A Cold and Snowy night in Downtown Toronto as players and fans alike entered the halls of the ACC. The Fans hoping for another home win against a top team and players hoping to deliver a win for the fans. One player though, by the name of Vince Carter was hoping for something a little more. Closure, a chance to close the books on a rocky and overdone relationship with the fans of Toronto. He left on sour terms with both the team and the fan-base, voicing his want to leave town when things got bad and head for New Jersey to play for the Nets. At the time it was harsh, seeing the franchise of the team and the guy who made basketball in Toronto relevant left the team for scraps for reasons that struck us hard, but that was then and this is now and media and fans alike still were unsure about how he would be treated. Amazingly this debate was still going on, whether to boo because of what he did a decade ago, or to cheer for what he did before he left, which was put a new and unnoticed team on the map of not only Canada but the US as well.
But as the first quarter flowed through the ACC so did the tears of half man half amazing. an ACC tribute video ran in honor of the Raptors 20th Anniversary celebrating their most storied players, and their the ACC showed the most important and influential player in their less than stellar history. The man who captivated Canadian basketball fans everywhere with his high-flying dunks and mega star rise up the NBA lists of stars, Vincent Carter was shown and as an emotional Carter was giving his fans appreciation the fans were not booing, they were not showing dumb signs, no they were cheering, giving a standing ovation as to say thank you and we forgive you. With the tears running down Carter’s eyes, memories were brought back and Carter turned from the biggest heel in the building to the biggest face and the biggest face this franchise has ever had.
I was always a fan of Vince even when he did leave town. The Raptors were headed down a wrong path and the best thing that could have been done was to trade Carter for picks or young players. Now of course, having Rob Babcock as a GM was not a fun ride as he butchered the trade and the Raptors got absolutely nothing back for their former superstar player. Carter flourished in New Jersey helping a losing team all the way into the playoffs and brought the Kidd-Carter-Jefferson alleyoop trio to New Jersey. It was a rejuvenated Carter one that Raptor fans know about all too well. The Nets made it to the Playoffs before falling to the eventual 2006 champion Miami Heat in 5 games, while the Raptors fell to the bottom of the barrel.
It was a tough time for Raptor fans, they just saw their best player basically walk out on them white getting nothing in return make the playoffs and almost come close to an East Finale match-up. They were beyond frustrated at both Carter and management, if anyone saw anyone in a Carter jersey that person would be a Toronto villain. It would be hard to show yourself in public wearing a carter jersey, it was sort of like an unwritten rule to do so. People would not try and tackle you and take it off but they would give you looks and taunt you, and fairly so because how carter left was like a knife right in the Raptors fans hearts that whenever they saw a Carter highlight would twist and twist hurting more and more.
in 2007 after an emerging star in Chris Bosh and co would rise out of the ashes and eventually get a Atlantic Divison crown in 2007. Which meant a match up with the Nets in the first round, it was a series that the Nets eventually took 4-2 but it had much more meaning than that. It was the first playoff game for Vince in the ACC as an opponent, the heel has made his way into the ring ready to face the boos and beat down on the face like only a heel can. He would average 22 points on 69 percent shooting and torch the Raptors. It was hard to watch, like seeing your ex girlfriend get married to a guy and you are sitting front row, just complete emptiness. and the realization of yet another heart=breaking and disappointing playoff series.
He would play for the Nets for another year before being dealt to Orlando where he would start his new role as an off the bench role guy that could still put up points, but he never got the same jump as he did in Toronto and New Jersey. It was hard to watch sometimes, this uber talented player struggling to find his game with a talented Orlando team. He would then after join the Suns for a bit before making a home in Dallas. He grew his role of being an off the bench guy and became a reliable second option for the Mavs both in the playoffs and regular season.
After his time with the Mavs Carter was a free agent. Talks were that he should rejoin the Raptors as a last hurrah and that it would only make it right for him to retire a Raptor. Despite all the talk and all the rumors, Carter would sign with Memphis. Who knows if this will be the last stop for Vince, while he may not be his same self talent wise, he can still help a good team with good play but the age soon plays a role for a professional athlete. Guys like Kobe and Duncan continue to play but their bodies have taken a tremendous toll, and same has happened to Carter who is climbing into his late 30s. If this is truly the end of Air Canada than I sure hope those same cheers and claps Carter got this past Wednesday happen when the Raptors honor and they will honor, their greatest Basketball player ever they including all the fans both in attendance and watching on tv remember the foundation he set for the team and for basketball in Canada. Time for Air Canada to land its finale flight.