Local News

Durham Teen Lured to NBA, Endorsement

Posted June 20, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— He's yet to step onto an NBA basketball court, but already Tracy McGrady is counting his millions. Thursday, the 18-year-old Mount Zion Academy graduate signed a multi-million dollar deal with Adidas sport shoes.

Next week, McGrady is expected to become the fourth basketball player to go straight from high school to playing professionally.

Kevin Garnett was chosen by Minnesota two years ago and last year Kobe Bryant was selected by the Charlotte Hornets, then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. Jermaine O'Neal was picked by the Portland Trailblazers last year.

McGrady thinks he'll go in the top ten of next week's draft, but for now, the big question for the young athlete is whether dollars will be more important than books in his future.

WRAL-TV5's Robert Carver asked McGrady if he is concerned about the message he'll be sending younger players. McGrady said he doesn't encourage kids to skip college to follow their hoop dreams; each person is entitled to his own opinion, he said, and has to do what is best for his future.

Some will look at this and say the point of going to college is to prepare for a better-paying job. Unless something unforeseen happens to him, McGrady's certainly got one of those even without a degree, but that's a big if. He says he feels lucky.

McGrady grew up playing pick-up ball in Auburndale, Fla. After a year at Durham's Mt. Zion Christian Academy, the 18-year-old point forward is bypassing college and headed to next week's NBA draft armed with talent and a $12 million shoe endorsement deal with Adidas. McGrady says he's excited about the draft.

But many wonder what kind of example that sets for kids who look up to big-time ball players. Anthony Doberson, 9, would love to hit the pro hardwoods one day. But given the choice of the NBA or staying in school, he says he'd opt for education.

Joel Hopkins, McGrady's high school coach, says he has encouraged his rising star to take college courses.

McGrady says he knows education is important, but he wants other things right now.

McGrady says he plans to take his coach's advice and take some college classes in the NBA's off-season. Right now he's got other things on his mind.

Millions of other things.