In their nearly 30 years of existence, the Toronto Raptors have been lucky to boast a lot of great names on their roster.
One of the guys the fanbase has been lucky to root for during that time period is none other than Vince Carter, who was drafted out of the University of North Carolina, a team that always consistently finds themselves at the top of the NCAAB picks to win the NCAA Tournament.
Carter was absolutely electrifying during his time north of the border, as he dazzled fans with his high-flying abilities and knack to put on high-scoring performances night in and night out.
The Raptors were once on the verge of being relocated out of Toronto, but luckily, they were able to acquire the man later dubbed as “Air Canada” for Antawn Jamison, which helped the Raptors sell tickets to fans.
Not only was “Half-Man, Half-Amazing” a hot ticket around the six, but he would also sellout world-famous arenas such as Madison Square Garden when the Raptors would storm into the bright lights of New York City.
Very few, if any fans left disappointed after seeing “Vinsanity” live in person, as he would literally do something no one else has done at least once a game.
He would invent new ways to dunk the basketball, and if he couldn’t finish a dunk, he would at least have enough hang time to pull off some beautiful acrobatic layups.
Carter famously put himself on the map during the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest, a contest he admits he didn’t even practice for. That didn’t stop him from putting on inarguably the greatest individual Dunk Contest performance we’ve ever seen, as he earned a lot of those aforementioned nicknames in just one night.
During the 2000s, it was always a treat to watch VC go up against the likes of Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson. We all knew that each of those players would bring the absolute best out of one another simply because of their competitive natures.
During the 2001 playoffs, the Raptors faced off against the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round of playoffs, with VC and AI being the headliners of that series.
Both guys took turns putting up dominant performances, as each superstar each had a 50-point game in that series alone.
That series came down to the final possession for the Raptors in Game 7, as one bucket would’ve won the Raptors the game and the series.
However, Carter got a decent 3-point attempt off, but it, unfortunately, rimmed out, which ended the Raptors’ pursuit of a championship.
A lot of Raptors fans and media members alike blamed Carter for attending his college graduation earlier that day as a big factor as to why Carter came up short during that playoff run.
However, it’s extremely unfair to pinpoint that as a reason at all for the Raptors not winning that game. Carter still showed up to the game, informed his teammates about his decision and made it to practice on time.
Still, that moment set in motion that the Raptors fans started to turn their back on their franchise player, especially with some of the injuries that Carter endured in the seasons that followed.
That and the Raptors’ front office’s inability to put together a winning team around Carter ultimately led to an ugly divorce, as Carter was eventually shipped off to the New Jersey Nets in December 2004.
In the years that followed, the man formerly known as “Air Canada” was booed mercilessly every time he even touched the ball at the Air Canada Centre.
But a decade after the trade, Carter and the fanbase essentially reconciled, as Carter was given a standing ovation after the organization played a tribute video for him.
While the ending was ugly, there is no doubt that Carter is the best player in franchise history. Without him, the Toronto Raptors would’ve been long gone.
Besides, Carter never had the teams that Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, and DeMar DeRozan were so fortunate to have during their time north of the border.
Featured Image Credit: Open Court Basketball