Exclusive: Tracy McGrady on move to China

Tracy McGrady, here in an event in 2009, is heading back to China to play basketball. Imaginechina/AP Images

It might have shocked some last week when seven-time NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady announced on Facebook that he was heading for China to sign a one-year contract for the Qingdao DoubleStar Eagles in the Chinese Basketball Association.

McGrady, 33, had played 52 games last season with the Atlanta Hawks to culminate 15 years in the NBA. His skills might have slowed some, but he still had a place in the league here.

But McGrady thought more about life off the court and the unwavering support from fans in China.

"No matter what happened here in the United States, the fans over there treated me with utmost respect," said McGrady, whose family will stay in the Houston area while he plays his season over there. "They've always treated me so well."

Playbook had a few minutes with McGrady in an exclusive phone interview.

With your statement on Facebook you seem at peace with things from your 15 years in the NBA.

"I'm content where I'm at in my career. A few doors closed, but God opened up some new ones. This is a great opportunity for me right now. I couldn't be happier."

How will basketball be over there compared to the United States?

It's going to be a great experience. I know the culture over there. I've been there the past 10 to 11 years, and I've grown familiar with the people. You have to understand how passionate those fans are about the game of basketball and how loyal the fans are. They treat me like a rock star. When the opportunity presented itself, it was a no-brainer. I'm not only going to be playing basketball, but I'm thinking the opportunities off the basketball court are unlimited."

Do you have any regrets about your NBA career?

Looking back on it, I have no regrets. That is the way the Man above had laid it out for me. I did the best I could to the best of my ability, and for a while, when I was on top of my game, I was one of the best to do it. Then the injuries started to take over. It took a toll on my body, and I never could get back to myself."

How did you get through those dark days when some said you quit on teams or you were hurt too much?

"No doubt it affected me at times. In the public eye, I wasn't going to let it be seen on my face. But at home, it definitely did affect me. Listening to all that chatter about injuries piling up was a struggle for me. I realized that things were changing in my career. I just had to have faith in God, and my supporting cast around me helped me through those dark times. No doubt there were dark days, but I knew there would be a light at the end of the tunnel."

So are you definitely giving up the NBA?

"My plan is to be pretty successful in China. I don't see it happening for me anymore in the NBA. Never say never. I'm not completely closing the door. But I'm going to China to have fun."

You're 33, so how many more years do you want to play over there?

"I guess as many years as I want. I'm in great shape right now. I'm healthy. I finally got myself back to a healthy shape. At this point, it's year to year. At the level I'm playing right now, I could go another four or five years."