An interesting question came up on Saturday at the Blogs with Balls conference in Toronto. The Basketball Jones panel was asked if the Toronto Raptors should retire Vince Carter’s jersey. One member of the panel agreed that the team should send Carter’s number 15 jersey to Air Canada Center rafters.
In 1995, two NBA franchises found homes in Canadian cities. One team went to Toronto and the other Vancouver. Both struggle in the beginning and only one franchise would survive the Canadian extension. There is one reason for that: Vince Carter.
Carter gave the Raptors their most successful period in franchise history. Before “Linsanity” and Blake Griffin’s Sports Center moments, it was Vinsanity that gave Sport Center their highlight reel moments.
The Raptors are the house that Carter built.
When Carter left Toronto, it enraged Toronto sports media and Canadian basketball fans. It was basically the Canadian version of the LeBron James “Decision.”
Was it justified to be angry at Carter? Yes and no.
It’s unfortunate when a franchise player leaves to go to a team where he has a better shot at a championship. Carter brought postseason to the Air Canada Center, which is a rare occurrence for the building. He stayed when Tracy McGrady left.
The Toronto Sun would report that Carter felt misled in basketball politics and thus, requested a trade. Carter, like every other NBA player wanted a championship. He felt the Raptors would never be an elite team under President Richard Peddie. And he was right.
I remember a Canadian broadcaster asking, after it was announced that Carter was leaving Toronto, if he gave 100%.
It’s hard to watch Carter play and argue that he didn’t give enough.
Every time Carter returns to Toronto, he’s booed. Amir Johnson currently wears the number 15 throwback.
Earlier this year, Carter gave an interview to the Score’s Raptor Blog. He had nothing but great things to say about his experience in Toronto:
“Our team is underrated. I used to say ‘hey, give us a shot. Let us put Toronto and Canada on the map. Let us be seen.’ It’s unfortunate. It has happened, but it just hasn’t happened consistently. And I still think the younger players in the league now have no idea how great Canada is.
I just find it hard to believe that people say I didn’t play hard for the franchise. I loved being there, they gave me my opportunity. That was how my career started. I was able to become Rookie of the Year, I was able to help that franchise win and make it to the playoffs, along with everybody else. I got into the All Star Game, which also helped gain recognition for Toronto, and that’s all I wanted. And that’s everything I put forth to do each and every night, just play the game that I love.”
What happened behind closed doors shouldn’t change what happened on the court. The Raptors remain one of the few franchises that have never retired a player’s jersey.
In the end, if Carter wasn’t traded to the Raptors in a draft day trade, the Raptors would never have survived.