Vince Carter Era

The 2016 All-Star weekend in Toronto was an unmitigated success. Despite the artic-like weather and a bad rendition of “Oh Canada” by Nelly Furtado, nothing else went wrong. Canada won the Celebrity Game, there were events everywhere, the All-Star Saturday was one of the greatest All-Star Saturday’s in history and traffic was actually pretty light given the circumstances.

Also shout out to Jordan Kilganon who is probably Canada’s best dunker and is a North Pole Hoops favourite.

 While all of that was going on, there was one question in my mind, where in the world was Vince Carter? Vince Carter was my childhood favourite Raptor and the reason why I follow sports today.  Vince Carter is a touchy subject amongst Raptor fans, however, there is a majority of Toronto’s faithful that want to forgive Vince Carter. For me the All-Star game was a great opportunity for Vince to finally receive the Toronto Faithful’s forgiveness. Yet Vince was nowhere to be found.

Editor's note: Vince Carter missed All-Star Weekend because he was attending his daughter's tennis tournament. 

From hearing prior interviews, vignettes, and video packages, Vince Carter clearly wants the Toronto Crowds forgiveness and he missed a big opportunity. 

Recently an interesting interview with NBA TV about Carter’s career premiered, Carter had some interesting comments on the whole ordeal with the Toronto Raptors. All of this has led the basketball world to ask some pretty tough questions. What happened for Toronto Raptor fans to be so upset? what is fact and what is myth? Can the Raptors fanbase and Vince Carter forgive each other?

Well to answer those questions, one must receive the history lesson on Vince Carter’s time in Toronto. One must relive the Vince Carter era in Toronto.

The Misconceptions

There are a lot of memories that Vince Carter ingrained into the Toronto faithful’s minds but there are a lot of misconceptions, here are a couple.

1. The Raptors drafted Vince Carter: While Carter started his career in the Raptors purple and black, he was not originally drafted by the Raptors. In 1998, Vince Carter’s draft year, Carter was originally drafted 5th overall by the Golden State Warriors and the Raptors originally picked Antawn Jamison 4th overall. While the two were basically swapped on the same night, this is still important to note. This gets rid of the misconception that the Raptors were ‘All in’ on Vince Carter from the jump, which is simply not true. Fact is the NBA is a business and Vince Carter at first was just a number the Toronto Raptors penciled in.

2. 2001 was Vince Carter’s last year of greatness with the Raptors: This is simply not true. The reason why people regard 2001 as the last true moment of greatness for the Raptors is because the Raptors have not won a playoff series since. Also, the reason 2001 is usually regarded as Vince Carter ‘last good year’ by most fans is because this is when fans first started to question Carter’s commitment to the team for reasons which will be dwelled on later in the article. Fact is Vince Carter still had a lot of good seasons with the Toronto Raptors, albeit rather inefficient seasons compared to his first couple years but still good.

3. Vince Carter does not care about the Raptor Fans: One truly does not know if Vince Carter does or does not care about the Raptors fans, but over the years Carter has been more and more accepting to the possibility of a reconciliation with the Raptors organization and the Raptors fans. In Carter’s most recent interview with NBA TV he denied the alleged events of the 2003-2004 season vehemently due to the fact that most stories about that season pertaining to Carter make him look bad. He turned the blame towards Rob Babcock - regarded as the worst Toronto Raptors General Manager of all time. Whether Carter is telling truth or not is debatable, nevertheless, that shows that Vince Carter wants the Raptors’ faithful to look at him in a more positive light.

The Early Years

In 1998, Vince Carter impressed many early on with his leaping ability and athleticism. In fact from 1998-2001 Vince Carter was a human highlight film. Players left, right and centre were being dunked on. As we all know, in the 2000 All-Star weekend, Carter put on a show in the dunk contest. Many regard this as one of the best moments in Toronto Raptors history, I know pretty sad.

Carter was more than just a dunker though. His shot was pretty good, he was an underrated passer, and with distant cousin Tracy McGrady the Raptors had a promising young one-two scoring punch. Carter in his Rookie Season (1998-1999) averaged 18.3 ppg per, 5.7 rpg and 3.0 apg on 45% shooting in 50 games. Carter raised that total next season with a whopping 25.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg and 3.9 apg on 46.5% shooting and appeared in all 82 games that season. Unfortunately following the Toronto Raptors 2000 playoff run which saw the Raptors get swept by the Knicks in first round, McGrady went to Orlando where he became the T-Mac basketball purists remember. This did not stifle Carter’s development as Carter in the 2000-2001 averaged a career high in points per game at 27.6 and had his second best 3-point shooting percentage for his career at 40.8%; mix that in with an improved Raptors team around Carter and one of the best Head coaches of all time in Lenny Wilkens and you had the ingredients for a memorable playoff run.

The Raptors would eventually go on to beat the New York Knicks in the first round 3-2 and this propelled what was the beginning of the decline of the fans trust in Vince Carter.

The 76ers, led by then NBA MVP Allen Iverson were waiting for the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semi-final and to my surprise both teams were going blow for blow. My young-negative mind had the impression that the Raptors were going to get crushed by Iverson, who was on a tear, but Vince Carter was playing out of his mind during that series.

It came down to game 7.

The biggest moment in Raptors’ history.

Vince Carter went to his graduation at UNC on the morning of the game.

This sent fans in a tizzy. Granted graduation is a big moment for any person but that game was a 5:30 start time and Chapel Hill, North Carolina was two states away from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Not making that up, the entire state of Virginia and Maryland are between North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Meaning there was no way that Vince Carter was going to be focused for that game and statically it showed. Here is a look at Carter’s statline against the then stingy 76ers defense

48 Minutes, 6/18 FG, 0/3 3PT, 8/9 FT, 7 boards, 9 dimes, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 0 TO, 20 points, -1 +/-

Now the only positives is that Vince Carter actually nearly had a triple double and was getting to the line, however his shot was way off considering Vince was shooting 50.5% from the field heading into game 7. Thus, due to his graduation, what should have been an optimistic sign that the Raptors were close to being a special team was instead a mixed crowd.

The majority believed that there was still a chance the Raptors could improve and the minority questioned Vince’s commitment to the Raptors and his work ethic. Despite this the Toronto Raptors organization signed Vince Carter to a 6 year, $94 million deal believing that Carter would improve.

In hindsight, this probably was stupid but no one could have predicted what would happen next.

The later years

Carter continued to have good seasons as a Raptor, but he could not recreate the success of the 2001 season. The Raptors in 2001-2002 even made the playoffs; unfortunately Vince Carter was too injured to play.

Side Note: Vince Carter inadvertently may have shortened Alvin Williams’s career considerably due to Williams logging heavy minutes in Carter’s absence but that is another story for another time.

 Minor injuries and ailments plagued the star, as the organization referred to his issues as a development of patellar tendinitis, which is also known as jumper’s knee; however there was a growing sense of distrust by fans. Many questioned if the injuries were legitimate. Many questioned Carter’s work ethic. Many even questioned Vince Carter’s commitment to the Toronto Raptors. Then reports came out that Vince Carter wanted out of Toronto and that right there hurt Toronto Raptor fans but it was not all hatred right away.

To Fans it all made sense. No wonder why Vince Carter was either always hurt or did not look like he was trying. Then that sense of realization turned to denial. Fans thought “How could he do this to the same organization who treated him like a king, the same organization who gave him so much power”?

Then denial turned into acceptance and confusion. Well what happened? What is fact is that there was real tension between Raptors organization, MLSE, and Vince Carter. To this day, there is differing stories by Vince Carter and members of the MLSE board at the time. No one besides Vince Carter and MLSE is entirely sure of the full story but many people believe that Vince Carter was unhappy with then MLSE president Richard Peddie’s management of the team.

In hindsight no one could blame Vince Carter for being upset. There were many times where the Raptors surrounded Vince Carter with bad players, players on the decline, or players who were not ready yet. Also most people believe that Peddie was making empty promises to Vince in order to keep him happy. In any case, Vince Carter was actually at first receiving all the support.

However in 2004, the Raptors’ fans vitriol was aimed towards Vince Carter. Rob Babcock did not handle the situation with Carter well and Carter was not playing well at the start of the season. Carter averaged 15.9 points per game and fans gravitated towards the lackluster performance of Vince Carter to start the season. Thus, in the consensus worst trade in Raptors history, 20 games into the Raptors season the Raptors traded Vince Carter to the New Jersey Nets for Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams, and Aaron Williams (No relation). Alonzo Mourning never suited up for the Raptors and thus the Raptors were stuck with two guys who straight up could not contribute at the NBA level. On top of that Vince Carter suddenly found his mojo again with the Nets during the season, which stung the Raptors even more.

Cue April 15, 2005.

In Carter’s return to Toronto on April 15th, 2005, the Toronto Raptors fanbase booed Vince Carter heavily while wearing anti-Vince Carter paraphernalia. This is something Carter has admitted bothered him.

The Aftermath

Vince Carter that season would raise his points per game average from 15.9 to 24.5 with the nets. Vince Carter went on to have 4 more seasons with the Nets, all of which he averaged 20 points per game or more. Since then, Vince Carter has played for Orlando, Phoenix, Dallas and Memphis. During his tenure with the Nets and Magic, most of Carter’s best games were against the Raptors.

The Raptors enjoyed a small measure of success during the Chris Bosh era, but were never really able to recover from this fallout. Until the 2013-2014 season, the Raptors only made the playoffs twice after the 2001-2002 season. Both playoff runs where while Chris Bosh was captain in the 2006-2007 and in 2007-2008 season. In fact, the 2006-2007 Vince Carter led-edition of the New Jersey Nets sent the Raptors packing in 6 games, despite the Nets being the lower seed. However, MLSE has now been showing considerable improvement, the Raptors are now a good team and are now gaining relevance in North America.

 The Raptors organization, Raptors fans, and Vince Carter have shown that they are willing to bury the hatchet. On November 19th 2014, during a Memphis Grizzlies vs. Toronto Raptors game the Raptors organization put together a video tribute for Vince Carter. In a weird but hair raising moment the Raptor crowd started to boo and then one by one changed their boos into cheers, bringing tears to Carter’s eyes.

It was as if a broken home had just reconciled. Suddenly the Raptors fanbase, Raptors organization, and Vince looked within themselves and said “I’m sorry” to one another in the form of a video package, tears, and cheers. With that being said, it would have been nice for Carter to be involved in the All Star game in some capacity or at the very least be in attendance. In any case, the All-Star game and Vince Carter’s interview has caused fans to once again ask “do we forgive VC?”