On Tuesday, Andrew Unterberger wrote an intriguing piece for The Basketball Jones, looking at the players whose jerseys have been retired, should be retired or may be retired by the various Eastern Conference teams in the NBA.
To no one’s surprise, Vince Carter and Chris Bosh made the list for the Raptors, only they made it under the “possibly” category, with no former Raptor in the “definitely” category, and deservedly so.
With Unterberger’s post sure to stir up discussion and debate among the 15 Eastern Conference fan bases, it obviously got me thinking about which players should even be considered for some sort of jersey honouring or retiring in Toronto.
Given the fact that we’re talking about a franchise that has just four winning seasons and five playoff trips in 17 years of existence, there won’t be that many names to consider. Having said that, Toronto has seen its fair share of stars walk through the Air Canada Centre tunnel in purple, red or black.
I’ll start by saying this. I think that a player should play at least three seasons, if not more, in one city to be considered for any type of team honour. Given the usual 82-game schedule in the NBA, this means that players should play somewhere in the neighbourhood of 246 games with one team to garner consideration.
This already eliminates players like Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady, Marcus Camby and fan-favourites like Jerome Williams, Donyell Marshall and Charles Oakley (though Oakley did play over 200 games with the Raptors).
Anthony Parker just misses the cut with 235 games played and though Joey Graham may have played 275 games as a Raptor, unless we’re creating an All-Disappointment team, I don’t think we’re talking about Joey G.
That leaves us with eight players – Antonio Davis, Doug Christie, Andrea Bargnani, Vince Carter, Alvin Williams, Jose Calderon, Chris Bosh and Morris Peterson – to even consider honouring.
While Andrea Bargnani may go down as a top-five player in franchise history or higher when his career is done, I don’t believe we’ve seen enough of “Andrea the All Star” as of yet to declare his candidacy for a jersey honouring. That might change in a couple of years, but not yet.
Doug Christie played parts of five seasons with the Raptors and was a member of the Raps teams that first established roots in Toronto. He was an underrated player, a great defender and should be remembered fondly by Raptors fans for years to come. But Christie made his escape from Toronto just as the team was really getting off the ground and never took part in major team success in T.O., other than the first playoff trip in 2000. As much as I liked Doug, I don’t think he’s jersey honouring material.
Antonio Davis is one of only three All Stars in franchise history, played over four seasons (310 games) in Toronto, averaged about 13 points, nine rebounds and over a block per game here and more importantly, was a key piece of the most successful period in team history.
Then you have arguably the most beloved Raptor of all time and the man who played more games north of the 49th than anyone else – Morris Peterson.
If you ask me, Davis, Williams and Peterson represent the quintessential Raptors résumés for jersey honouring consideration, but not for jersey retiring. If the Raptors ever go the way of the Maple Leafs and either just don’t retire numbers (other than Ace Bailey’s and Bill Barilko’s) or do a mix of retiring and honouring numbers, then those three names should be near the top of the list.
Jose Calderon is in his seventh season with the Raptors and with 459 games played (third all time in Toronto), could become the franchise’s all time leader in games as early as next season, provided he stays healthy and isn’t traded by then. Calderon has averaged about 10 points and seven assists over his career, is the franchise leader in assists and has been an integral component of two of the franchise’s five playoff teams. For the most part, he’s been an above average player at his position and even got some All Star consideration and buzz for a couple of seasons, though he ultimately fell short. Like the three players I mentioned above, I don’t think Calderon has done enough to have his numero ocho retired, but as of right now, you might be able to make the argument that he is more of an “honour” candidate than anyone not named Bosh or Carter.
Speaking of those who shall not be named, there is no doubt in my mind that at some point, Vince Carter and Chris Bosh should have their Raptors accomplishments celebrated, whether by just raising a banner to the rafters or flat out retiring numbers four and 15.
They scored 19,695 points in Toronto between the two of them, were both selected to five All Star games as Raptors and combined to garner three All NBA selections (one second-team selection for Bosh, a second-team and third-team selection for Carter) while playing in Canada.
Perhaps most impressive of all, Basketball Reference’s “Elo Player Rating” ranks them both among the top 100 players of all time…seriously.
Whether you want to admit it or not, we’re talking about two guys who will get some Hall of Fame consideration. For a franchise that’s been low on success and has often been an NBA punch-line through its first 17 seasons, that’s as good as it gets.
To summarize, here’s how I would consider some of the best and most memorable Raptors players in terms of jersey honouring:
Definitely Retire: N/A
Consider Jersey Retirement/Definitely Honour: Chris Bosh and Vince Carter
Consider Honouring: Jose Calderon, Antonio Davis, Morris Peterson, Alvin Williams
Bobblehead Night and Video Tribute: Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady, Doug Christie, Charles Oakley, Jerome Williams
Just A Bobblehead: Donyell Marshall, Marcus Camby
What do you think of this list, and which category do you think guys like Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan will finish their Raptors careers in?