Over the past few days, there have been rumblings of Vince Carter wanting to return to where it all started… Toronto. Now, if you’re a Raptors fan, there are many feelings/memories associated with the name Vince Carter. The guy who scored the first basket at the Air Canada Center, the guy who lead the team to their first playoff series win in franchise history… The guy who stopped trying when he wanted out of Toronto. As a professional athlete, that’s one of the worst things you could possibly do, not only to your team, but to your fans as well. Lets go back to the 1998 draft when Toronto acquired the 6’6 guard out of UNC from the Golden State Warriors.
On June 24th, 1998, possibly the greatest Raptors trade of all time went down. Toronto traded their 4th pick, Antwan Jamison to the Golden State Warriors for a then 21 year old Vince Carter. Toronto had been in operation since 1995, not being able to win more than 30 games in each of their three previous seasons. In the shortened 50 game 1999 season, Carter was able to win rookie of the year, helping the team win almost 50% of their games. The next season, Carter really put Toronto on the map. He averaged 25.7 points a game, making the all star team and winning the annual Slam Dunk contest with his famous between the legs 360 dunk and his “Honey Dip” slam. This was also the first time the Raptors would appear in the playoffs, losing in 3 games to the New York Knicks.
Over the next few seasons, Carter would prove to be the franchise player that the Raptors initially envisioned, averaging over 23 points over the next 3 seasons, doubling the value of the Raptors and most importantly, making Toronto relevant in the NBA for the first time.
The next season would be the beginning of the end, in some ways. While Carter still had a productive season, averaging almost 25 points per game, he only played in 60 games. The team didn’t do very well without him, making it to the playoffs but losing in the first round. The next season, Carter got injured again, sending the Raptors into a free fall down the standings. From this point on, things were never the same in Toronto. Rumours began to surface about Vince’s desire to be with the Raptors and after a new coaching and managerial staff came in, Carter was dealt to the New Jersey Nets. Now, you’d think that when you deal your franchise player away, you’d get something of value in return. Instead, the raptors traded away the best player in franchise history for Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams, and two future first round picks. Clearly, this is one of the most lopsided trades in recent memory… In favor of the Nets. To make matters worse, Alonzo Mourning didn’t even report to Toronto. This left a bad taste in many Raptors’ fans mouths as Carter left without leaving anything for the organisation that gave him everything.
Over the rest of his carrer, he could never really re-capture the magic that he had in Toronto. He is now 35, nearing the end of his career and has expressed his desire to return to the Raptors.
“If (Toronto) gave me the opportunity, I don’t even think I’d let them finish the question. Yes. I’m in.” Carter said. “Could I see it? Absolutely, I’d leave that up to the franchise. It all started in Toronto, I’d be a fool to ever forget that.”
This is what makes it so hard to hate the guy. He broke our hearts back in 2004, but has since managed to make amends for what he’s done. In several interviews, he’s praised the city of Toronto, the fans and the organization. Personally, I’d love to see him finish his career with the Raptors. Carter saying he would like his jersey retired, however, is a little too much for now.