Could you imagine a prime Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Tracy McGrady playing together on the same team?
Of course you can’t. The notion is ludicrous. The world would have exploded with all of those egos in one place.
And yet, before Kobe was Kobe, or T-Mac was T-Mac, the Los Angeles Lakers apparently tried making this tricycle a reality, per The New York Times‘ Marc Stein:
As Harris tells it, Tracy McGrady had an even more impressive audition for the Lakers one year later, prompting West to make a brief but serious push to try to acquire McGrady’s draft rights and team him with O’Neal and Bryant.
“I don’t think anybody can look at an 18-year-old and say he’s a Hall of Famer,” Harris said. “You couldn’t even do that with Jordan. And Kobe was a young 18 in his first season. He was still in a pretty normal teenage body, compared to when LeBron James came in and had a man’s body.
“McGrady came in the next year with a more mature body and worked out so well that Jerry kind of tooled around with the idea that maybe we should just go ahead and make a deal for whatever it took to get this guy — even though it’d be a step back in the short term — to have two guys like this on the same team.”
In all honesty, this is too much for my brain to process. We know how things unfurled between Kobe and Shaq. They won three titles togethers and constantly clashed. What would have happened with McGrady in the fold? Would he have left Los Angeles the same way he did Toronto? Would he have been able to blossom the way he did, before injuries, while competing with and against Kobe and Shaq?
The hell if we know. But that troika, if nothing else, would have made for some great stories.
And on an unrelated note: The Lakers need to retire Kobe’s No. 8 and No. 24 jerseys every other week or something. The entire affair makes for great what-if anecdotes, like this one.