5 big free agents Bulls missed out on, from Tracy McGrady in 2000 to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in 2010

DeAntae Prince, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Basketball

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan parted ways after the 1997-98 season, severing ties after winning six titles in eight years.

Why both sides called it quits was a topic of intense debate for decades. But while the reason for the Bulls' dissolution is still argued, the results remain clear -- the Bulls dynasty ended and the search for the next Michael Jordan ensued.

After a painful start to the post-Jordan era, the Bulls were connected to nearly every star in the early 2000s. They made runs at Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. The list of names was deep and the odds were long. Each player was courted by the entire league but gave the Bulls real consideration.

Twenty years ago, McGrady became the first player to flirt with the Bulls when he entered free agency in the summer of 2000. The 21-year-old had proven himself in Toronto and caught the attention of Bulls general manager Jerry Krause.

On the 20th anniversary of the Bulls' failed attempt to land McGrady, it feels like a perfect avenue to explore what went wrong in the team's efforts to sign McGrady and other free-agent superstars after the Jordan era.

2000: Tracy McGrady


Jerry Krause's eye for talent was undeniable. The issue for the Bulls was he often sought to acquire that talent at the expense of Scottie Pippen, who was nearly traded for Shawn Kemp, Antoine Walker and Tracy McGrady.

After Jordan helped nix the McGrady deal, the Bulls had a second shot at him in free agency in 2000. Former Chicago Tribune Bulls reporter Sam Smith believed all signs pointed to McGrady playing in Chicago.

There was reason to be confident. The Bulls pulled out all the stops for McGrady, even meeting him at O'Hare Airport with Krause, Benny the Bull, the Luvabulls and a small band. "Sweet Home Chicago" played as McGrady walked through the concourse with former Bulls guard B.J. Armstrong, who was an assistant to Krause at the time.

The Bulls had dreams of landing McGrady, Grant Hill or Tim Duncan. They struck out on all three as Duncan stayed in San Antonio and McGrady and Hill teamed up in Orlando. The signs were always there that McGrady, a Florida native, had eyes for the Magic. He visited the team before meeting the Bulls and didn't completely dispel rumors he planned to sign with the Magic when questioned by a media horde.


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