Now retired, Tracy McGrady has spent a lot of time in the past couple of months pondering “what ifs” during his career. He thought about how things would have been different if he was in Kobe’s shoes in LA playing alongside his friend Shaquille O”Neal, and during in an interview with the Toronto Star, he said he regrets leaving Vince Carter and the Raptors during the Summer of 2000.
“In hindsight, looking back, obviously I wish I had stayed in Toronto,” McGrady was saying in a recent telephone interview from his home in the Houston area. “There’s no doubt we could have contended for a championship. I think about that often. But if ‘if’ was a fifth, you know?”
I do know if you were like me in 1998-99 – eagerly waiting for the 11PM Sportscenter just so you could watch the latest Toronto Raptors recap – you were probably suffering from Vinsanity. It didn’t help that the NBA, ESPN, NBC, FOX , CNN and my website GotVinsanity.com were doing their best to make the “disease” go viral by filling up every second they could of a Raptors recap with clips of Vince shooting, dunking and blocking shots. The only time you ever got to see one of Vince’s teammates was if that teammate threw an oop to Vince, celebrated a dunk or 3pt game winner with Vince or missed a shot that Vince ended up cleaning up with a tip dunk. That was unfortunate because on the 1999 team was Vince’s 20 year old talented cousin who was quietly averaging 15 points 6 rebounds 3 assists 2 blocks and 1 steal a game while having his share of nasty facials and rejections that mainly only Canadians were able to witness.
Although the media wasn’t spending too much time focusing on Tracy McGrady, a lot of GMs were. One Rockets employee during that time told me he spent over a year trying to make a trade for T-Mac and almost pulled off a Kevin Willis for McGrady deal after T-Mac’s disappointing rookie season. No deal happened so McGrady landed in the very talented free agent pool during the hot summer of 2000 that included future teammates Grant Hill and Tim Duncan as well as Reggie Miller, Eddie Jones, Tim Thomas, Rashard Lewis, Mo Taylor, Cat Mobley and Joe Smith.
During that off season, many thought the Bulls were going to beat out hometown favorite Orlando for T-Mac’s services when they showed him the attention and love that he was missing in Toronto.
“It’s a great feeling. I have never had this many cameras in my face, ever,” McGrady said after landing in Chicago and being greeted by the Bulls mascot, dancers, coach, GM and every news reporter in the windy city. The Bulls staff took the big baseball fan to a Cubs-White Sox game at Wrigley Field so he could throw the ceremonial first pitch. McGrady then told reporters it was between Chicago and Orlando and said Hill and Duncan’s decisions will play a big factor in what he does.
“I could be a great teammate beside Grant Hill and Tim Duncan. But I have to make the best decision for myself. I have to be happy. I just have to get some guys around me who are going to come out and play every night.”
From that statement it sounded like McGrady was open to a big 3 but he then realized that being a part of the big 3 would give him less lights and shots than being beside Vince Carter.
“It definitely will be a major factor–I think I would be the third option [in Orlando],” he said. “I want to go somewhere where I would be the first option. I don’t want to be the third option, because I think I’m a guy to really make things happen.”
Grant Hill then signed with the Magic and Duncan ended up staying in San Antonio where he would remain their first option.
“It was probably a lot closer decision than people even think or even know,” Tim Duncan said referring to almost signing with Orlando.
Duncan’s decision to not join Hill in Orlando ended up becoming the reason why McGrady would and in the recent Toronto Star interview, he made it sound like the Bulls never had a chance.
“They were going to get a percentage off of (my endorsement income),” McGrady said of his advisors, among them Alvis Smith, a shoe-company talent procurer who was credited with “discovering” McGrady as a high schooler. “They were pushing me to go to Chicago and I didn’t want to go to Chicago.”
A lot of other players felt the same way about joining the Bulls. Eddie Jones was treated with the same reception as McGrady but he passed and in the end the Bulls ended up with Ron Mercer, Brad Miller and a horrible season. The Magic ended up a little above 500 and a first round exit in the playoffs while the McGrady-less Raptors season came down to the final seconds of a game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals against Iverson and the 76ers.
Back in 2011 on the the show “Off the Record,” Tmac joined former teammates Vince and Charles Oakley and talked about that series.
“There is not one per cent of doubt in my mind when those guys played Philadelphia in Game 7: had I been part of that team, there’s no question we would have advance and gone to the Finals that year. There’s no question in my mind,” said McGrady on Off The Record.
He then talked about returning to Toronto and the Raptor fans no longer being McGrady fans.
“When I came back, I was going to put it in their face, for booing me. I was going to try and silence them every chance that I got. But I still got a lot of love for Toronto, that’s where it all started, and my heart is still there.”
Evidently from his latest interview, his heart is still in Toronto.
[youtube id=”ZUmvqNXnPmY” width=”600″ height=”350″]