“I came close to leaving,” Duncan said in 2010. “Real close.”
One thing that deterred Duncan from Orlando was a rule about team planes — that spouses were not allowed on board. It isn’t the first time we’ve heard this as a reason for Duncan’s decision, but Grant Hill retold that story on ESPN’s “The Jump” on Thursday.
Grant Hill just admitted that Doc Rivers blew the Tim Duncan signing with Orlando when he said spouses weren’t allowed on the team plane.— #Mickstape (@MickstapeShow) February 15, 2018
T-Mac is STILL sick about it after all these years pic.twitter.com/eojBGAxffs
If you can’t watch it, here’s what Hill said, with any interjections from the others taken out for easier reading.
GRANT HILL: I made my visit with Tim Duncan and I was at the dinner when someone in Tim’s entourage, I’ll just leave it that way, asked Doc if significant others can travel on the plane. And Doc said no. And the energy at the table ... my wife, we were married then, my wife was like, he should have just lied.
Hill was one of the two stars in Orlando at the time, and Tracy McGrady was the other. The idea of forming a superteam with those two stars is why Duncan was considering the Magic in the first place, and as it happens, both are at this ESPN table at the same time. Look at McGrady’s reaction! It’s both hilarious and tragic all at the same time.
McGrady infamously never won an NBA championship, nor did Hill. Both suffered serious injuries while in Orlando, which robbed them of the team’s peak, but perhaps Duncan’s presence would have changed that. McGrady sure thought it would — here’s a quote that McGrady gave at the time, as found by Deadspin.
”It will be unfair to the league if all three of us come here. We have the East. We’ll be playing the Lakers for years.”
Hill’s wife was definitely right, though. How do you not lie in that situation? Or change the rule on the spot? If it’s the difference between signing and not signing Duncan — and changing the entire history of the NBA — then clearly a little fudge would have made sense in that moment.