by Russ Bengtson

August is no time to be in Orlando. Even if you’re spending all day at one of the thousand theme parks out there, it’s just too hot and muggy and disgusting to enjoy yourself. Still, when adidas offers you one-on-one time with Tracy McGrady—and the chance to run with him a little to boot—you don’t ask questions. You just go.

It was 2002, and the just-turned-23 McGrady was coming off his second season with the Magic, where he averaged 25.6 points. 7.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists. (The following year he’d average an even-more ludicrous 32.1, 6.5 and 5.5.) But he still hadn’t made it out of the first round of the playoffs, and it was starting to weigh on him.

Not that you could tell. Ryan and I flew out, officially to deal with the cover shoot and conduct the following interview, but mostly to get out there on the court with him. We didn’t play long, he switched teams in the middle, and I don’t think he ever got above quarter-speed, but you would have needed a belt sander to wipe the smile off my face afterwards (or during, as you can possibly tell from the photos). There’s video of the game too, but you’re not gonna see that.

Anyway, T-Mac’s always been a great interview, and this time was no different. This is long as hell, so you may want to print it out. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

SLAM: What’s it been like getting to play close to home–been what you expected?
TMAC: Yeah, everything’s been running smoothly. I think the only bad part about it is just not being able to play with Grant [Hill]. I’ve been fortunate enough to carry the load and get us to the playoffs, but we’ve failed to come out of the first round. But it’s been a great experience these past two years. It’s been fun: great coaching staff, great teammates, everything’s just great. The city is great, fan support is great, and just being home. Everything’s going good, but hopefully I can have a healthy Grant Hill and not only get to the playoffs, but try to get out of the fucking first round. I’m tired of going out. It’s like my third consecutive season goin’ out in the first round, and it’s not a great feeling.

Yes, he used the word “great” seven times in one answer. Not sure whether that’s a record, but it’s gotta be close. Also, you gotta like when the guy’s dropping f-bombs in the first answer.

SLAM: Have you got a feel for playing with Grant in the short time he’s been healthy since you’ve been here?
TMAC: You know, the times that we did play together, we showed signs of being a great duo. But you really can’t tell until we go a full season how well we can really play together. So, hopefully, we can start off and gel right away, and our team rolls out quick, and just jump out to a quick start.
SLAM: There’s a lot of doubt among fans, media, whoever that Grant can really come back anywhere close to 100 percent. Is it hard not for you to feel the same thing?
TMAC: I see how hard he works, so…I know it’s frustrating for the fans, ’cause they really want to see how good this team will be with me and with Grant out on the court at the same time, playing a complete season. I know it’s frustrating for him as well, you know, being out for two years, and it’s not gonna be an easy transition coming back after missing two years. It’s gonna take some time for him to get that rust off. But the way he’s working, he’s gonna really show signs of the old Grant Hill. I mean, he’s not gonna be full strength right away, but I think toward the end of the season, he’ll be healthy.

Those fans are still waiting. Tragedy.

SLAM: Looking back at last year’s playoffs, even though you guys went out in the first round, did watching the rest of the playoffs give you the impression that this team isn’t that far away, especially in the East?
TMAC: It’s crazy, man. I look at New Jersey’s record, they was in the Finals, and I think they had like eight more wins than us [Exactly eight.—Ed.]. I mean, right there, we gotta—I gotta, or my team gotta find some type of way to get over that hump, to find a way to get out of the first round. Not just only to get there. We gotta find some way to get out of the first round. I don’t know what it’s gonna take, but we gotta do it, and it’s gotta be this upcoming season.

He felt pretty strongly about this whole first-round thing back in ’02. Imagine how he feels now?

SLAM: What did you find out about yourselves in that Charlotte series?
TMAC: To be honest with you, Charlotte was a better team than us, but I felt we should’ve won that series. We had it, you know, every game. We just…we didn’t find that…that edge. We didn’t get the edge, you know, in the fourth quarter. It’s like, we was winning throughout every game until the fourth quarter, and then it was like, they made a run. And once they made a run to take the lead, it was all over. It was like we just laid our guard down when it really mattered, and that’s what hurt us. I think, my team, we played hard and played smart for two or three quarters, but when it comes time to be smart, in time and possession, we’re not smart at all. We sort of lose our focus of what needs to be done on both ends of the court.

Even reading this five years later, it’s hard to believe that Tracy actually said that the Hornets were the better team. Even though he instantly contradicted it by saying the Magic should have won the series—most likely in a sweep.

SLAM: The verbal beef between you and Baron in that series—did you learn from that, or was that just the spirit of the moments, being in a heated series?
TMAC: That was just the spirit of the moment, just having fun. You know, I hate a boring playoff series, so you gotta start somethin’ up, some kind of controversy between the two teams, or the players or coaches or somethin’. I just hate a boring playoffs series. That’s just like playing the regular season or whatever. The playoffs is a different ballgame. You gotta stir something up, and that’s when the real ballers come out. And if you can talk the trash and go out and play your game, everybody respects your game. But if you go out there and talk trash and your game is weak and you don’t produce, you gonna get clowned.

Whenever two players jaw at each other, whether it’s in a pre-season game or Game Seven of the Finals, it’s always “the spirit of the moment” and “having fun.” Remember when Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning staged that impromptu Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Big Men fight in the middle of a Knicks/Heat series and Jeff Van Gundy wound up hanging off Zo’s leg like a rabid terrier? Spirit of the moment. They were just having fun.

SLAM: Given what you’ve got on this team right now, do you think a healthy Grant is enough to get over the hump?
TMAC: I think, honestly, I think that’ll be enough—especially in the East. It might be a different story in the West, ’cause they’re so big out in the West. But I think in the East, that’d be enough to get us over the hump, to get out of the first round, or who knows, compete for the championship. But the key is, everybody staying healthy, and Grant being healthy.

Didn’t really need to ask that question.

SLAM: Tim Duncan next year?
TMAC: [smiles] Aaaah…that’d be great, but I doubt if it happens. I’ll believe it when I see it. I’ll believe it when I see it.
SLAM: Is it hard not to dwell on the possibilities, like “If only we had a guy like that?”
TMAC: I think about it, but I’m not gonna lose any sleep over it. You know, it’d be nice to have a guy like Tim Duncan, but, you know, I just want to get the chance to play with Grant and see how things will work out. So I don’t really want to think about playing with Tim Duncan right now. I want to be able to play with Grant, because Grant is my teammate now. I want to see what type of season we’ll have, and how far we can go with a healthy team and with a healthy Grant Hill. Who knows? Maybe we would be in the championship next year? Maybe we won’t gel together? So, I mean, that’s a lot of questions up in the air to be answered, so that’s why I want to see what’s gonna happen, if he’s healthy this year.

Tracy was no fool.

SLAM: Do you feel like your game expanded faster than it would have if you hadn’t had to take on so much of the load?
TMAC: Man, I’m telling you, I had this game in Toronto, man. I was just in a different system, and it wasn’t really my time to really shine. I wasn’t the guy, the go-to guy. I was probably a third or fourth option there. But I’ve always had this game, it’s just all about opportunities. I got the opportunity to do what I wanted to do here, just go out and lead my team. Just have the green light, don’t have to look over my shoulder when I make mistakes, just play freely.
SLAM: The flak KG caught at the end of last season, saying he did everything for his team and being frustrated by not having enough help—can you relate to that given your situation here?
TMAC: Nah, I’m not the type of guy that’s gonna put it on anybody else. I feel like I’m a franchise player, I feel like it’s up to me to take this team how far we gonna go, and it’s up to me to make my players around me better. So everybody’s really gonna feed off how I react to the game or what my impact is gonna be on a series. So I’m not the guy that’s gonna put it on somebody. If anything, I’m gonna put it all on myself. And frustration’s not gonna set in because I truly believe that I’ma get out of the first round. If not this year—I’ma get out of the first round, I truly believe that. KG got it hard, ’cause he’s out on the West, and the West is strong, man. I know it’s frustrating for him, being in that situation, and being the franchise player and not getting out of the first round, you feel you don’t have those players around you to help get you out of the first round. Yeah, that’s frustrating, definitely. But I’m not the type of guy that’s gonna blame anybody else. You just gotta find some way to get over that hump, make your teammates better. You know, just pulling ’em to the side, talking to ’em, tell ’em, If you’re not comfortable with doing this, or you haven’t done this, you gotta do this.

Whether he believed or not, that was definitely the right answer.

SLAM: Have you been doing that a lot, being more of a vocal leader?
TMAC: Yeah, I’ve been trying to be more of a leader out on the basketball court. My first year, I was kinda not the guy that would pull somebody to the side and talk to them. I’m not the type of guy that speaks out and gives advice. But you know, my second year, I spoke up a lot more. It was just a tough job, being 21 years old and everybody else is older than you and you trying to speak up and lead. I kinda got the feeling, Are they listening to me? How are they taking this? My second year, I think I did a better job of that.
SLAM: Is that natural for you now, talking to guys, vocal leadership?
TMAC: It’s becoming natural [laughs]. It’s becoming that way. I’m learning each year as it goes by. You know, it just comes up, and I just pull somebody to the side, talk to ’em. Or as a team, when we’re in meetings, I just speak up and say something. So, yeah, it’s becoming natural. But I had to sit back and learn from other guys, ’cause I’m the type of guy that just sat there and just listened to the conversation.
SLAM: Who on this team have you learned from?
TMAC: I just listen to guys like Monty Williams, Darrell [Armstrong] is a great guy, and Pat Ewing, you know. Definitely Pat Ewing. Pat Ewing is a guy, I mean, he’s been around for a long time. He’s a veteran, he understands the game, and he’s a well-spoken guy.
SLAM: What was it like going back to ABCD Camp this year, getting a chance to talk to the kids? Seemed like a coming-out party a little bit?
TMAC: It was a great feeling. Just being away from there for, what, five, six years? I was there back in ’96. Just to go back, man, it just brought back memories. You know, to get a chance to see the high school talent now, ’cause I really don’t get a chance to see very many high school games, and to see where the talent level is today in high school is just great. To sit down and just keep it real with the kids, talk to them, see how they perceive me, it was great.
SLAM: We heard they gave you a rough time about that Ray Allen dunk (in the 2001 playoffs).
TMAC: Nah [everybody laughs]. Just one kid. I don’t even know his name. He gave me a rough time. I got him back, though. I was like, Who are you? What’s your name, man?
SLAM: The hype level on the top high school kids, especially a kid like LeBron James, has gotten so much louder since you came out. Are you surprised how much attention kids get now?
TMAC: I’m not surprised at all, just from myself, doing what I do in the League, Kobe and Garnett…it’s like, we done started something, man. So now, if a guy’s like the top player in high school, yeah, he’s gonna get all this exposure. They gonna blow him up. It wasn’t the case back when I was in high school. I mean, I received a lot of attention, but not as much as LeBron is receiving now. But I didn’t receive it because…you know, Kobe was a great player, but he wasn’t like the Kobe Bryant of today. Now that I’m the way I am, and with Kobe and Garnett, it’s like, “OK, well, this is a high school kid, and he’s the best player in high school today, you know, he might be like TMac, he might be like Kobe. So, let’s blow him up.” It’s crazy, to be honest with you. It’s crazy how much attention they’re receiving…getting shoes made for ’em, team colors, wristbands with their names. But it’s all good.

Ryan probably asked that question. And as it turned out, hey, people might have been crazy, but they were also correct.

Couple of adidas questions went here.

SLAM: Do you still trip when you see people in your shoes or your jersey?
TMAC: I don’t really trip out. When I see somebody with my stuff on, I just show ’em love. I just show ’em love. And it’s crazy sometimes, when people have my jersey or my shoes on, and I can like walk right by ’em, not even knowing it’s me [laughs]. I can be standing right beside and be like, Damn, those are some nice shoes you got on. And they’ll like look up and just freak out and see that it’s me. I enjoy that, man.
SLAM: So you can still get out the house without getting totally mobbed?
TMAC: Uhhh…I wouldn’t say that. Sometimes I be gettin’ mobbed, signing autographs, takin’ pictures. But I like to go out. I ain’t hidin’ from nobody. I go out, and I still do what I did when I wasn’t TMac. I still keep it real.
SLAM: To flip it for a minute—where did that dunk come from, the one in the All-Star Game [where you threw it off the glass to yourself]?
TMAC: You know what? I mean, I did it in preseason and I did it in high school. I always wanted to do it, like, in the All-Star Game, or a nationally televised game. I always wanted to do it at a time like that. And I just saw that it was wide-open for me to do it, and I just put it down, man. It had never been done in an All-Star Game before. I don’t even think it’d been done in a game before.
SLAM: Did you tell anyone it was coming?
TMAC: No. No, I ain’t tell nobody. I didn’t tell anybody. I just did it.
SLAM: So was it really spur of the moment, on that actual possession?
TMAC: Yeah, just that possession. I saw it, that I was gonna do it. It’s just like, timing. I mean—it’s like I’m throwing an alley, so you know, your reaction is, you’re gonna turn around and see where the hell I’m throwing the ball. You’re not even gonna pay attention to the person that threw the ball, so that’s why I get ’em every time. Just throw it up like that, like I was throwing an alley, everybody turned around, and I just came out of nowhere.
SLAM: Were you worried that one of your teammates might try to go get it?
TMAC: Nah, ’cause they probably thought I was throwing it to the next person.
SLAM: Speaking of that weekend—what was it like getting to play with MJ?
TMAC: Oh, it was great, man. To ride on the bus with him to practice, talking with him, being in the locker room, just laughin’ and jokin’. It was just a great experience. If he doesn’t play [this year], I can say I got a chance to be on an All-Star team with MJ, you know, laugh and joke with him, it was a great experience.
SLAM: Of course, if he doesn’t play, you might get your starting spot back.
TMAC: Yeah! [everybody laughs]. It’s all good, ’cause I knew my chance was real slim of winning it over him. I knew I wasn’t going to get voted in by the fans. It’s cool, though.
SLAM: Feel like last year’s All-Star Weekend, with you putting down that dunk, might go down as one of the defining moments of your career?
TMAC: That dunk? Yeah…but it’s crazy man, ’cause it’s like, when I did the dunk, everybody just thought it was a regular dunk. But after they showed it on the JumboTron, everybody went crazy up in that joint. Yeah, I definitely think it’s gonna be one of those All-Star moments that they talk about forever, because it’s just something that was never, ever done in the All-Star Game before.

Of course he went and did the exact same thing the following year.

SLAM: The talk about best all-around player, seems like there’s a handful of guys who always get mentioned. Where do you put yourself in that group?
TMAC: I put myself at the top of the best all-around players. I can’t sit up here and tell you that somebody’s better than me. I just can’t do it. I mean, you got a lot of other great players…the only I put that’s like neck and neck with me is Kobe, ’cause we the only two guys that averaged over 25, five rebounds, five assists. So that just shows you right there, who’s the two best. That’s all-around game right there. So Kobe’s up there with me.
SLAM: There’s a lot of similarities with you, Kobe and even Kevin, being able to handle anything on the court. Think that’s because of where you guys came from, not being stuck in a college system and just letting your game grow on its own?
TMAC: I really don’t know. I just think that’s a blessing from God, man. The talent that we have…KG, just being a seven-footer and the things he can do on the basketball court is just ridiculous. I don’t know, I just think we was three hungry guys and really had a lot to show coming out as far as coming out of high school. We had a lot more to prove than guys coming out of college, because we made the jump. We skipped that.

I’m pretty sure I asked that question, and I still stand by my premise to some extent. Obviously the guys who don’t go to college are great players to begin with, but they also don’t have to unlearn a college system, and are more likely to excel at everything. I don’t know, maybe I’m just nuts.

SLAM: How much did it bother you early on, stuck in Toronto knowing you’ve got the game, but not getting the chance to put it out there?
TMAC: The only year it really frustrated me was my first year, when Darrell Walker was my head coach. I was real frustrated that year, ’cause I mean, we was the sorriest damn team in the League. I mean, you drafted me and you don’t give me no playing time. Why not? We’re not going to the playoffs, so put me in there, let me get my feet wet, let me get used to this system, and then I’ll come back my second year and be a better ballplayer. That wasn’t the case, but when he resigned, then Butch Carter took over, and then things started to roll. My second year, that’s when Vince came in, it was his rookie year, and he showed signs of becoming a superstar in this League. So right then I had to take a back seat to Vince. I was still the young guy, and he came in, he was doing his thing, and I showed signs of being able to play in this League. Everything started opening up for me my third year. That’s when I put it down, averaging like 15 points. That was the year—it was a contract year [smiles]—and playing in the playoffs against the Knicks, I had to put it down in the playoffs, and that’s what I really did.
SLAM: You dunked on Patrick a few times in that series.
TMAC: He still to this day tellin’ somebody I didn’t dunk on him, man. I’m like, Pat, man, I boomed on your ass. Get it right.
SLAM: I think we ran that picture twice.
TMAC: Man, y’all send me that picture, he come, I’m gonna hang that shit right in his locker [everybody laughs]. Hang it straight up in his locker.

We probably never did send him that photo. But he sure did dunk on Pat.

SLAM: Going back to your rookie struggles, a lot of critics still point to that as a reason why high school kids shouldn’t make the jump. Do you hear that kind of talk?
TMAC: [laughs]. I don’t even hear that. I don’t hear that. I mean, I think all of us struggled our first year. Kobe struggled, KG, all of us, man. It wasn’t easy, man, coming from high school to the pros.

For the record, we KILLED Tracy in NOYZ when he was struggling that first year. Uh, not that we mentioned it to him.

SLAM: Looking back on you time in Toronto, can you imagine a way it would’ve worked out, with you and Vince playing together and both getting your shine?
TMAC: Yeah, yeah, that would’ve worked. We could’ve played together. But it’s like, when you’re hearing the talk, “He’s in his cousin’s shadow,” and all this crazy-ass talk, I’m like, man, I ain’t in nobody’s shadow, man. That’s why, Orlando was wide open. They didn’t have like a superstar player there, and I was like, That’s home, and the door’s wide open for me to come down Here. I couldn’t let that opportunity pass by me. That was a golden opportunity.
SLAM: Do you feel like you want to bring it in Toronto when you play them now?
TMAC: Nah, I don’t hold nothin’ against Toronto. I mean, when I GO to Toronto, and the fans boo me, yeah, I’m bringin’ it. I bring it every time. But it’s all love up there, though. They booin’ me ’cause they love me. They ain’t want me to leave.

The funny thing is now I hardly remember that Tracy even played for Toronto. And I don’t think Toronto ever held anything against Tracy, either. Vince, on the other hand…

SLAM: Everybody says now, the Raptors got rid of the wrong guy. Is there any part of you that feels bad for Vince now, the way he struggled last year and caught flak?
TMAC: That’s the business. That’s the life of the NBA, man. One minute you’re on top of the world, and then when you get hurt, people criticize you. I mean, the guy was injured, and all the criticism that he was taking, it was just crazy. There’s nothing he could do when he’s hurt. He can’t go out there and play on a bad knee. But when his team started playing well without, that’s what made things look crazy. But he ain’t have no control over that.
SLAM: What about this year’s Draft—what were your thoughts about what Orlando did or didn’t do to get better?
TMAC: Um…I thought we did good drafting the Chris…whatever his name was from Stanford [it was Curtis Borchardt—Ed.]. He was a legit 7-footer, could shoot the ball, but he did have foot problems. But I thought we was gonna keep him. So I called Doc, and he was like, “I think we’re gonna get Ryan Humphrey.” [The Magic traded Borchardt’s rights for Humphrey’s] I know very little about Ryan Humphrey. I know he’s athletic. I didn’t really know how tall he was until I saw him in the summer camp—he’s like 6-6, 6-7. But he’s very athletic. He reminds me of a Bo Outlaw, a hustle guy, got a lot of energy, plays bigger than he is, and he’s got a great knack for blocking shots. Very athletic. I think he’ll help us out.

Tracy wasn’t the only one who couldn’t remember Curtis Borchardt’s name. He sat out his entire rookie season and went on to play in all of 83 NBA games.

SLAM: Feel like you guys still need some big bodies to really make the push?
TMAC: It’d be great, but if you look at the teams that made it to the Finals, they ain’t really have no great big men. I mean, Todd MacCulloch, he’s alright, but…he’s big. I think with me and a healthy Grant, and just have some great role players surrounding us, we’ll be fine.
SLAM: What do you personally need to do to better your game?
TMAC: I just work on everything, man. I don’t change my game at all. I just work on everything, try to sharpen everything. That’s it, and just become more vocal out on the basketball court.
SLAM: What’s your summer like? Are you playing a lot?
TMAC: I don’t never play, man. I never play. I just work out with my trainer, and that’s it. I don’t ever play in any pickup games. No Rucker—everybody’s calling me and trying to get me out there. But it’s sponsored by Reebok, so I can’t go up there and be in that [smiles].
SLAM: Is it just a matter of wanting to put the ball down and get away from the game for a while?
TMAC: Not only that, but just not to get hurt, plus I went through it with my back this year, so it’s definitely not the smartest thing to do, to go out there and play on concrete. I shoot, but I don’t play any like contact.
SLAM: We hear you and Mike Miller work a lot together.
TMAC: Yeah. Mike got the same trainer. I took him under my wing, had my trainer work him out. He’s been with him two years, and he’s looking good.
SLAM: Is he one of those guys you’re really counting on to help the team, as like the third option.
TMAC: Yup, yup, I think he is that guy. He has to be that guy for us. He has to help us, he has to be that guy to be able to knock down shots when it counts, take some of the pressure off me and Grant.
SLAM: What about last year’s MVP voting? Did you have a space cleared off on your mantle for that?
TMAC: I didn’t think I would get it. I thought I was gonna be close, but I wasn’t even close. I was like, fourth. But I’m not even sweating that, man. I’ll get it one of these days. One of these days, I’ll have it sitting right up in my crib.
SLAM: Is it a goal, or do you just figure it’ll come?
TMAC: Oh, definitely, it’s a personal goal—AND I feel I’ll get it.
SLAM: Has it been hard watching Kobe, thinking it’s just a matter of luck, he ended up on the same team as Shaq, and here he is—
TMAC: I was just about to say, that’s what it is. He was just blessed with Shaq…yeah. I just hate to watch him play, because I know he’s gonna win [laughs]. You just hate it ’cause you KNOW he’s gonna win. That’s the frustrating thing about it. You know he gonna win. Go ahead and give him the fuckin’ ring. Shit. But it’s cool, you know what I’m sayin’? He’s out there doing his thing. He’s not a bad player. He’s a lucky man. He is a lucky man to be able to play with Shaq.

No comment.

SLAM: Do you ever just stop and look around you—the crib, the cars, everything—and just soak it in? Can you believe how good things are?
TMAC: Man, I sit at my house sometimes and just think of all the stuff that I have, and it’s just like, it’s just only the beginning. It’s like only getting better for me, like, this shit needs to slow down, man. Really. ’Cause it just seems like last year I was damn 20 years old. Now I’m 23. Five years in the damn League. It’s rollin’ man. But yeah, I definitely take the time to just sit and think of all the stuff that I have. But I also think of all the shit that I had to go through to get what I have. I worked. I work for what I have.
SLAM: With all the material stuff, you’ve gotta feel older than you are.
TMAC: Yeah, big house, big cars, all the jewelry, just everything that I want…
SLAM: Does any of it get old?
TMAC: Man, that can’t get old, man. If I never had it? No. I’m excited if I’m about to get something that I never had…that’s cool.
SLAM: Do you look at the lifetime adidas deal the same way—like a thing that you’ve got that most people could never get?
TMAC: Yeah, that’s huge. I don’t know too many people that have lifetime contracts…for anything. Just to be a part of adidas for now until the end of my career, man, it’s just great. Because, I mean, everything that adidas has done for me and I’ve done for them, it’s just been fun.
SLAM: Do you see Orlando as a lifetime deal too? Is this where you want to be?
TMAC: Yeah. Yeah.

Oh well.

SLAM: As soon as they get your pictures up in the [practice facility] hallway instead of Penny Hardaway’s?
TMAC: I know, right? I got on ’em about that. But yeah, I hope that I can spend my career here. I don’t want to get to the point where I’m moving to this team and that team later on in my career. If I’m doing that shit, I’m gonna give it up. Obviously it’s not working out if I keep on getting traded.
SLAM: Who are you tightest with in the League?
TMAC: Shaq. I was just with him last night. That’s my man, even when I’m out there, I kick it with him. He’s like my big brother, man. He looks out for me.
SLAM: And he’s probably the only guy who’s got more shit than you do?
TMAC: Yeah. He’s sick with his, man. He’s got so much shit…he’s a big kid, man. He got some unbelievable shit. I mean, he just likes to come up with shit. Like, his golf cart, he got rims on his golf cart. He got a system put in his golf cart. He got a white steering wheel with the Shaq emblem in it. It’s just sick. And one of his cars, he’s got like a 40-inch TV. In his Suburban. He took out like the first row in the back. [To Wayne, his trainer] Hey, how big is that? Is it 40? [Wayne responds: “42”] 42.
SLAM: Your relationship with Vince—it seemed like people made too much of how close you guys were in the beginning, and then too much of the beef when you left. Are you guys cool now?
TMAC: Yeah, it’s cool. I mean, people just blew everything out of proportion, just took that shit and ran with it. I’ma tell you a funny-ass story, though, man. I was in L.A., at the Finals this year, and I was out at a club, and Vince had to come out there and do a scene for Like Mike. And that night was the premier for Undercover Brother. I was supposed to go that night. [comedian/actor] Eddie Griffin called and asked me was I coming, and I was like, no. So I’m in the club, Eddie Griffin comes in there, and Vince is right behind him. So we talking or whatever, and Eddie Griffin asks me why I ain’t come to his premier. I was like, man, I had so much shit to do. So I left him and went over and started talking to Vince. And me and Vince was talkin’, and Eddie came walking up to us, and he think the shit’s still going on between me and Vince. So he was like, “Y’all motherfuckers, y’all don’t need to be actin’ like this, blood is thicker than water. What the hell goin’ on? You need to call him, and you need to call him.” He was like, “Y’all need to be talkin’ to each other.” And I swear to God, man, in the middle of him going off on us, he smacked us. I swear to God. He smacked Vince, and he did it so quick—and he’s real small—but he did it so quick, I didn’t even have time to react after he smacked Vince. So it was like, [smacks his hands together twice, lightning-quick]. He was drunk. He was fucked up. I was like, I wanted to hit him, man, but he was messed up, and he was kinda like, playin’. But I just had to laugh, man. He smacked me hard as shit, man, like, “Y’all don’t need to be acting like this.” And he was just standing there. He just kept on talking. And he called me like a week or two later, and he remembered it. And he was like, “If y’all don’t straighten up, I’ma talk about both of y’all in my next standup.” I was like, We cool. I don’t want him crackin’ no jokes on me. Little short-ass…

That’s possibly the best story I’ve ever heard from an NBA player. Bar none.

SLAM: What about Kobe? That’s another relationship where people thought you used to be like brothers.
TMAC: I mean, it’s not the type of relationship where we be calling and talking to each other on the phone. We used to be real cool, but you know, he’s doing his own thing, he’s married now…But yeah, when I see him, it’s all love. But yeah, we used to be real cool. I used to stay at his house, kick it with him, watch some karate flicks, playin’ video games.
SLAM: Word is you’re putting a court in your house?
TMAC: Yeah. I’ma put a court at my house. It’s my job, man. I ball, so I gotta have it at my crib.