He was half man, half amazing in a country that fell head over heels for his nightly display of Vinsanity.
Then it all ended ugly between the Toronto Raptors and Vince Carter.
Giving Carter’s recent return to the city he once owned, it’s time to go back to the 2004-05 season and revisit what could have been for Carter and the Raptors franchise.
On Dec. 18, 2004 the futures of Carter and the less than a decade old Toronto franchise were forever altered and both have struggled to pick up the pieces since.
Once Carter slammed down his first thunderous dunk, he not only had the city of Toronto falling for him, he quickly had the entire country in the palm of his hands. When you play in Toronto, whether it’s for the Raptors or the Toronto Blue Jays, there are millions of people reaching all over Canada supporting the team.
Carter was the biggest sports story to hit the country that wasn’t hockey related since the Blue Jays back-to-back World Series victories. Everybody loved him, had he stayed the country would still be debating who’d of had the biggest impact on basketball in Canada, Steve Nash or Vince Carter? Now Nash is the country’s most beloved basketball figure and Carter is boo’ed louder than anybody else who visits the Air Canada Center.
He was immature and grew frustrated with the franchise’s personal moves. He wanted a real coach, he got Kevin O’Neil. He wanted a real general manger, he got Rob Babcock. Two names that make Raptors fans cringe to this day.
Carter got the treatment LeBron James received from the Cleveland Cavs, meaning he got whatever he wanted. Then when the team finally said no, he admittedly quit on the team. Carter wanted the general manager to be Julius Erving he got Babcock. When O’Neil was let go and replaced with Sam Mitchell, Carter looked around and said “this is the best you can do?”
Injuries, immaturity and frustration with the franchise led to Carter demanding a trade from the team that tried to give him everything. It would later be confirmed that on the night before he was traded Carter had gone to management and said he’d do whatever it would take to remain with the team. Babcock traded him the next day and the Raptors haven’t been the same since.
Arguing if Carter still had anything left him by 2004 takes about a second to end any debate upon looking at the numbers. It also confirms just how great his lack of desire was to compete for the struggling franchise. In the 20 games he played for the Raptors he was averaging 15.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists. In the 57 games he played for the New Jersey Nets he averaged 27.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists leading the team to the playoffs.
Clearly he still had it in him.
However what would have happened had he stayed?
When you consider that Chris Bosh was only in his sophomore season averaging 16.8 points and 8.9 rebounds, the team could have an incredible Eastern Conference duo. Not to mention the team still had a useful Jalen Rose on the roster, who the season before averaged 16.2 points, 5.5 assists and four rebounds after being traded to Toronto.
The trio could have provided the Raptors with a wonderful nucleus to build around. With Carter playing at his highest level, Bosh coming into his own as an all-star power forward and Rose’s play-making and scoring ability, the team would have been much better than the Nets team Carter was traded too.
In fact until the Boston Celtics traded for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the East and especially the Atlantic Division was extremely weak. The Raptors could have owned the division between 2005 -2007 considering the highest win totals in the three years were 49 (Nets 2006), 47 (Raptors 2007), and 45 (Celtics 2005). Nets don’t win 49 games without Carter and Celtics don’t win the division with Carter outplaying Paul Pierce as the division’s best swingman. Nobody in the division had a forward to match Bosh’s talents either which is proved by the division title he led Toronto to.
When you factor in the potential Carter and Bosh had playing at a high level together, things would have played out a lot different in just the three seasons after Carter’s trade.
More importantly, the legacies between both Carter and the Raptors would also be a lot different today.