So this was interesting. In a recent ESPN interview with Chris Palmer, Kobe Bryant says he’s indeed squared off against Tracy McGrady in a game of one-on-one:
I played T-Mac. I cooked him. Roasted him. Wasn’t even close. Ask him, he’ll tell you. When I was about 20, we were in Germany doing some promotional stuff for that other sneaker company and we played basketball every day. We were in the gym all the time. We played three games of one-on-one to 11. I won all three games. One game I won 11-2. After the third game he said he had back spasms and couldn’t play anymore.
When told of the account, McGrady denied it, via Twitter, responding, “LOL Hell no!”
A few things. I have no doubt that even if such a matchup went down during the players’ respective primes, Kobe would have won. Even though McGrady was arguably the more talented of the two at that point, that’s just how Kobe is/was…he wanted to kill you.
But if this particular account from Bryant is true, it’s not really saying much and not worth much mention for bragging rights. If Kobe was 20 at the time of the showdown, that would have meant McGrady was just 19 and still in his developmental stage. If “about 20” means 21, that still would have meant Toronto T-Mac.
Recall that McGrady didn’t explode into the all-world assault weapon which he’s remembered as until he reached Orlando in 2000 where he really honed his skills. In fact, Mike Miller told me, as part of this interview, that McGrady’s infamous crossover-pullup-jumper sequence was developed that very summer before…against Miller himself, in practice. (particular quote not in cited video.)
Like I said, if the two played in 2003, I still think Kobe would have won. But beating a 19 year old McGrady, as Kobe tells it, isn’t really proof of anything.