The Longest of the Sufferers: SI Writers Pick the 14 Players Most Deserving of a Title
June 9th, 2013
It took 16 seasons, but Tracy McGrady, the erstwhile high school dynamo whose occasionally superlative NBA career never seemed to match his potential, has finally reached the NBA Finals. (To be more accurate and/or elegiac: he has finally advanced past the second round of the NBA playoffs.) That he’s now in a support role on the Spurs does little to lessen the significance of potentially winning a ring: for someone who has had an above-average career like McGrady’s, it’s less about when he wins a title than it is about whether he wins a title. To commemorate what might be T-Mac’s last dance, 14 SI writers each named a player that has left it all on the field during his career, but has yet to come away with the one thing he wants to show for it.
TONY GONZALEZ (who was 2nd on the list)
In one of the last games of his college career, Tony Gonzalez outplayed a top-10 pick to lead California to a huge win. The year was 1997, and the top-10 pick was not a football player, but basketball player Tim Thomas of Villanova.
It was the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. Gonzalez scored 23 points on 13 shots as a 6-foot-5 power forward. Thomas scored 11 as a ridiculously talented 6-foot-10 small forward. If you watched either of their pro careers, this will not surprise you: one muscle was the difference in their matchup. The heart.
In sports, there is a difference between winners and guys who have won. Everybody on the roster of a title team can point to his ring finger and say he won. But some of them were lazy, immature or underachieving, carried to a title by their teammates.
Tony Gonzalez is a winner. He has been so good for so long that his career seems almost flawless – except for the one obvious one: He has never even played in the Super Bowl.
He has caught 1,242 passes for 14,268 yards and 103 touchdowns, numbers that would put him in the Hall of Fame conversation if he were a receiver and are outright ridiculous coming from a tight end. Just as impressively, he tallied those stats despite spending much of his career with quarterbacks who were average at best. Until he joined Matt Ryan in Atlanta in 2009, Gonzalez had never played with an elite signal-caller. Elvis Grbac and Trent Green were solid passers, but Gonzalez put up some of his best numbers under comically trying circumstances. In 2007, he caught 99 passes for 1,172 yards from the likes of Damon Huard and Brodie Coyle. The next year he caught 96 passes for 1,058 yards, mostly from Tyler Thigpen.
He has done it with talent, but also with work ethic, toughness, diet and discipline. His practice habits are legendary; every dropped ball seems to stun him. Since whipping Tim Thomas in that NCAA tournament 16 years ago, he has missed one NFL game. One. Nobody “deserves” a title. But Tony Gonzalez has done as much as anybody in NFL history to earn one. - Michael Rosenberg
http://extramustard.si.com/2013/06/07/t ... &eref=sihp
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