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Before his dunk on Shawn Bradley, before 13 in 35, before 62, and before 2003, Tracy McGrady wowed everyone with his self alley-oop dunk in the 2002 NBA All-Star Game in Philadelphia. It was an iconic play that will forever be remembered every All-Star weekend as one of the defining moments of the McGrady lore.
The irony is that T-Mac showcased the dunk in a game against the Boston Celtics in the 2000-01 season — his first with the Orlando Magic after leaving the Toronto Raptors in the summer of 2000. It drew the “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd. His teammates were awed. But it occurred in front of a half-empty Fleet Center on local television in a preseason game. In other words, it didn’t really happen.
It was equivalent to McGrady conducting a soft opening before unveiling a store to the public for real. He was working out all the kinks. What was the path of least resistance to attempt the dunk? Where on the backboard did he have to throw the ball to? Where on the court did he have to throw the ball from? Once T-Mac ironed the creases of the dunk just so, he was ready to debut it on a bigger platform.
Fast-forward to 2002. Coming off a breakout year in 2000-01, where he was voted in as a starter as a first-time All-Star and was named the league’s Most Improved Player, McGrady was selected to his second-consecutive All-Star team but this time as a reserve. Michael Jordan coming out of retirement had something to do with that.
But unlike the 2001 All-Star Game, where he had a quiet performance (two points in 21 minutes), T-Mac made his presence felt the moment he stepped on the floor at the All-Star Game in 2002.