Whenever Vince Carter returns to Toronto, as he did last Friday, talk inevitably turns to Carter’s legacy with the Toronto Raptors. Carter was the brightest star on the best team in franchise history, but the manner in which he exited still burns Raptors fans. Given all this, how should VC be remembered in Toronto when he eventually retires? Should his number be retired?
Carter was asked the question after the Mavs-Raptors contest on December 14, telling the Star-Telegraph, “I look at it as an honor to have my jersey retired because it’s an appreciation for the groundwork and the work that I’ve done here in the city. Why would I say no? Why would I decline that?”
I, for one, hope his 15 is eventually retired in Toronto. But I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m in the minority here.
Since Air Canada left Toronto on December 17, 2004, he has been perceived by Raptors fans as a whining, fragile malcontent who cheated his way out of town. There are plenty of reasons why: Attending his college graduation hours before Game 7 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals, allegedly tipping off Seattle Supersonics players to a last-minute play call, body-slamming head coach Sam Mitchell (again, allegedly), claiming that he “didn’t want to dunk anymore,” seemingly endless stints on the injured list (“Wince” is a common term of derision in T.O.), demonstrating a general indifference during games, and of course, demanding the trade that sent him to New Jersey for what basically amounted to Joey Graham.
Carter further provoked fans in a January 2005 interview with TNT’s John Thompson. When asked if he pushed himself as hard as he could have in Toronto, he replied, “In years past, no. 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.”
Most Raptors fans seem unwilling to forget these instances, as evidenced by the customary booing he received last week at the Air Canada Centre, almost a decade after the trade.
Doing so, however, obscures all that Carter did in a Raptors uniform, and the impact he’s had since.
Individually, Carter enjoyed the most productive stretch of his career with the club, averaging 23.9 points (.448 field goal percentage), 4.0 assists and 5.3 rebounds a game, with a 22.1 PER from 1998-2004. He was awarded the 1999 Rookie of the Year, voted to five consecutive All-Star Games (2000-2004), and in 2000 and 2001 was named to the All-NBA Third and Second Teams, respectively. The latter was by far his best season statistically as he put up career-highs in minutes (39.7), points (27.6), three-pointers (2.2 a night on nearly 41 percent) and PER (25.0).