Another year, another playoff injury for Chris Paul. The 11-time NBA All-Star has been haunted with injuries at the most inopportune time, and his misfortune just took another turn in his first season with the Phoenix Suns.
Paul suffered a shoulder stinger during Game 1 and hasn’t been the same player since. This is such a bummer since the 36-year-old has been amazing all season leading the young Suns to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and helped them finish with the second-best record across the NBA.
Now, Phoenix is facing a 2-1 series deficit against a revitalized LeBron James and Anthony Davis-led Los Angeles Lakers squad. If Game 3 becomes the story for the rest of this series, this is going to be all she wrote for the Suns.
With that, this will only add on to the list of Paul’s disappointing playoff exits, mainly because he isn’t at full strength. Considering how many times this has happened, CP3 must be near the top of unluckiest players in NBA playoff history.
Nevertheless, there is still one superstar ahead of Paul on this unfortunate list: Tracy McGrady.
Everybody knows how McGrady’s Hall of Fame NBA career was cut short by injury. But unlike Paul, injuries weren’t the reason why McGrady is arguably the most unlucky player in playoff history. During his prime years with the Houston Rockets, McGrady had a reputation of being unable to make it out of the first round.
McGrady fully ascended into superstardom when he moved out from under the shadow of his cousin Vince Carter with the Toronto Raptors (they got swept in the first round together) and went to the Orlando Magic to be the top dog to create a dynamic duo with All-Star forward Grant Hill. McGrady has gone on record that he envisioned himself and Hill leading the Magic to compete in the East. However, Hill’s bad luck with ankle injuries forced McGrady to be a one-man show in Orlando.
In his first two seasons with Orlando, McGrady led them to the playoffs but lost in four games in the opening round in both campaigns. In the 2003 playoffs, shortly after claiming his first scoring title, T-Mac led the No. 8-seeded Magic to a surprising and commanding 3-1 series lead against the top-seeded Detroit Pistons. During a postgame presser, McGrady seemingly jinxed his fortune after he prematurely said this: “It feels good to get in the second round.”
The Pistons certainly didn’t take his comments lightly and wound up coming back to eliminate Orlando in seven.
After a dismal 2003-04 NBA season with the Magic in which they finished last in the East, McGrady moved on to the Houston Rockets the following season to create a formidable tandem with Yao Ming. McGrady and Yao struggled in their first season together, but nevertheless made the playoffs in 2005. They managed to force a Game 7 against Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. However, they were pummeled in the series decider in the form of a 40-point trouncing.
Houston missed the 2006 postseason entirely due to McGrady’s struggles with injuries throughout the 2005-06 campaign. In 2007, the Rockets made the postseason and went up against the Utah Jazz in the first round. By this time, McGrady’s inability to lead his team out of the first round became one of the main narratives of the series. The home team of each contest won through the first six games of the series.
With Game 7 in H-Town, all signs pointed to the Rockets and McGrady finally advancing past the first round. However, Houston wound up losing in heartbreaking fashion, 103-99. McGrady was understandably emotional following yet another disappointing series loss.
The following year, McGrady and the Rockets faced the Jazz again. Unfortunately, they ended up losing in six games this time around despite a valiant 40-point effort from T-Mac in the series closer. In the 2009 playoffs, the Rockets finally made it past the opening round. However, the seven-time All-Star still didn’t experience playing in the second round as he was already ruled out of the entire campaign after he underwent microfracture surgery midseason.
Due to injuries, McGrady bounced around the league and even played in China for a number of years. He eventually made his return to the NBA in the 2012-13 season when the San Antonio Spurs signed the two-time scoring champion for their postseason run. This final playoff hurrah is arguably the nail that hammered in McGrady’s standing as the unluckiest player in postseason history.
San Antonio wound up making it all the way to the NBA Finals to face the defending champs at the time, the Miami Heat. McGrady was more or less 30 seconds away from finally realizing his dream of winning an NBA championship in Game 6, with the Spurs looking to close out the series. Then, as everybody knows, Ray Allen happened and the rest was history.
McGrady himself admitted that he was already sniffing the champagne during the closing stretch of Game 6 with the Spurs seemingly on their way to glory. It was definitely heartbreaking to hear the Hall of Famer recalling this moment as he came so close to finishing his career with a title after all the playoff misfortunes he experienced throughout his career.
Unfortunately, this only cemented Tracy McGrady further as the unluckiest player in NBA postseason history.