Believe it or not, there was once a time in the NBA when the dunk contest was arguably the most anticipated event on the calendar. Most people remember it with joy, but that's not the case for Tracy McGrady.
The peak of the contest
Made famous by the duel between Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins in the late 80s, the competition peaked in the early 2000s thanks to the acrobatic innovation of then Toronto Raptors high-flyer Vince Carter.
Carter stopped the world in its tracks following his dunk creation in 2000, taking the contest to new heights and global outreach. His dunks seemed to defy physics itself, and years later, have remained etched in the mind of NBA fans past and present.
The “Human Highlight Reel,” as he was dubbed, was so mesmerizing when taking flight that no one can recall the competition he faced in that contest. One of those participants was Carter's cousin Tracy McGrady.
A box-office jumper in his own right, McGrady was no match for Carter on the evening as his performance slowly faded into the shadows.
McGrady knew he was in trouble.
To this day, McGrady can’t understand why he joined the contest when he knew what he was up against, and recently, he revealed how Carter used the leverage of their friendship to convince him to enter the competition.
“Vince was about to be in the dunk contest, and he had to convince me. I’m like, 'Cuz, why the hell am I getting in this dunk contest, and you’re in it?’ Boy, we know what’s going to happen.' I was turning him down like ‘Nah bruh, I’m with you every day I can see what you can do, I can’t do that!’ He was like ‘Nah you underestimating yourself; you can man you’re creative.’ I said I was creative but that sh*t, he was on was on another level. That first dunk set the tone, that 360 windmill. I didn’t know he was about to do that,” McGrady said.
The forgotten duo
It’s a shame their family ties couldn’t translate to the hardwood, as the duo shared a locker room between 1998 and 2000. Although they led the Raptors to their first playoff appearance in franchise history, their fit together was not built for long-term success.
Not by intention of course, but their inability to maximize their potential together spoke more to their familiarity with being the number one option for just about every team they played on.
As such, it was never a comfortable adjustment to make room for another dominant score-first teammate, despite both going down as two extremely talented players.
When discussing the most skilled partners to ever suit up together, Carter and McGrady are unfortunately often overlooked. It’s a shame because it had the makings of a truly special double-act if the stars aligned differently.