Jerry West’s proficiency as a general manager, much like his playing career, has long been the stuff of folklore.
His wheeling and dealing gave us the Kobe and Shaq Lakers, and his advisory role with Golden State ensured the Warriors morphed into the world-conquering force they are today by holding onto Steph Curry and Klay Thompson in moments of weakness.
As those two teams prepare to square off at Staples Center on the night of Bryant’s jersey retirement, it has been revealed that if Jerry West had his way, Tracy McGrady would also have been a part of those unforgettable Kobe and Shaq teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
That’s the word from ex-Lakers coach Del Harris, who spoke to The New York Times’ Marc Stein this week.
After Bryant blew West away with his infamous battle with Lakers defensive standout Michael Cooper at Inglewood High in 1996, McGrady submitted an even more impressive workout the following year, according to Harris.
“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.”
Despite making a “brief but serious push” for McGrady, Lakers owner Jerry Bush quashed West’s pursuit of T-Mac because he didn’t want to surrender as All-Star such as Eddie Jones in exchange and take the team out of title contention.
But it wasn’t until West ultimately traded Jones, along with Elden Campbell, to the Hornets in March 1999 for a package including Glen Rice that the titles started coming.
Rice was then traded for a 35-year-old Horace Grant in September 2000 anyway, by which time McGrady was on the brink of making his first All-Star appearance and finished the season averaging 26.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game.
Fair to say things worked out just fine for LA regardless.
But could pairing three alphas in McGrady, Kobe and Shaq have worked?
We all know how many problems just having two of the alpha dogs in one locker room caused.
But still, there’s nothing wrong with occasionally indulging one’s wildest basketball fantasies.