Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan are arguably the greatest duos to ever grace the sport of basketball. The Bulls dynasty were simply unstoppable, 6 championships in the 90s, they were the highlight of the era. But the decade also saw the expansion of the NBA, 1995 brought in two new teams (both north of the border), the Toronto Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies. The Grizzlies we much less successful than the Toronto Raptors, the biggest reason? It can all be explained in two words, Vince Carter. Vince put the Raptors on the map, through playoff appearances, to winning the 2000 NBA Dunk Contest and putting on the greatest Dunk Contest performance ever.
But there was this one kid that was on the Raptors roster, he was the 9th pick in the 1997 NBA draft, Tracy McGrady. Believe it or not, the Raptors had both Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady on the team at the same time. Now it is 2018 and we all know what both Tracy and Vince have done throughout their careers, Tracy being a Hall of Famer, and Vince is well on his way there, going into his 21st season.
Cousins Vince and Tracy played together for only two seasons, but in such a short period of time, you felt a chemistry. These two young guys surrounded by a bunch of experienced veterans such as Charles Oakley, with that Vince and Tracy brought to Toronto a flashy style of play, a high flying, highlight reel style of basketball. In the 90s, basketball in Toronto was irrelevant, the Toronto Maple Leafs being the buzz of the town, and the Raptors seen as a joke. Tracy McGrady once said, “from a fan perspective, it was all hockey,” realizing the fact that during his tenure with the Raptors hockey dominated the Toronto fan base. But that began to change with the play of Carter and McGrady, making more kids fall in love with the game. Breeding a great generation of Canadian basketball, including the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Tristian Thompson, and many others.
The combination of Carter and McGrady showed glimpses of brilliance, their first season together saw a new Raptors franchise with a modest 23 wins in a 50-game lockout season. In their second and final season together, they led the Raptors to their first ever playoff appearance with a 45-win season. It was the belief that something big was on the horizon, something that these two were capable of bringing to Toronto. But the in the summer of 2000, Tracy felt that something better for him was waiting in Orlando. He left as a free agent and left the fans heartbroken. Leaving something that could have been great in Toronto only to try and build something great with Grant Hill in Orlando.
McGrady who won most improved player of the year in his first season with the Magic, while in that same season Vince took the Raptors to be one shot away from their first-ever conference finals. This all began to go downhill for the Raptors, the following season the Raptors lost in the first round of the playoffs, and after that failed to make the playoffs until 2007. Vince thus left the team through a trade to the Nets in 2004 (probably the most one-sided trade in the history of the NBA), leaving the Raptors in shambles.
Now coming to the “what if” question. The great Kobe Bryant once said for Slam Magazine that the duo of McGrady and Carter would’ve won championships, that is high praise coming from one of the best players from that generation. That is the thinking of most NBA fans (especially Raptor fans), the tandem of Carter and McGrady would’ve been a championship contender. “I won’t use the word regret, I think it would’ve been something special.
Andy Hayt/Getty Images
There is no doubt in my mind that when those guys went on to play Philadelphia (2001 NBA playoffs second round) in game 7, had I been a part of that team, there’s no question that we would’ve advanced and gone on to the finals that year” Tracy McGrady when being asked if there is any regret leaving Toronto in the summer of 2000. Now picture that, two of the best scorers of the 2000s era on the same team, tough for any defense to stop, Right? Each guy dropping 25+ points with ease, how can that team not win a championship, surround them by the right players (they had a great supporting cast from 1999 to 2001) and they could’ve led a team to a championship. They could’ve been a weaker version of Pippen and Jordan but would still be considered one of the best duos ever. Sure, this is only a what if, but picturing them together in their prime brings a smile to most basketball fans faces… What if?