Tracy McGrady had two main nicknames in his playing days: T-Mac and the Big Sleep. While T-Mac stuck with him the longest, and is what he is called the most to this day, the Big Sleep was his most appropriate and amusing nickname.
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Why was Tracy McGrady’s Nickname T-Mac?
Tracy McGrady had never taken a plane flight until the summer before his senior year of high school. At the time, McGrady was a little-known high school baller who had been discovered by the coach of Mt. Zion Christian Academy in North Carolina.
Mt. Zion, an up-and-coming high school program, convinced McGrady to leave his home in Florida and spend his senior year in North Carolina. They put him on a flight before that year began and it changed everything.
McGrady went to the Adidas ABCD basketball camp in New Jersey and went from little-known prospect to NBA prospect seemingly overnight. Some reports say it was at this camp when McGrady started being called T-Mac.
It seems likely to me that people had called Tracy McGrady T-Mac his whole life like people called Kevin Garnett KG. But the ABCD camp was where McGrady became known simply as T-Mac.
McGrady went back to Mt. Zion and set the world on fire becoming the USA Today High School Basketball Player of the Year and a McDonald’s All-American.
McGrady followed the path KG and Kobe Bryant had blazed in the previous two years declaring for the NBA draft straight out of high school. He was picked 9th overall by the Toronto Raptors in the 1997 draft.
He would be called T-Mac throughout most of his Hall-of-Fame career.
Why was Tracy McGrady’s Nickname the Big Sleep?Embed from Getty Images
After being drafted by the Raptors, McGrady settled into a quiet life in Toronto. He played sparingly in his first year and worked to become accustomed to independent life in the league.
But mostly, he slept. Up to 20 hours a day! He was a teenager at that point. But, still, 20 hours a day is not fooling around. The kid could sleep.
The nickname definitely started here but that was not the end of it. McGrady left Toronto, and broke up with his cousin Vince Carter, to pursue greatness in Orlando. It didn’t hurt that he was from Florida.
Orlando was where McGrady scaled to new heights becoming an absolute offensive force in the league. But he still loved to sleep.
In the hilarious clip below, John Thomspson is going on about McGrady’s high standards and how he hesitated to pass the ball to a teammate because that player was missing easy shots.
They cut in to throw it to Craig Sager who shares an amazing story about McGrady falling asleep in meetings. Apparently Doc Rivers found out that whenever they showed film with the lights out they would find McGrady asleep when the lights came back on.
The timing of the high-standards-story with the falls-asleep-in-every-meeting-story could not be better! In any case T-Mac loved to sleep. He was the Big Sleep.
The name Big Sleep did not stick as well as T-Mac but it sure fit McGrady well. After becoming the NBA’s scoring leader and a reliable all-star in Orlando, McGrady was shipped to Houston in part because his Orlando teams could not win.
In his years in Houston, both coach Mike Van Gundy and general manager Darryl Morey would eventually criticize McGrady’s work ethic.
His teams famously did not win. Despite being a hall-of-famer who was an absolute killer on offense, he never got beyond the first round of the playoffs.
When you add it all up: the literal sleeping 20 hours a day as a teen and in meetings as an adult, the laid back style, the low-key work habits, and the lack of team success – you get a guy nicknamed the Big Sleep. It fit Tracy McGrady quite well.Embed from Getty Images
Tracy McGrady only had two nicknames and one was pretty standard. T-Mac became McGrady’s nickname as he went from anonymous Florida high school player to Mcdonald’s All American and NBA pick while at Mt. Zion Christian Academy. McGrady briefly became known as the Big Sleep for his enormous napping gifts in Toronto and Orlando. The name Big Sleep fit the laid back McGrady well but the name T-Mac stuck much longer and is what he is most often called today.
I have been a Boston sports fan for more than forty years. I write about games, players and seasons from the past.