Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal arguably were the most dominant duo in NBA history, but The Diesel and Black Mamba apparently almost had a third Hall of Famer on their famed Los Angeles Lakers squad.
Tracy McGrady, who came out of high school the year after the Lakers acquired Bryant from the Charlotte Hornets, drew the attention of then general manager Jerry West.
Then head coach Del Harris told Marc Stein of The New York Times that West wanted to pair McGrady with Bryant and the recently signed O’Neal, even if it meant the Purple and Gold wouldn’t compete for a title right away.
“I don?t think anybody can look at an 18-year-old and say he?s a Hall of Famer,” Harris told Stein. “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.”
Jerry Buss, however, had a different idea, as the Lakers owner shot down the idea, not wanting to trade All-Star Eddie Jones to draft another 18-year-old, and opting instead to trade Jones and Elden Campbell for Glen Rice, B.J. Armstrong and J.R. Reid.
The Lakers’ title drought would last 11 years, ending when Bryant, O’Neal and Phil Jackson won the first of their three titles together in 2000.
The two stars famously had a falling out that ended with the Lakers trading O’Neal to the Miami Heat in 2004.
One only can wonder how things would have panned out, and how many titles LA would have won, if West had been able to add McGrady to the Bryant-O’Neal Lakers that dominated the NBA in the early 2000s.