NBA history is full of countless what-ifs. What if David Stern hadn't nixed Chris Paul's trade to the Lakers? What if Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant didn't break up? We can go on and on with these. One of the biggest ones which could have completely changed modern NBA history but isn't talked about nearly as much as the other two mentioned before is what if Tim Duncan, Grant Hill, and Tracy McGrady had teamed up in Orlando?
The Magic had fallen off the map after Shaquille O'Neal's departure in 1996, and they wanted to make a splash by bringing in 3 big guns in 2000, namely Duncan, Hill, and McGrady. While they managed to land Hill and McGrady, Duncan would ultimately back out in the end. It was rumored that the reason for it was coach Doc Rivers being unwilling to let wives or girlfriends of the players travel on team planes, but Rivers disputed that notion. He claimed that Duncan changed his mind about joining the Magic after having a conversation with Gregg Popovich.
Whatever the case, the Magic's big plan was ruined, and it was only going to get worse from then on out. Hill would be hampered by ankle issues throughout his time with the team and was a shell of the player he once was in Detroit. McGrady's ascension to stardom helped them get to the playoffs, but he alone could only do so much. What could have been a dynasty ended up being a disappointment in many ways, and McGrady was recently asked on the Alex Kennedy Podcast about what might have been if that Big 3 had formed in Orlando?
(starts at 11:12 mark):
"Well, I mean you are talking to someone that had the number 1 seed down 3-1 with no other all-star, Grant Hill wasn't a part of that playoff team. Having Grant healthy I think we would have competed for a championship in the Eastern Conference. But Tim Duncan, T-Mac, and Grant Hill? Come on bro, you already know that's championships."
It is hard to argue with McGrady there, and the series he talks about is when the Magic had the Pistons down 3-1 in the 2003 playoffs, but they ultimately ended up losing in 7. If the Magic had Duncan and if Hill never suffered those injuries, then it is hard to see them getting beat. The Lakers, led by Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, would have been their biggest threat, and now that is a series that everyone would have loved to see.
There's little to no doubt that the Magic would have prevented the Lakers' three-peat, and McGrady would have that championship ring that eluded him throughout his career. Alas, it never came to fruition, and it is perhaps one of two big what-ifs of McGrady's career, with the other being when he almost got traded to the Bulls on draft night for Scottie Pippen. He called the whole situation crazy, as he wondered why Chicago would want an 18-year-old high school kid and trade away a legend like Pippen for him. It shows how highly they thought of him, and it's a pity that someone so talented would end his career without a championship.