Seven-time NBA All-Star, two-time league scoring champ, minor-league baseball pitcher, Chinese hoops icon, wearer of baggy pants—Tracy McGrady has done it all. But amid that sea of accomplishments, there’s still one box T-Mac has never checked.
McGrady suited up for seven NBA franchises in his career, making memorable stops in Toronto, Orlando, Houston, New York, Detroit, Atlanta and San Antonio. But never Philadelphia.
McGrady’s NBA journey never took him to the City of Brotherly Love, though according to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, he was supposed to be a Sixer. In fact, Stephen A. broke the news of T-Mac’s reported trade to Philadelphia in 1999 (he was covering hoops for the Philadelphia Inquirer at the time), though the deal never came to fruition. Had it transpired, the swap would have sent McGrady, then of the Toronto Raptors, and a first-round pick to Philly in exchange for guard Larry Hughes. The trade ultimately fell apart with the deal’s demise largely attributed to the Raptors getting cold feet.
The former ninth overall pick wasn’t long for Toronto—he defected to the Magic as a free agent in 2000. And while T-Mac’s proposed trade to the Sixers was not to be, it’s fun to imagine an alternate NBA timeline with McGrady and Hall of Famer Allen Iverson sharing a backcourt in the cheesesteak capital. Had Toronto pulled the trigger in ‘99, would the balance of power have shifted to Philadelphia? Who knows the domino effect the McGrady/Iverson pairing would have had. It’s possible The Process—an agonizing dry spell that consumed most of the last decade—could have been avoided altogether had McGrady and Iverson paved the way for a Sixers dynasty in the 2000s.
We’ll never know the answer (no pun intended), though it’s probably safe to assume Philly would have been an Eastern Conference powerhouse and perhaps even a threat to the Lakers, who the 76ers faced in the 2001 NBA Finals. That one didn’t go the Sixers’ way (Los Angeles needed just five games to assert their dominance), though it produced arguably the most iconic moment of Iverson’s storied career … unless we’re talking about practice.
I have no recollection of McGrady’s almost, not quite trade to the 76ers. In fairness, I would have been nine at the time and was probably more concerned with multiplication tables and sneaking candy than any rumored happenings between Toronto and Philly. But if Stephen A. says it happened, I’m inclined to take him at his word.