Originally posted on NBA 24/7 365  |  Last updated 8/25/12

Not until about 10 minutes ago had I ever compared the careers of Baron Davis and Tracy McGrady, but now that I think about it… they’ve been pretty damn similar.  Both Davis and McGrady possessed incredible natural gifts, and it could certainly be argued that they were once the finest athletes the league had to offer at their respective positions.  Being the highly-skilled basketball players that they are, Davis and McGrady were able to capitalize on their physical talents in the early stages.  T-Mac had his major breakout after being dealt to Orlando, and Davis grew into a bigger role when former Hornets star Jamaal Mashburn began to experience injury problems.

Though neither of the two high-flying up-and-comers were surrounded by the type of talent necessary to contend for championships, they were able to achieve All-Star status, land major endorsement deals, and lead their respective squads to multiple playoff berths.  In 2002, the two were pitted against one another in a five-game quarterfinal.

What you’re about to watch are highlights from the third game of that series.  T-Mac led all scorers with 37 points while Baron filled up the stat sheet to the tune of 33/14/10.  Since you probably don’t remember, I won’t say who wins the game.  As you watch, take note of McGrady’s quickness, length, and fluidity, as well as Baron’s speed, strength, and explosiveness.

My favorite play in this entire video is the driving layup by McGrady at 4:44.  Watch him simply dust his defender without even making a move before casually laying it in over shot-blocking bruiser Jamaal Magloire.  Both the first step and the finish are unbelievable demonstrations of quickness.  By the time Magloire completes his gather McGrady already has the ball above the cylinder.  Amazing.

Also, the explosion of Baron Davis on each of his fast-break dunks reminded me of what an incredible leaper he once was.  With all that muscle attached to his frame he must’ve been like a cannonball flying through the air.  I know I would’ve gotten the f@ck out of his way!

Getting back to their comparable careers: Since the Hornets defeated the Magic in ’02, Davis and McGrady have traveled their own rocky roads.  T-Mac went on to put up 32 points per game in ’02/03, but his Orlando team struggled to make noise in the Eastern Conference.  He was eventually traded to Houston, where he experienced sporadic individual success as he battled a multitude of injuries.  He’s never really been the same since hurting his back in ’05/06.

As for Baron, he moved in and out of favor (and the lineup) with both the Hornets and the Warriors prior to coming on like an MVP candidate in that ’06/07 season which will forever be remembered for Golden State’s upset of the top-seeded Mavericks.  Unfortunately, the “We Believe” Warriors quickly fell apart amidst a historically strong field of Western Conference opponents, and Baron found himself breaking down as a member of his hometown Clippers.  Many attributed his health problems to an apparent lack of proper conditioning, and his passion for the game began to come into question.  As I’m sure you know, McGrady has experienced similar criticism throughout his career.

Now, Davis and McGrady come off the bench for a couple of middling teams from the East.  Baron recently suffered a horrible knee injury as his Knicks fell to the Heat in the first round of the playoffs, and T-Mac played more sparingly than he’d hoped to when he joined the Atlanta Hawks.

As hard as it is to believe, both McGrady and Davis are a year younger than Kobe Bryant.  The same Kobe Bryant who just won Olympic Gold and has his sights set on a sixth NBA title.  At times, both T-Mac and Boom Dizzle played like they were every bit as good as the Bean… but as quickly as they rose to prominence, they fell into mediocrity.

They say life is short.  In the world of sports, life is even shorter.  In the cases of Tracy McGrady and Baron Davis, life seemed to last but a millisecond… and that’s a damn shame.

At least we’ll always have Youtube, where Tracy McGrady still has a tattoo and Baron Davis isn’t a hipster.

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