Before “Lin-Sanity” took over the NBA as its big, popular craze in the Big Apple, there was some “Vincesanity” taking place up in the Great White North.
In the early 2000′s, Vince Carter of the Toronto Raptors was arguably one of the most popular and exiting players in the National Basketball Association.
He was the franchise.
As a Raptor, Carter was awarded the 1999 Rookie of the Year, a spot on the all-rookie team (1999) and 5 all-star appearances. He was also the winner of arguably the greatest Slam Dunk Contest of all time in 2000.
What began as such a promising relationship between Vince and the Raptors organization, ended in heartache, turmoil and major controversy.
On December 14th 2004, Carter was dealt to the New Jersey Nets in exchange for Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams and two first-round draft picks. The deal is widely considered to be the worst trade in team history and one of the more lopsided ever in the league.
Mourning never suited up for Toronto and Eric and Aaron Williams never amounted to anything.
In an interview conducted with John Thompson back in 2005, Carter revealed how his effort was lacking near the end of his stint with the Raptors, and how his passion for playing basketball for the team was becoming non-existent.
Fans didn’t take to kindly to Carters revelations. We (and I can say we, because I’m a resident of the city and a long-time fan of the team) all saw it coming from a mile away. Vince was constantly injured and never showed the guts and fortitude (especially near the end) that Toronto fans expected to see from their beloved superstar. He seemed uninterested and uninspired.
Every time Carter returned to the city as a member of the opposition, fans let him have it in a big way.
It’s been years and years since Vince laced up a pair of sneakers for the Toronto Raptors. Time has soothed a lot of the animosity between Carter and the fan base. He’s now 35 years old and in his second season with the 2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks.
He’s not the same man who electrified the league many eons ago. He’s a steady veteran looking to contribute on a team ready to compete for a championship in a smaller role.
Prior to last nights game between the Raptors and Mavericks, Carter was asked about possibly ending his career with the franchise that put him on the basketball map (and vice-versa).
“If the opportunity presents itself. You talk about playing basketball, I would love to play there.”
“I know the court, I know my way around, so I’d feel comfortable, for sure.”
The idea of possibly retiring his #15 jersey sometime in the near future has also been discussed in Raptors circles as well.
I, for one, would not be overly upset to see Vince in a Raptors uniform again one day. However, I feel it won’t happen solely on the basis that he would have absolutely nothing of any value to contribute at this stage of his career.
Would it be good for nostalgia purposes? Absolutely. If Carter were to sign a one-day contract with the team just so he could retire as a Raptor once it’s all said and done, that would not be a problem.
There are still a lot of fans who are vindictive towards Vince though, and rightfully so. Some scars will never heal, especially those as deep as the ones V.C inflicted on this franchise.
He had every right to leave all those years ago. The team was poorly run at the time and the writing was all over the walls. The Toronto Raptors were mediocre (once all of the veteran talent left) and were light years away from being relevant in the Eastern Conference. He may have handled the situation poorly, but he wanted out and he got what he desired.
Should the Raptors ever retire his jersey?
Not in a million years, and that’s putting it bluntly.
Carter was a tremendous player during his 1998-2004 stint, but he wasn’t great enough to deserve the distinction of having his #15 hanging from the rafters of the Air Canada Center. What does that say about the organization if the very first jersey they retire is of a man who led the team to the playoffs twice, and then manipulated his way out of town in the most dastardly of ways.
He may have single-handedly put basketball on the map in Canada, but again, that’s not enough to warrant being honoured to that extent.
Every time Vince Carter does battle with his old squad, issues such as this always present itself. Whether you love him or hate him, it’s hard to deny his contributions on the court. He still holds many team records to this day.
He may be the greatest Raptor of all-time. (Sorry Chris Bosh).
It’s easy to get carried away with stuff like this and play the “what if?” game considering how important he once was to the city.
It’s always fun to look back, remember the good times and conjure up old memories of “Air Canada”.
Let’s just leave it at that.
Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports