Conrad Bastien Mcrae (Born January 11, 1971) was an American basketball player
who had a flourishing career in Europe, playing in France, Italy, Greece and Turkey.
Mcrae attended Brooklyn Technical High School showing early signs of his great
ability, McRae was named PSAL High School All-City from 1986–89, chosen for the
1989 McDonald's All-American Team, and contributed in the Junior Olympics.
After several successful seasons, Mcrae was offered a scholarship to Syracuse University.
After an initial upset in Mcrae’s career, Mcrae went on to play in Europe, in which he helped Efes Pilsen S.K.
to win European Championship Korać Cup of 1996, and then went on to play in the
championship finals with Fortitudo Bologna.
Unfortunately In the summer of 2000, Mcrae made nationwide news for losing consciousness
during an Orlando Magic summer league team training session with all efforts to
revive the household name were unsuccessful.
Conrad McRae is not exactly a household name in the world of hoops. But to New
Yorkers who follow New York City basketball, his game will not soon be
forgotten. Nicknamed "McNasty" (probably for his ferocious dunks and
intimidating rejections), he starred in three levels of organized ball (high
school, college, and street / playground) but fell short of the fourth at the
time of his untimely death in July, 2000. Having attended the same high school
but not knowing him personally, this story is about McRae's playing career
through my eyes as a interested spectator.
In the late '80s, Brooklyn Technical High School in downtown Brooklyn had a
fairly good basketball team. They were spearheaded by a lanky 6 ft. 11 in.
center who was athletic, ran the floor, and had hops. With the good
fortune of having physical education class as my first class of the day, I
remember arriving early on many occasions to watch the full court pickup games
going on the gym between members of the varsity team. It was there that I
first saw McRae play. He literally stood out among his peers. Usually
defended by the next biggest player, guy by the name of Donald Hodge, I believe,
McRae used his imagination to devise ways of scoring in the low post against his
more rugged teammate. For example, with his back to the basket pounding a
back-in dribble, he once swiped his hand through the air over the bouncing ball
to fake going one way, and then in the next motion launched into a turnaround
jump shot in the other direction. Nothing spectacular, but that imaginative play
would serve him well in the crowd-pleasing Rucker Park game later on.
The only class we were in at the same time was Spanish class during senior year.
By that time, press clippings had lauded his play, and recruiting letters were
pouring in. Perhaps aware of his impending fame as a star athlete, he would goof
off at the back of the room poring over his letters, including those from the
venerable Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. During graduation ceremonies, he
also received special accolades from the school principal, who announced to the
audience that McRae would be attending basketball powerhouse Syracuse
That same spring, tuning into the McDonald's All-American game on television, I
was surprised to see McRae as the starting center for the East team. From press
clippings in the local papers, I knew he was an accomplished player, just not
how much. Seeing him on television answered that question. This game was notable
because his counterpart in the pivot was none other than Shaquille O'Neal. Of
course, Shaq dominated, but McRae did have his moment when he used his interior
mobility along the baseline to dunk on the other side of the rim when guarded by
Shaq. (Shaq note -- even as a high schooler, he was physically a man among
At Syracuse, McRae did not get playing time immediately. I forget who he was
playing behind (perhaps LeRon Ellis?), but this is Syracuse, home of big-time
basketball, and they are always stacked with talent. As he progressed in his
college career, he saw the floor more and more and became a viable draft
selection for the NBA with his ability to run the floor, play defense and block
He ultimately became a second round draft pick of Washington, but if memory
serves he did not latch onto a team right away. That caused him to take his game
to Europe, where he became a fan favorite. Not improving enough to play in the
NBA, he became one of many countless hoopsters to play summer-league basketball
and try out in NBA training camps in hopes of landing on an NBA roster.
As a regular user of the New York City subway, I saw posters one summer
advertising the Rucker Park tournaments. One of the players' pictures was that
of McRae, billed simply as "McNasty". That's where I first
learned he was a regular on the street ball circuit. One time in the
summer in the mid 1990s, I also caught him on TV participating in a 3-on-3
tournament. Finally, I also saw footage of McRae doing his thing on the
blacktop in the street ball documentary "On Hallowed Ground" and on
the popular "And 1" mix tapes.
Even though his life was cut short, McRae
definitely made the most of his time in basketball. RIP McNasty.
Former Syracuse basketball center (1989-93) who ranked sixth in school history
in all-time in shot blocking at the time of his death; second-round pick of
Washington in 1993 NBA draft; played CBA and later became an all-star on teams
in Turkiye and Italy; He died while playing summer league basketball.
Died: Irvine, Calif., July 10
There have been a couple of humorous
injuries/illnesses that have kept players out of games this season [chicken pox
(Muggsy Bogues), tonsillitis (Corey Benjamin), turf toe (Rex Chapman)], but the
listing in lastnight's Denver-Golden State game of "McRae DNP -
fainted" caught my eye and I had to find out the story. So, I give you this
year's winner of the most bizarre injury. Conrad McRae, who Denver signed to a
10-day contract on Friday, was unaccustomed to the thin air in the high altitude
of Denver and over did his pre-game sprinting and fainted. He was treated by
paramedics and did not play in the game for precautionary reasons. [My debate
about whether or not to remove this resulted in my leaving this and adding a
reality check note.
McRae's fainting caused Denver's medical staff to
evaluate him further and discovered that he had a heart condition and advised
him that he should not play basketball again. He ignored that advice and died in
June 2000 during a basketball practice.]
Ankara - Turkish Daily News
A hat-trick of basketball stories for you today, the first one we would prefer
not to have to write. Forward Conrad McRae has died of a heart attack
while in training with the Denver Nuggets. McRae was well known to Turkish
basketball lovers from spells with Fenerbahce and Efes Pilsen. In
his Fener days, he made himself one of the most popular players in the Turkish
League, not only because of his fluent points scoring but because of his
flamboyant style and crowd-pleasing antics. With Efes he was less successful.
Some of the magic seemed to have gone and it was apparent he was never going to
be the team player then- coach Aydin Ors wanted. The club released McRae
before he had completed a single season. Nevertheless the fans will
remember with affection the sight of him soaring in like a giant eagle for one
of the slam dunks he and they so loved.