Tracy McGrady left the Toronto Raptors to sign with the Orlando Magic in 2000. But McGrady also had a ridiculous offer from the Miami Heat.
Around the 46-minute mark of a podcast appearance with Bill Simmons, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst told a remarkable story about how the Heat offered McGrady his contract nearly 20 years ago (via The Ringer):
“They bring him down on a private jet and they bring him to Alonzo Mourning‘s house on the same day. And they have drinks and they hang out and you know Zo was, like, one of the coolest guys in the league. He still is one of the coolest guys in the league. They’re chilling at Zo’s house and all of a sudden, this speedboat pulls up. And Zo says, ‘Hey Tracy, let’s go for a ride.’ They get into the speedboat. They hit go and the speedboat goes 80 miles an hour across Biscayne Bay, zapping by the arena, downtown Miami, beautiful. It pulls in to Pat Riley‘s house down the cove. And Riley’s standing there holding the max contract offer.”
Windhorst said those within the organization believe that this was the second-best pitch the Miami Heat ever gave, with the No. 1 slot going to the presentation that they gave to Gordon Hayward last year before he signed with the Boston Celtics.
McGrady went on to make seven consecutive All-Star appearances after that summer. When he signed with the Magic, he was likely convinced because he was joined by another marquee free agent in Grant Hill.
But he was presumably under the impression NBA star Tim Duncan was going to sign with Orlando as well, which nearly happened before a change of heart.
It’s possible that he was never seriously interested in playing for the Heat, who were going to acquire him via sign-and-trade due to salary cap reasons, as evidenced by this report from that offseason (via Sun-Sentinel):
“According to one Eastern Conference general manager close to the discussions, the Heat did have two separate sign-and-trade deals on the table to land McGrady, but both fell through for various reasons. The deciding factor, however, came down to McGrady wanting to sign with Orlando, his hometown team, all along. It’s widely suspected that McGrady was only using Miami as a bargaining chip, leaving Riley and the Heat empty-handed after a day’s worth of trade talks.”
The article suggested that Orlando was only willing to offer McGrady a max deal once they learned of Miami’s interest. If he had signed with the Heat, he would have been a fascinating player to flank alongside a very strong core.
McGrady in the backcourt could have been lethal next to Tim Hardaway. They also had Anthony Mason and Bruce Bowen on the wing. Miami then pivoted to Eddie Jones as another scoring option, although the team wasn’t dominant because Mourning was hurt for most of the season.