Tracy McGrady, a rookie at the time, famously joined the Toronto Raptors before his cousin Vince Carter, who joined a year later.
McGrady, who was selected as the ninth overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft straight out of high school, could have had a different start if he had not purposely sabotaged his chances with one specific team.
In a recent interview on “The Ryen Russillo Show,” McGrady discussed a peculiar interview he had with the Boston Celtics.
Russillo pointed out that the Celtics were hesitant to select McGrady in 1997 due to his lack of communication during the pre-draft interviews (15:23 mark).
Boston, who had the third and sixth picks, passed on McGrady twice.
McGrady then admitted, more than 26 years later, that he intentionally gave a poor interview with the Celtics to avoid playing for their coach at the time, Rick Pitino.
“I just remember, in college, I was being recruited by Kentucky. I just knew how hard and how tough Rick Pitino was. Rick Pitino had left and becomes Boston’s coach, and I was like, ‘ugh, I don’t know if I want to play for Rick Pitino,’” McGrady said with a chuckle.
Reflecting on his experience being recruited by Pitino when he was in college, McGrady did not want to play for him.
According to McGrady, his workout with the Celtics was the most challenging among all the teams he interviewed with, further solidifying his bias against playing for Pitino. However, McGrady clarified that he had no issues with Boston or the basketball franchise itself, except for the head coach.
“Wouldn’t mind playing for Boston. I just didn’t want to play for Rick Pitino. … It was just finding ways to, I guess, hurt myself and them not drafting me by not talking. I did fine with my interviews with everyone else. With Boston, not so much ”
Ultimately, the Celtics drafted Chauncey Billups and Ron Mercer instead of McGrady. Billups was later traded to the Raptors midway through his rookie season, while Mercer was traded to the Denver Nuggets a year later. It remains uncertain whether McGrady’s Hall of Fame career would have unfolded differently had he joined the Celtics in 1997.
Despite being regarded as one of the most talented players in NBA history, McGrady did not achieve significant postseason success throughout his 15-year career.
Although his teams made the playoffs nine times, they never advanced past the first round.
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