One of the biggest hypotheticals in Kentucky Basketball history is what the late 1990s would have been like had Tracy McGrady come to Lexington instead of making the jump straight to the NBA. The seven-time NBA All-Star and two-time NBA scoring champ has often talked about how much he wanted to go to Kentucky as a high school recruit before changing his plans, and last week, opened up to Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson about his trip to UK’s campus in 1997 on the “All the Smoke” podcast.
“I wanted to go to college, bro. I was going to Kentucky. I took my visit to Kentucky and Derek Anderson was my host. I pulled up to the Kentucky campus, bro, and I seen them boys got them fully-loaded Eddie Bauers outside.”
For our younger readers, “fully-loaded Eddie Bauers” refers to the Eddie Bauer line of Ford Explorers, Broncos, and Expeditions. They were hot stuff.
“I said, ‘Hold up, brother. This is where I’m going right here. I don’t want to go do no more visits.’ The player lounge where they stayed, everything was plush. I said, ‘Bro, I’m coming. I don’t want no more visits. This is where I’m going.'”
Of course, money talks. McGrady said Adidas’ six-year, $12 million contract was too good to refuse.
“Time goes by, I’m playing my season, my name is getting stronger. Sitting in my coach’s office, and he said, ‘I know you want to go to Kentucky. I know you want to go to college but after I tell you this, you’re going to forget all about it.’ I said, ‘Tell me what?’ ‘I’ve got a $12 million deal for you.’ I said, ‘From who?’ He said, ‘From Adidas.’ I said, ‘Ah, sh*t, let’s sign.’…My college dream went out the window. I signed for that bag. That was it.”
Of course, McGrady went on to a Hall of Fame career and signed a lifetime contract with Adidas in 2002, so I’d say it worked out for him. Kentucky did just fine during those years too, but oh, what could have been…
You can see the entire podcast below. McGrady starts talking about UK around the 12-minute mark.