In 1995, two NBA franchises found homes in Canadian cities as part of an extension project. One team was placed in Toronto and the other in Vancouver. Both franchises struggled in the beginning and only one franchise would survive the Canadian extension. While the Vancouver team is now known as the Memphis Grizzlies, the Toronto Raptors are celebrating their 20th anniversary.
As a part of their 20th anniversary celebration, the Raptors aired a tribute video for Carter while he was in the building as a member of the Grizzles. Upon watching the video, matched with the crowd reaction, Carter shed some tears.
The young NBA season is Carter’s 17th. It is likely that he is coming to the end of the NBA road. Carter spent six of those 17 years as the Raptors most famous recruit. Carter gave the Raptors their most successful period in franchise history, it took ten years and new ownership for the Raptors to want to rekindle their love affair with “Air Canada.”
Before Jeremy Lin’s “Linsanity,” it was “Vinsanity.” And before Blake Griffin’s dunks were 90% of Sports Center’s highlight reel, Carter’s were. The current Raptors roster rewarded Carter with a stand up ovation after the video aired (although, they were already standing so maybe it doesn’t count).
When Carter decides to hang up his number 15 jersey for good, it should be permanent in Toronto. The Raptors should retire Carter’s jersey and here are the top ten reasons why.
10. He Gave Them the Best Years of His Career
Carter was drafted by the Golden State Warriors with their fifth overall pick. Then, the Raptors made the best choice in franchise history and traded their fourth overall pick, Antawn Jamison, to the Warriors for Carter.
In 2012, Carter became the 104th player in the NBA to appear in 1,000 games. In 2013, Carter became the 33rd player in NBA history with at least 8,000 career field goals, the 28th player in NBA history to eclipse the 22,000-point mark, and the 11th player in NBA history with at least 16,000 career triples at 1,638.
During his first season with the New Jersey Nets, in 2004-2005, Carter became the 26th fastest player in NBA history to reach 10,000 points. For the most part, those points were accumulated in Toronto. The Raptors benefited from them.
He was selected as an NBA All-Star for eight consecutive years, leading all other players in voting for four of those years. Fans votes elected Vince as a starter in six of the eight years.
Carter re-signed in Toronto after his rookie contract expired. He very well could have gone to a team where a championship was in sight. Yet, he wanted to win it for Toronto. He was pretty much Drake before Drake was old enough to drive a car. We all know that changed towards the end, but we can’t deny that he did give his best years to Toronto.
9. He Inspired the Future
A number of players have cited Carter has their inspiration. Kevin Durant said that the Raptors were his favourite childhood team because of Carter. Durant explained that Carter made the Raptors a desirable team. He said of Carter,“just his enthusiasm he showed, just his athleticism, and how he brought Toronto from being one of the newer teams in the league to almost going to the finals. He changed the culture there in Toronto.”
“I wanted to play for the Toronto Raptors, that was my favorite team.”
Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett are Canadian basketball players who were drafted first overall in the NBA. Both attribute their love of basketball to Vince Carter and his glory days at the ACC.
Both Terrence Ross and Blake Griffin have hat tipped Carter in the All Star Slam Dunk contest. Ross won with Carter’s dunk, in Carter’s jersey. Carter’s performance in the dunk contest in Oakland was unlike any the basketball world had seen before. It was entertaining and exciting. It was a type of showmanship that had been unexplored in sports.
Thirteen years later, basketball players like the Boston Celtics Canadian forward Kelly Olynyk, who attended Carter’s basketball camps, are coming into their own as NBA players.
8. The Raptors Have Never Retired a Jersey
Much of the drama that happened with Carter occurred behind closed doors. And, what happened behind closed doors shouldn’t affect what happens on the court. It isn’t a reason to rewrite history and erase all of the benefits they derived from Carter’s tenure.
Carter’s first season with the Nets resulted in his output being close to what it was during his 2000-2001 season with the Raptors. Many speculated that Carter hadn’t been giving 100 percent in Toronto. Yet, his averages pretty much remained consistent throughout the peak of his career and only truly declined in later seasons.
The Raptors remain one of the few franchises that have never retired a player’s jersey, along with some newer franchises and regularly awful teams. Carter is arguably one of the only players the Raptors have ever contracted worthy of jersey retirement. If Chris Bosh ends up meeting the requirements, he will likely be retired in Miami where most of his career success occurred (still unlikely).
There are players painted on the wall between the Air Canada Centre and Union Station. Out of all of the franchise players that the Raptors have had, Carter is the most storied.
7. All is Forgiven
It’s been time to forgive Carter for a long time. After ten years it finally happened when the crowd forgave him on November 19th in Toronto.
Now that the Raptors seem to have entered a sustainable phase, forgiving is much easier. Masai Ujiri is one of the best executives in sports and his vision for the team is already becoming a reality.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were able to forgive LeBron James, welcoming him back with open arms. The culture is different now. It is an extreme rarity for a player to be the franchise player for one team his entire career. Kevin Garnett left the Minnesota Timberwolves. Steve Nash put on a Lakers jersey.
Today, there is more onus on owners and management to build the team and to create an environment where winning can occur. It’s really hard to look back and solely blame Carter for what happened. And it is certainly more difficult to erase his legacy.
6. The Raptors Were at Fault too
The Toronto Sun reported that Carter felt misled by the Raptors management and thus, requested a trade. What exactly happened has largely been undisclosed.
Carter, like every other NBA player, wanted a championship. He felt the Raptors would never be an elite team under club President Richard Peddie. And he was right. The Peddie era was an extremely disappointing one for the Raptors. At points, it seemed like he wasn’t even trying to win and many individuals and media outlets have been open with this criticism. However, Peddie has tirelessly denied this.
The same company that owns the Toronto Maple Leafs, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment owns the Raptors. MLSE has recently been sold and so the culture has changed a bit.
The old ownership was extremely frugal with their franchises. Looking at the Leafs record under MLSE’s old ownership is enough to know that the Raptors were doomed unless someone stepped up to change things. Although Carter reportedly attempted to pressure owners for better management and better players, his attempts were fruitless.
5. He Changed the Culture
Despite growing up in Washington, D.C., Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder wanted to play for the Raptors because of Carter.
Even today, Kyle Lowry decided to stay in Toronto after being courted by the Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks and the Houston Rockets. Amir Johnson openly loves to play here and is very involved in the city. He even wears Carter’s number 15.
As an eight-time NBA All-Star, Carter joined Hall of Famers Julius Erving and Michael Jordan as the only players to lead the NBA All-Star Game fan voting more than three times.
People loved Carter and they loved the Raptors. Fans only stopped loving the Raptors when they became so awful that it was difficult to do so.
4. He Won for the City
Carter led the Raptors through some fairly successful seasons and their most fruitful phase in the NBA.
He led the Raptors to the playoffs three times. The total number of times the Raptors have been to the playoffs? Six. They only made it past the first round once, in 2001, when they were eliminated in the Conference Semifinals. Even though, this is by no means a notable achievement, it is still by far the Raptors greatest season.
During this season, Carter averaged a career high 27.6 points with 5.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists, with an impressive stat in almost every other measurable. He left the Raptors as the franchise leader in ten categories, including scoring, 3-pointers made and games started.
3. He Impacted the City
Carter has done more for Toronto than any other recent athlete has. Carter’s foundation was extremely active in the city and he ran basketball camps here. Carter’s restaurants, clubs and charities found homes in the north. He even ran the Vince Carter All Star Charity Game for local charities. His charity All-Star Games set an attendance record in the Air Canada Centre.
Carter’s foundation built two red basketball courts in the city where many basketball players practiced: one in Malvern and the other in Dixon Park, near Kipling Ave. and Dixon Rd.
2. He Built the House
Carter’s tenure with the Raptors ensured that the fan base developed, in Toronto and across North America. The Raptors struggled before they acquired Carter and he turned it around. The Raptors didn’t build a big three at Carter’s demand. They didn’t make any concessions or bring in support for him.
Raptors forward Donyell Marshall at the time said of Carter that, “He was to Canada what Michael Jordan was to the Bulls.”
Carter pressured Maple Leaf Sports and Entertinament to do the one thing that they hate to do more than anything and that is to spend money on talent. He wanted to build a “big three,” which is a requirement today for any championship contender.
Carter told Richard Peddie that he felt the Raptors could come back from a couple of dismal seasons by signing two players in the off-season — centre/forward Jamaal Magloire and point guard Steve Nash.
1. There Are a Lot of Myths Around his Exit
In reality, Carter left in very normal fashion. It wasn’t anything personal, as several people have stated that Carter loved it in the city and wanted to stay. Yet, Carter made the same decision that LeBron James made when left Cleveland for Miami and the same reason he returned to Cleveland. Ray Allen and Steve Nash also made the decision to follow the ring.
However, management had made promises that they didn’t deliver on. Carter called for Richard Peddie and a couple of his front-office aides to be fired, according to reports. Peddie had lied to Carter during a meeting about the Raptors future.
“Carter left the meeting under the impression that Peddie was going to do his best to upgrade the Raptors,” according to the Real GM.
The report stated that Vince really thought there was a good chance they’d get both Magloire and Nash. He wanted them in Toronto because there was a need to improve two positions, both the centre and point guard positions. When Carter requested to be traded, he was aware that there hadn’t been an effort to hire either players.
Carter asked that Julius Erving be interviewed for the general manager job. Erving was never brought to the Air Canada Centre when he visited the city. As a result, Carter didn’t think Erving received a proper interview. Even before Carter left, he was being booed in the ACC. He took the brunt of the criticism for issues that were outside of his control. The management issues were overshadowed by the “Vince-shaming.”
In an interview broadcast TNT, analyst John Thompson asked Carter if he pushed himself as hard as he should have in Toronto. “In years past, no,” said Carter. “I was fortunate to have the talent … you get spoiled when you’re able to do a lot of things. You see that you don’t have to work at it. Now, with the all the injuries, I have to work harder. I’m a little hungrier. Getting a fresh start has made me want to attack the basket.”
Thompson later said he felt people misinterpreted Carter’s words.
”That boy never said to me, ‘Coach, I just laid down and quit. ‘I was embarrassed and felt awful about it for his sake, because I knew what he was communicating to me. I think he was more expressing a desire of wanting to do better, as we all do.”
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