NBA Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady discussed his NBA career and his new Ones Basketball League venture with Michael Scotto on the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast. McGrady talked about being in trade talks for Bulls star Scottie Pippen, what would’ve happened if he stayed with Vince Carter and the Raptors, if Tim Duncan joined the Magic, playing with Yao Ming, his NBA Top 75 snub, and more.
For more interviews with players, coaches, and media members, be sure to like and subscribe to the HoopsHype podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. Listen to the podcast above or check out some snippets of the conversation in a transcribed version below.
:35 What’s your vision for Ones Basketball League?
TM: I have an AAU program and two sons that play in my program, but just being around the new generation and learning from them, these guys don’t watch NBA games or the collegiate games. They just don’t have the attention span to watch three hours of basketball. It’s short-form content for them. That’s why they love Tik Tok so much and all these short videos. This is the world they grew up in. My kids are always asking me questions of who’d win in a one-on-one game between me and KD (Kevin Durant)? I always get asked that question and those scenarios on social media as well.
You have tennis and UFC where it’s me versus you. Why not basketball? Why not find out who is the biggest and baddest one-on-one player in basketball? We identify LeBron James and Michael Jordan as GOATs of the game. When it comes to one-on-one basketball, we don’t know who that is. I want to find that individual. I want to create stars and a platform for the untapped talent out here that didn’t really get an opportunity. There are a lot of underground one-on-one leagues here in the States that we don’t hear about.
3:20 How did you go about finding these players and learning about their stories?
TM: I feel we can create something that’s on the level of the UFC and what they did for guys we didn’t know before hitting their platform. I want to become the UFC of basketball. With the talent that I’ve seen in some of these parks, I know we can create that. It’s a matter of identifying them and having guys with great stories. We want to do some storytelling. That’s a huge part of that, and make stars.
4:40 Women can compete in 2023. Any other noteworthy updates you’d like to share on OBL?
TM: The first season consists of us going to seven different cities. In each of those cities, we’re inviting 32 participants. The number one player out of that city will win $10,000. The Top 3 from each city will get an invite for the OBL championship that’ll take place in Las Vegas for the $250,000 ultimate prize and king of the court.
We’re going to start a women’s OBL. I watch women’s college basketball and the WNBA. These girls have game. There are a lot of women who have the skills to play one-on-one in our league. The ultimate goal for OBL is to be global where we can identify the best one-on-one players across the globe.
6:45 How can OBL separate itself from other leagues?
TM: We want to take OBL global and form a league that identifies the best one-on-one player in each country and create competition where we’re competing against other countries. What separates us is it’s one-on-one basketball that hasn’t been done on this type of platform. Storytelling. We’re going to do storytelling and create stars in the OBL.
8:20 What went through your mind when you didn’t make the NBA Top 75 list?
TM: I felt like I should have been on there. Did it move me that I wasn’t on there? I wasn’t ready to call the media and bash the NBA for not putting me on it. Yes, I felt like I should’ve been on there. At the end of the day, you said something when you introduced me that means a whole lot more to me than being on the Top 75 list, and that’s being in the Hall of Fame.
9:20 Did you wonder what could’ve happened if you went to the Bulls in a Scottie Pippen trade?
McGrady: Jerry Krause had an obsession with me. At 18 years old and at 20 years old, when I became a free agent, he had an obsession. Did I think about what would’ve happened if I became a Bull as a rookie? Yeah, I thought about it. Did I feel like they should’ve made that trade? Absolutely not. They were still winning championships. If you bring in a rookie and take away a Top 50 player for a rookie. I wasn’t ready at that time to step up in that role. I don’t want to be stupid about this. They made the right choice. MJ (Michael Jordan) made the right call of really putting an ax to that, keeping that same group together, and went on to win another championship.
I had the opportunity in 2000 when I was a free agent, but like Toronto and any other team that was recruiting me, they were recruiting against me going to play back home in Orlando. That was a tough challenge.
11:02 Were there other times you were almost traded that people don’t know about?
TM: No, other than a Philly trade when I was with Toronto for Larry Hughes.
11:20 Do you wonder what could’ve been if you stayed in Toronto with Vince Carter before going to Orlando and teaming with Grant Hill?
TM: Yeah. I’m sure whatever I would’ve accomplished staying with Vince Carter, I could’ve accomplished with Grant Hill. You’re talking about two dynamic players. We didn’t know Grant was going to be dealing with his ankle injuries my whole career in Orlando. You’re talking about T-Mac and Hill? That would’ve been scary, and teaming up with Vince would’ve been scary.
There are a lot of “what ifs” in my career. I hate really talking about it because I just know what would’ve happened if I would’ve teamed up with Hill in Orlando, especially with what I became as a basketball player.
12:30 How close was Tim Duncan to going to Orlando with you?
TM: It’s all hearsay. I don’t have enough information, only the reports put out there. I never had a discussion with Tim (Duncan) about that or Doc (Rivers) about that situation. The rumor that’s thrown out there is Timmy didn’t sign with the Magic because he wanted the spouse to travel on the plane to some of the away games. Doc wasn’t in agreement with that, and that was a dealbreaker for Timmy. That’s what I was told. I don’t have information from either of those guys, so I can’t confirm if that’s true or not. But if it was (laughs), Doc, come on, bro. What are you doing?
14:20 What are your overall thoughts on your NBA career?
TM: My honest opinion is I had a successful career. How anybody wants to picture that and label that, I don’t care. When I look back on where I came from and what I was able to accomplish in my 15-year career, I had a great successful career that I’m content with. I didn’t win a championship. I didn’t have a deep run in the playoffs. But that doesn’t take away from me individually preparing myself and doing everything I possibly could every single night to win for my team. We came up short. I can look myself in the mirror when I go home and ask, “Did you do everything you possibly could in these playoffs to advance, win, and help your team?” I did that. I’m content with that.
16:32 McGrady on his load in Orlando
TM: Honestly, a lot of people don’t understand. In Orlando during those four years, it really took a toll on me. I was averaging 40-something minutes a night. I’m averaging about 43 or 44 minutes. Those types of minutes in playoff games are like double because of the intensity, physicality, and toll it takes on you. Those four years tore me up.
17:20 Yao Ming and Jeff Van Gundy years with the Rockets
TM: It was great. I label Jeff (Van Gundy) as the best coach I played for because of the preparation. I’ve never been so prepared for games with the information that I received. Doc (Rivers) was great as well. Doc was a heck of a motivator. Doc’s pregame speeches would have you ready to run through the walls. Jeff, the information he gave to his players for each game and the accountability that was put on Me and Yao to inspire and do more for my team, I never had anyone put that type of responsibility on Me like that. It helped me grow as a player and leader.
Playing with Yao (Ming) was special. To see someone of his size and skill set every day and how hard he worked, “wow.” I marveled at his work ethic and his skillset.
18:58 When you talk about taking OBL global, I think if you go to China with OBL and the popularity of you and Yao there, it would be huge for the league
TM: You know we’ve got to go to China. Yao is the head of the Chinese Basketball Association. You know that’s where we’ve got to go with this.
19:45 Who’s the best one-on-one player in your opinion?
TM: Kobe (Bryant) is definitely at the top of that list. I could go with a handful of guys that are great one-on-one players. Baron Davis. Cuttino Mobley. Lou Williams. Jamal Crawford. These are one-on-one certified killers. Allen Iverson. That’s what these guys do. But definitely, Kobe is at the top of that list.
20:35 At your peaks, who’d win a one-on-one between you and Kobe?
TM: I think it would go back and forth. I think it won’t be a lopsided competition. He’d win some, and I’d win some.
22:20 McGrady on the label that he wasn’t a hard worker
TM: The NBA has the best players in the world right? The most talented guys in the world. If I’m able to make seven All-Star Games, seven All-NBA Teams, two 1st Teams, score 62 points in an NBA game, have one of the most efficient seasons in NBA history, how the heck do you do that without working hard? If I’m able to do that, and you’ve got some of these guys that worked their a**es off and didn’t accomplish that, what does that say about them? These guys are too great to label me as not a hard worker with the things I accomplished. Do you know Vince Carter, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce, who are all Hall of Famers, two of those guys are NBA Top 75 guys, never made an All-NBA 1st Team? They don’t work hard? I’ve made two of those teams. Come on, let’s cut the bulls*** out.
24:25 Is there any other label about you that you disagreed with like not winning a ring?
TM: I won, and I’m still winning. My dream, when I realized basketball was my sport, was to make it to the NBA. I don’t know about kids in middle school or whenever you start dreaming about the NBA if you dream about winning an NBA championship? I didn’t dream about that. I dreamed about making it to the NBA. Then, when I go there, it’s like, “I’m here, now let’s see how good I can become and take this?” I won. I did everything I possibly could to win a championship. I didn’t have a championship team. I did everything I could possibly do individually and for my team to be successful.