a compression-molded EVA midsole, lateral forefoot guardrails for added stability, and a “non-marking rubber” outsole. By all accounts, it was a pretty solid on-court shoe.
TMac also wore the TS Creator, the Piranha 3.0 and the Pro Model S for one game.
Adidas TS Lightspeed
Adidas TS Creator
Adidas Piranha 3.0
Pro Model S
Heads up. This was the last year TMac was still anything like the player once considered the premier wing in the NBA.
T-Mac had injured his elbow the season before and suffered an ankle injury and a left knee injury that sidelined him for 11 games. During the 2008-09 season McGrady would sit out several games due to his strained and bruised left shoulder. He would undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and shoulder that needed at least three months of recovery.
He was healthy for only 35 games and averaged 15.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg and 5.0 apg. No All-Star game. No All-NBA team. But the Rockets did really well.
The Rockets brought in Metta World Peace, then known as Ron Artest and his presence changed the identity of the team. At the time, Metta was the premier defensive player in the NBA and gave the Rockets a considerable boost on the defensive end. The team finished with 53 wins on the season and entered the playoffs on a mission.
The Rockets faced the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round, and low and behold, they would handle them in six games. Next they would face the Lakers. Kobe and Pau barely made it out of the series and would go on to win the Lakers first, post-Shaq championship. It was the best showing the Rockets had in the playoffs since acquiring McGrady. But unfortunately, TMac didn’t play a minute the entire playoff run.
It was very clear after the series that TMac’s time in Houston was over.
During that season, TMac played in two PE’s: the Adidas TS Cut Creator and the Adidas TS Lightning Creator. These two were Adidas’ follow up to the TS Creator. Both featured adiPRENE+ cushion, a Clima Cool upper to help with ventilation, wave bone traction, an EVA insole and an Adidas Formotion unit in the heel.
Adidas TS Cut Creator
Adidas TS Lightning Creator
Tracy McGrady Shoes: New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, China and San Antonio
TMac played just 6 games for Houston the following season before being traded to the Kicks. At this point, TMac was just holding on in the attempt to win a title before retiring.
In the following 4 seasons, TMac bounced around the league, playing for the Knicks, Pistons, Hawks, then moving to China for one regular season, and returning to help the Spurs during their 2014 Playoff run.
Over these last 4 seasons, TMac averaged just 7.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg and 3.0 apg. He did leave us some flashes of his former self, but they were few and far between.
He kept rocking Adidas during this period. He had a bunch of different pairs, but no signatures and no PE’s, unfortunately. TMac played in the Adidas TS Supernatural Creator, Adidas TS Speedcut, Adidas TS Commander, Adidas TS Lowmotion, Adidas adizero Ghost, Adidas adizero Ghost 2, Adidas adizero Shadow, Adidas Crazylight 2, Adidas adizero Infiltrate, Adidas Rose 773, Adidas Rose 3.5, and Adidas Rose 3.
Adidas TS Supernatural Creator
Adidas TS Speed Cut
Adidas TS Commander
Adidas TS Lowmotion
Adidas Adizero Ghost
Adidas Adizero Shadow
Adidas Rose 3.5
Adidas Adizero Ghost 2
Adidas Crazylight 2
Adidas Adizero Infiltrate
Adidas Rose 3
Adidas Rose 773 II
TMac would technically get one last signature during his time in China, known as the Wang Hi Double Star, which he was gifted when he arrived in China to join his team in the CBA.
Wang Hi Double Star
That pretty much does it for TMac’s long and interesting sneaker history. Let us know what you think. Did we leave anything out? Is there another shoe that you’d put on the list? We look forward to hearing from you in the comments below, Twitter, Instagram, or our Discord community.