When Tracy McGrady tried to get slick about one of Tim Duncan's biggest individual accomplishments, Shaquille O'Neal was there to set him straight. The San Antonio Spurs greatly benefitted from one of the best individual seasons in NBA history in 2003, but not everyone agrees Duncan's regular-season MVP was warranted.
On The Big Podcast with Shaq, McGrady took exception to the Big Fundamental taking home the prestigious award instead of him after the huge season he had in Orlando.
"When you look at a guy that's putting up crazy numbers," said McGrady, clearly setting up for something. "[If he] doesn't really have the talent like some of these elite teams have and he gets his team into the playoffs -- that's an MVP to me."
As expected, Tracy's definition of an MVP happened to coincide with one such season of his own, which, I must admit, was extremely impressive.
"I had a year like that. My 2003 year, I'm not playing with no other All-Stars," he continued. "I think we got to the sixth seed and I'm averaging 32 points. You take me off of that team, we're a lottery team."
As a note, Duncan was the only All-Star on the Spurs from 2001-2004.
McGrady is halfway right here. His 42-40 Magic actually got into the playoffs as the eighth seed that year before falling to the Detroit Pistons in seven games. For those who were following the NBA at this time, yes, this was the series in which Tracy infamously said it "felt wonderful finally being in a position to advance to the second round" after taking a 3-1 series lead.
Tracy was correct about his average though. He put up an insane stat line of 32.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 1.7 steals per game that season. Meanwhile, Duncan averaged 23.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 2.9 blocks.
Shaquille O'Neal gives Tracy McGrady a truth bomb
When McGrady revealed to O'Neal who actually won MVP that season, Shaq couldn't bring himself to take his side.
"You take him off the Spurs, they still make the playoffs," said McGrady.
"No, no they don't," replied Shaq. "A lot of those guys got their success off of him. He got doubled. He'd kick it out to Ginobili. No."
In looking at the regular seasons for both the Spurs and Magic that year, McGrady's argument falls flat. While Tracy's unreal 32 points per game accounted for an impressive 32.6% of the team's offense, he had five teammates averaging double figures and a sixth averaging 9.4 points per game.
Meanwhile, only Tony Parker, Stephen Jackson, and Malik Rose averaged double-figure scoring numbers for San Antonio. The fact of the matter is Parker and Ginobili weren't quite PARKER AND GINOBILI yet.
On top of that, Duncan led San Antonio in the following main categories in 2003:
McGrady led Orlando in points, steals, and assists.
With an award like Most Valuable Player, it's easy to define it a certain way to fit who you think is most deserving. Make no mistake, Tracy put up some monster numbers all season long and snuck his group into the postseason. He deserves props for that.
But there's a reason he finished fourth in the league in MVP voting behind Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and Kobe Bryant: winning matters.
"They have a well-oiled machine," said McGrady in a last effort to make his point. Shaq had the perfect response:
"Yeah, Tim Duncan."