The Ultimate Raptors Rankings are the RaptorBlog editors’ attempt to rank the top 30 Toronto Raptors of all time. These rankings are obviously somewhat arbitrary and endlessly debatable, but they’re based on each player’s contribution, performance and longevity as a Raptor, and on how beloved they are by Raptors fans. We’ll count down a new Raptor every Wednesday on this blog.

Keon Clark’s Raptors résumé:

  • Helped Toronto make the playoffs in both his seasons as a Raptor
  • Second in Raptors history in blocks per game, minimum 200 blocks (1.8)
  • Set franchise record with 12 blocks (in 28 minutes!) on March 23, 2001 against the Atlanta Hawks

Keon Clark wasn’t one of the most accomplished players to ever wear a Raptors uniform, but fans who watched him in Toronto from 2000-2002 would surely agree with me that he was one of the most exciting. He was all lean, coiled, explosive power — equally capable of throwing down a vicious dunk on one end and swatting an opponent’s attempt on the other end. There was very little finesse to his game — those springy legs propelled him higher than his opponents and he brought down righteous and furious anger upon them.

With his height, athleticism and natural ability, you couldn’t help but compare him to another aggressive, athletic stringbean — Kevin Garnett. Back in 2002, Bill Simmons wrote, “There isn’t a more underrated player in the league right now than Keon Clark. I’m not kidding. I keep writing this and nobody listens to me — if he played 40 minutes a game, he’d be a 20/10 guy, night after night. Mark my words.”

Keon’s finest game as a Raptor was one of his last. The Raptors were down two games to one against the Pistons in the best-of-five first round series in 2002, and Clark led the Vince-less Raptors to victory in Game Four with 19 points and 16 rebounds. After the Raptors lost the series in Game Five, Clark signed with the Sacramento Kings for one year plus a player option year, and Raptors fans were left wondering if management knew something about him we didn’t.

Whether they knew or not, the Raptors were smart to get him go. It turned out that Clark was an alcoholic and chronic weed smoker, and he loved those substances more than he loved basketball. “I never played a game sober,” he claimed during a 2007 court hearing in which he admitted to drinking alcohol during halftime of every NBA game.

Clark’s post-NBA career has been spent mostly in and out of prison, and he’s currently serving a 33-month sentence for driving under revocation — something he had been busted for three times previously. Considering that he once said, “Jail ain’t built for 6-9 guys,” you’d think he’d have learned his lesson.

But for all his natural physical gifts, he simply hasn’t been able to shake his personal demons. Perhaps it’s a little more understandable when we learn that Keon’s father is serving a 65-year-sentence for murder. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, even when that apple is rotten.

Comments (11)

  1. He always had such great hands … in the first half …

  2. Too bad his love for basketball paled in comparison to his love for golf. Or weed. Shame because he had the tools to be a perennial All Star, but instead got a worse version of the VC syndrome.

  3. So sad, how good could he have been sober?

  4. Does Keon tie for 21st with Matt Bonner? Or should it say #20?

    I recall years ago hearing (reading?) that one of the reasons Keon wasn’t re-signed by the Raptors was because Vince Carter didn’t like him. If KC was really playing drunk or high all the time, maybe Carter wasn’t so wrong…

  5. DeRosen: Somebody else pointed out my mistake so I’ve fixed it in the title. I’ve got pneumonia so I’m not entirely myself right now.

  6. His Wiki page has him at 6’11″ which is what I remember him as.

    Damn huge waste of talent and size. Between VC coasting and Clark drunk, it’s a wonder we even fielded a team back then.

  7. Keon! Nice find on the Simmons quote, and that youtube mix with that soundtrack is perfect except for the grainy video but what can you do. Way to go Yinka Dare, wherever you are.

    Dude was electric. It’s a damn shame he couldn’t get his life together, but from a pure entertainment perspective and for my money, he was probably the second most exciting Raptor ever behind Vince. Pretty amazing how productive he managed to be without being sober.

  8. An aside, but is the Score blog network cancelled Scott? Not the one directly on the site, but that would have the drop down and had Drunkjaysfans, Dino Nation, etc. I don’t see the links anymore. Too bad if it is, I enjoyed it as a way to hop around some great blogs.

  9. I used to adore Keon! He’s the reason I started wearing the number 7. Was heart-broken when he left. And then I heard about his off court problems. So sad.

  10. Way too hard on Keon. Both in the ranking and the tangent remarks about his personal life. I’m no lawyer, but I think murder and alcoholism are two different things. In his short time with the Raptors, Keon managed to set the team record for blocks in a game with 12. He’s also second all time in BPG.

  11. Just saw your comment, Ike. The Sports Federation was discontinued, but I’m working on something else to take its place.

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