Given our culture of outrage, particularly in the social media sphere, D’Angelo Russell‘s tweet about Tracy McGrady possibly being the Greatest of All-Time is sure to ruffle more than a few feathers, especially considering the fact that a certain Laker teammate of his has undoubtedly had a more decorated career. But before the steam starts shooting out of your ears, your interpretation of his comment depends at least partially on your grammatical reading of that sentence.
The words “might” and “may” both connote a possibility, and according to most proscriptive usage guidelines, “might” suggests even a smaller possibility than “may.” But the manner in which we’re going to assume Russell used it here – for his sake – has to do with something even hardcore grammarians “may” have a difficult time explaining: a past “unreal” conditional.
It basically has to do with exploring the possibility of how certain events “might have” turned out differently had the circumstances been different. Let’s use Russell’s tweet and tack on a conditional phrase for his benefit. “Tracy McGrady might have been the GOAT, had he not suffered so many injury setbacks in his prime,” or “Tracy McGrady might have been the GOAT, if he would’ve won six championships.”
It’s not so outlandish if you look at it through a particular lens. At the peak of his career in Orlando, he was a two-time scoring champ, and there was a time when you could reasonably argue that he was the best player in the league. Yes, even better than Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal, etc., albeit for a fleeting moment. But, ultimately, that wasn’t his destiny.
Still, it’s an interesting thought experiment that could be applied to so many other extraordinarily gifted players whose career trajectories might have followed another path had the circumstances been different. The important thing to remember when using Twitter, however, is that you have 140 characters to work with. Try to make them count.
(via D’Angelo Russell)