Yes, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce formed the first ‘Big 3’. And LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh quickly followed in their footsteps.
But there was almost another ‘Big 3’ that was formed well before the Celtics and Heat.
That was with the Los Angeles Lakers, who almost traded for Tracy McGrady in effort to pair him with both Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
The news dropped just hours before the Lakers retired both of Kobe Bryant’s jersey numbers, in a story released by former ESPN scribe Marc Stein.
As the Lakers’ longtime roster architect, West was famously smitten by the predraft workout performance that Bryant, then 17, unleashed against the longtime Lakers defensive standout Michael Cooper, who was an assistant coach by that point. As Harris tells it, Tracy McGrady had an even more impressive audition for the Lakers one year later, prompting West to make a brief but serious push to try to acquire McGrady’s draft rights and team him with O’Neal and Bryant.
“I don’t think anybody can look at an 18-year-old and say he’s a Hall of Famer,” Harris said. “You couldn’t even do that with Jordan. And Kobe was a young 18 in his first season. He was still in a pretty normal teenage body, compared to when LeBron James came in and had a man’s body.
“McGrady came in the next year with a more mature body and worked out so well that Jerry kind of tooled around with the idea that maybe we should just go ahead and make a deal for whatever it took to get this guy — even though it’d be a step back in the short term — to have two guys like this on the same team.”
Considering Jerry West looked into trading for T-Mac when he was fresh out of high school, it’s hard to know how he would have developed in the shadow’s of both Bryant and O’Neal.
Still, you can’t help but wonder how that would have made one of the NBA’s most successful dynasties even stronger.