Tracy McGrady Says He Was Nearly Traded for Scottie Pippen During 1997 NBA Draft

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistJune 23, 2016

Former Toronto Raptor Tracy McGrady fields questions at a news conference in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, Aug. 3, 2000, after the Orlando Magic signed him to a contract.  (AP Photo/Peter Cosgrove)
PETER COSGROVE/Associated Press

Tracy McGrady began his NBA career in 1997 with the Toronto Raptors, but he was apparently close to joining the Chicago Bulls.

McGrady said Thursday on The Jump that Bulls general manager Jerry Krause brought him to Chicago for a meeting that could have been a prelude to a trade involving Scottie Pippen (via Kenny Ducey of Sports Illustrated):

Kenny Ducey @KennyDucey

Tracy McGrady: The Bulls tried to trade Scottie Pippen for me on draft night, but Michael Jordan vetoed the deal https://t.co/eWYgMok0aZ

The Raptors wound up drafting McGrady ninth overall, and he played three seasons with the team before moving to the Orlando Magic. He also spent time with the Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks and San Antonio Spurs before retiring in 2013.

Rumblings of a potential deal involving McGrady and Pippen during the 1997 draft have persisted for years.

The New York Times reported in June 1997 that then-Boston Celtics head coach Rick Pitino was "mulling a deal in which he would send his team's third and sixth picks in tonight's draft to Chicago for Pippen and center Luc Longley."

As part of that proposed trade, the Times said, the Bulls would start to rebuild their roster with the potential to draft players like McGrady and Utah's Keith Van Horn.

Pippen was entering the final year of his contract, though the Bulls were coming off a second straight championship. Rather than trade Pippen, Chicago preserved the nucleus of him and Michael Jordan for one more run in 1997-98, capped by Jordan's last-second shot over Utah's Bryon Russell in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

That shot by Jordan would officially end the Bulls dynasty. He retired from the NBA in January 1999 before making a two-season comeback with Washington in 2001. Pippen, who the Bulls traded to Houston before the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, played six more seasons in the NBA.

McGrady did have a successful NBA career with seven All-Star appearances and two scoring titles, though he never won a championship.

This is one of those great "what if" scenarios in sports. The Bulls weren't always the most functional franchise, but their run in the 1990s with Jordan, Pippen and head coach Phil Jackson was one of the last great sports dynasties in North America.

Trading Pippen one year before completing their second three-peat could have altered the course of NBA history. Karl Malone and John Stockton may have won that elusive title in 1998. Regardless, McGrady's comments open the door for endless speculation about what might have been.