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Kobe Bryant truly believed he was 'better than Michael Jordan' at age 19, NBA great Tracy McGrady says

"To be around Kobe at 19 years old, bro, you would've thought Kobe had been here before and been around the greats of the game because his mindset was so different," McGrady said
Getty Images
Getty Images

Almost paying a tribute to late Kobe Bryant, his counterpart Tracy McGrady said in a recent interview that the Los Angeles Lakers superstar thought that he was "better than Michael Jordan" at the age of 19. 

Speaking in an episode of the 'All The Smoke' podcast the Orlando Magic player said that he was fascinated by Bryant when both of them were coming up in the NBA. "To be around Kobe at 19 years old, bro, you would've thought Kobe had been here before and been around the greats of the game because his mindset was so different than I've ever experienced and ever seen in anybody at 19 years old ... This man really, truly thought he was better than Michael Jordan,” McGrady told former players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson.

Just like Bryant, McGrady was drafted into the NBA straight out of high school. Before playing for Orlando Magic, he played for three seasons with the Toronto Raptors. He went onto play for a number of teams in his career. He confessed on the podcast that he believes the Raptors would have competed for an NBA title if he stayed on the team. McGrady became a star after averaging 26.8 points per game for the Magic in the 2000-01 season. 

“We would've played for a championship,” McGrady said. “We would've faced the Lakers if I would've stayed, there's no doubt about that, but, there was so much stuff going on in Toronto with the organization. There was no way I could've stayed.”

Tracy McGrady #1 of the Houston Rockets hugs Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers before the Radio Shack Shooting Stars competition during NBA All-Star Weekend at the Toyota Center on February 18, 2006 in Houston, Texas. (Getty Images)

McGrady's comments on Bryant came after the controversy started brewing following the resurfacing of a 2013 interview with the legendary Ahmad Rashad, where Michael Jordan was told to pick the best player in the league between LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Instead of staying diplomatic, Jordan chose the latter. “In terms of dominance of the game of basketball, it’s LeBron. Championships, Kobe Bryant,” Jordan said. “He wants it so bad, he’s willing to go to the extreme, guarding a guy, guarding a point guard at the age of 34, playing 38 minutes, 40 minutes, it’s crazy. It is what it is, he’s cursed as much as I am. Between the two, that’s a tough choice, but five (rings) beats one.”

During the 2013 All-Star weekend, James responded to Jordan's comments. “I heard what he said,” James said. “He said he would take Kobe because of six or five rings are better than one and last time he checked five is better than one. That’s his opinion, at the end of the day rings won’t always define someone’s career. If that’s the case, I’d say I would take Russell over Jordan but I wouldn’t or take Robert Horry over Kobe, but I wouldn’t do that. It’s his personal opinion.”

James currently has three rings and is hunting his fourth with the Los Angeles Lakers, whereas the late Bryant won five during his career. 

Also, in an interview with NBA 2K back in April, Jordan admitted that the only person who could defeat him, hypothetically, was Kobe Bryant. "If I was in my prime, who would I want to play one-on-one? That list is very long. I’d start off with Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Kobe Bryant in his prime, LeBron in his prime, D-Wade in his prime, Melo. That’s a good start. I don’t think I‘d lose, other than to Kobe Bryant because he steals all of my moves," he said.