It’s easy to forget given the way their careers turned out, but there was a point in the early 2000’s when there was real debate over whether or not Orlando Magic guard Tracy McGrady or Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers was the more promising young player.
Bryant obviously went on to have the better career, but it was difficult to see just how special he was as an individual during his time playing alongside Shaquille O’Neal during the three-peat era.
Bryant was only able to give glimpses of his potential for scoring bursts rather than the singular offensive showcases he would regularly put on later in his career when he was the undisputed best player on the Lakers.
McGrady had no such constraints on the Magic roster on Nov. 27, 2002, and his team’s need for him to score the ball coupled with Bryant’s “anything you can do, I can do better” mentality resulted in a duel for the ages among the two young guards.
Bryant and McGrady tied for a game high with 38 points each, with the Magic coming away with a 112-102 win.
Bryant and McGrady were both forces to be reckoned with while guarding each other in that contest. They traded long jumpers as Bryant showcased what would become his signature pull-ups and fadeaways, while McGrady showed off the best of his proto-Kevin Durant style game.
Both players stuffed the box score as well, with Bryant also grabbing 10 boards to go with four assists and two blocks. McGrady added nine assists, six rebounds and two steals to his already impressive line.
In the end, both stars were the singular forces for their teams as well, as Bryant used up 38.6 percent of the Lakers’ possessions while on the floor, and McGrady used 40.9 percent of the Magic’s. Bryant got some help from O’Neal (28 points and nine rebounds on a usage rate of 35.2 percent).
But the rest of the Lakers couldn’t step up as McGrady’s supporting cast did just enough to help their star come out on top.
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