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Tracy McGrady officially announced his retirement from the NBA today after parts of 16 seasons in the Association, and while only three of those years were spent in Toronto, we’d be remiss as a Raptors-related blog if we didn’t spend at least a few words on T-Mac’s legacy here.

There are many Raptors fans who look back at Tracy McGrady as one of their all-time favourites, some who loathe him for being another in a long list of “ones who got away,” and even a chunk of younger fans who don’t have a single memory of McGrady in Raptors purple.

Either way, here’s a quick reminder…

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The Raptors twittersphere blew up late this afternoon after Michael Grange tweeted the following:

 

Raptors fans grimaced in disgust over the realization that the Raptors passed up on two surefire Hall of Famers in Kid Canada and Dirk in exchange for a guy who never fully capitalized on his talents (Vince Carter) and another player who made just one All Star appearance (Davis).

While it’s easy to throw expletives Glen Grunwald’s way in hindsight, let’s please take a step back and consider what Shannon said. As Grange points out in his tweet, the timeline for this declined trade was “2001ish.”

Whether it’s the 2000-2001 season or the 2001-2002 season we’re talking about, or somewhere in between, Raptors fans and Canadian basketball fans would have rioted if Grunwald pulled the trigger on a deal to ship Vince Carter out of town. At the time, the Raptors were a promising Eastern Conference team on the rise. Few people remember that the Raps were seen as Eastern Conference favourites, or at least one of the favourites, after losing to the 76ers in the 2001 East semis and later signing Hakeem Olajuwon.

Not to mention, while we were all left with an extremely bitter taste in our mouths over the way VC made his Toronto exit, let’s remember what he was in and around the year 2001, and that was simply the most electrifying basketball player on the planet, and certainly the biggest basketball draw in the world.

He was that big. He was the best player on a team that some thought could be a championship contender within a year or two, and he would have been only 24-years-old. In terms of stats, Vince was averaging around 27 points per game to go along with approximately five rebounds, four assists and over a steal and block per game.

Antonio Davis was an All Star big man in 2001, giving the young Raptors around 14 points, 10 rebounds and a couple of blocks on a nightly basis.

Nash was a 26 or 27-year-old point guard, averaging around 16 points and seven assists per game. He was very good, but he was a far cry from the lead guard that went on to win back-to-back MVP awards and cemented his hall of fame legacy as one of the best pure point guards of all time. As for Dirk, he was already scoring over 20 points per game while adding over nine rebounds, and he would have only been around 23-years-old.

If you were going to rank the four players at the time of the proposed deal, I’d be willing to bet that almost everyone would have Vince at the top of the list, followed closely by Dirk, with Davis and Nash seen as a toss-up for third and fourth.

At the end of the day, while it may sting to think about the fact that Nash and Nowitzki could have laid the foundation for a perennial contender North of the border, no Raptors fan can realistically look back and say they would have been content with this deal in 2001, even despite the fact that the Raptors would have acquired a Canadian legend and a budding superstar.

And it’s because no matter what their passports said, in and around the year 2001, there was no bigger professional athlete in Canada than Vince “Air Canada” Carter.

As I mentioned in my half-season Raptors’ review on the weekend, this was the first time in the franchise’s 17-year history that they did not have a player taking part in any of the All Star weekend events. One of the events that Raptors players have been prominent in is the dunk contest, where between 2000-to-2011, four different Raptors took part in the event.

Scott wrote a great piece for TBJ on his memories of Vince Carter’s epic triumph to get it all started in 2000, which included video of Vince’s five memorable dunks from that competition, and it got me thinking of doing a fun, retrospective post on all of the Raptors dunks the contest has ever seen.

So without further ado, here is Toronto’s dunk contest history.

Not much to say about Vince in 2000 that hasn’t already been said. If you’re a Canadian sports fan, or a basketball fan anywhere in the world, you’ll never forget watching this spectacle.

You could easily make the argument that the second best dunk contest performance by a Raptor happened on the same night that Vince Carter was turning the basketball world upside down. If you sometimes forget how good Tracy McGrady was already at that stage of his career or how many flashes of brilliance and potential he showed us while a member of the Raptors, just watch his performance in the 2000 dunk contest. In almost any other year (pre corny props), this is a winning performance.

If there is one thing the NBA quickly realized Jamario Moon could do, it was jump. I don’t know if anyone had Moon beating Dwight Howard in their predictions for the 2008 contest, but I think it’s safe to say the Meridian Community College product was the darkhorse pick for a lot of people. Moon’s first dunk was underrated if you ask me, but Jamario screwed himself on his second dunk by placing the tape too far back and by selecting Jason Kapono to make the pass.

Whether it was his “Air Canada’s back” tweet on the night he was drafted or his reputation as an undefeated dunk contest participant, a lot of Raptors fans envisioned DeMar DeRozan being the first Raptor since Vince to bring the dunk title North of the border. His second dunk in 2010 was great, his first dunk and third dunk were nice (and like Moon’s, were probably underrated) but his finishing dunk was way too simple to impress anyone. While it’s definitely fair to say DeRozan disappointed in his first NBA dunk contest (which might go down as the worst one ever), I still believe he deserved the win (over Nate Robinson) as the best of a bad crop.

DeMar returned to the contest in 2011 by replacing an injured Brandon Jennings in his hometown of L.A. While the expectations on him weren’t as high as the previous year, we all still thought DeRozan would redeem himself, and he did. I thought DeMar was robbed of what should have been an unimpressive victory in 2010, but in 2011, I was downright angry with the way it all played out, and won’t ever blame DeRozan for boycotting the all props contests. It started with him getting a low 44 for his “East Bay Funk Remix” despite high scores being given to worse dunks all night.

That unreasonably low score on his first dunk would be the deciding factor in sending DeRozan packing after the first round, because he followed up with what I maintain is one of the greatest dunks I’ve ever seen. No props, not a lot of crazy movement, but a pure, difficult, incredible dunk. Call me crazy, but I think you can put DeMar’s “Show Stopper” in the same ranks as any of McGrady’s dunks and even a couple of Carter’s jams. It was that good.

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.

Antonio Davis’ Raptors résumé:

- One of only three Raptors players ever selected to an NBA All Star game (2001)

- Eighth in games played (310) and minutes played (10,808)

- Second in total rebounds (2839) and rebounds per game (9.2)

- Third in total blocks (405)

- Seventh in total points (3994)

After finishing the lockout-shortened 1999 season with a surprising 23-27 record (led by an upstart rookie named Vince Carter) and sniffing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, the Toronto Raptors knew they had to add to their roster in the off-season to go from a young team merely sniffing the post-season to a team actually playing in it.

Enter big man Antonio Davis, who was brought to Toronto in a trade that saw draft pick Jonathan Bender head to Indiana. The move would prove beneficial for the team and a turning point in Davis’ career.

The 31-year-old Davis filled the important role of veteran mentor for a team stocked with youngsters like Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Morris Peterson and Alvin Williams. The Raptors went on to a 45-win season and the first playoff berth in franchise history, while Antonio put up career numbers of  11.5 points and 8.8 rebounds. Toronto may have been swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the older, wiser Knicks, but they had put the NBA on notice. They were a team on the rise, and Antonio Davis was going to have a hand in that ascension.

The Raps followed up with a franchise-best 47 wins in 2000-2001 before a thrilling playoff series victory in a rematch with the Knicks. They ultimately came within one shot of the Eastern Conference final. As for Davis, he elevated his game from impactful mentor to NBA All Star, putting up 13.7 points, over 10 rebounds and nearly two blocks per game.

Antonio had already endeared himself to Canadian sports fans with a hard-nosed style and all out hustle over his first two seasons in Toronto, but it was his inspiring and admirable performance to close out the 2001-2002 season that will forever go down as his most memorable run as a Raptor. With Vince Carter out for the season and the Raptors reeling (17 losses in 18 games to fall out of a playoff spot), Davis put the team and Canadian basketball fans on his shoulders, and wow, did we ever enjoy the ride?

Davis averaged over 18 points, eight rebounds and a block per game while fully embracing the leadership role over the last 14 games of the season, helping the Raptors go 12-2 over that span (including a nine-game winning straight) and rallying them into the Eastern Conference’s seventh seed and subsequently, a playoff spot.

While Davis enjoyed another good statistical season in 2002-2003 (13.9 points, 8.2 rebounds), the Raptors came crashing back to earth with a 24-58 record. Toronto drafted Chris Bosh that summer and Antonio was shipped to Chicago with Jerome Williams and Chris Jeffries in the middle of the 2003-2004 season in the trade that brought Jalen Rose and Donyell Marshall (and Lonny Baxter) north of the border.

Davis was never much of a factor in the NBA after that deal, and by the time he came back to the Raptors for eight games of the 2005-2006 season, his value was limited to simply being an expiring contract.

While some Raptors fans will always reference his disdain for the metric system when reminiscing about Antonio Davis, I, along with countless others, will always remember the immeasurable heart, hustle and leadership he brought to the table during the most successful era in franchise history.

Like it or not, Antonio Davis is deserving of the fourth spot in RaptorBlog’s Ultimate Raptors Rankings.

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.

Alvin Williams’ Raptors résumé:

- Fourth in Games Played (417)

- Fifth in Minutes Played (11,736)

- Second in Assists (1791)

- Fourth in Steals (517)

- Ninth in Points (3876)

Those numbers alone are enough to make Alvin Williams an easy choice for the Top-10 in RaptorBlog’s Ultimate Raptors Rankings. Throw in how beloved he was among Raptors fans and his crucial role in the most successful era in franchise history, and you have a top five Ultimate Raptor.

Something about Williams always gave off an underdog feel. Maybe it was that he was a second round pick (48th overall) by the Trail Blazers in the 1997 NBA Draft, that he averaged just six points and 1.9 assists as a rookie, or that he was the main incoming piece in the Damon Stoudamire trade. Add it all together and Alvin faced an uphill battle in winning over the fans in Toronto, but over the years, he proved more than up to the task.

While his numbers were never that impressive, “Boogie,” as he became affectionately known in Toronto, carried a subtle swagger and toughness that Raptors fans are notoriously in love with.

It was 2000-2001, with the Raptors coming off of their first playoff appearance in franchise history (a 0-3 sweep at the hands of the Knicks), when Williams really began to make an impact. That season, Boogie averaged nearly 10 points, five assists and 1.5 steals in about 30 minutes per game to help the Raptors to a franchise-best 47 wins.

In a first round rematch against the veteran Knicks, Williams and the Raptors ensured there would be no encore. Alvin picked his game up when it mattered most, averaging over 17 points in that series to go along with four assists, three rebounds and 1.8 steals.

Then, with the fifth and deciding game needing a perfect ending, Williams provided the final dagger:

Williams came back even better in 2001-2002, upping his averages to 12 points and six assists and playing in all 82 regular season games for the second straight season. He will be remembered for being one of the unsung heroes who rallied an undermanned Raptors team (who were without Vince Carter) to 12 wins in their final 14 games to squeak into the playoffs, where the Raptors then came withing a couple of Chris Childs brain-farts away from rallying to eliminate the heavily favoured Pistons.

Alvin had become a bonafide fan favourite and NBA starter in Toronto, and though the Raptors took a massive step back in 2002-2003, Williams once again improved his own game, enjoying perhaps his best season as a pro.

A knee injury cut his season short in 2003-2004, and he would go on to play just three games total over the next three seasons, effectively ending his career. Williams left the Raptors as the team’s all time leader in assists, a record he held until Jose Calderon recently surpassed his total.

Though he did sign a 10-day contract with the Clippers in 2007, Williams eventually came back to his NBA home, first joining the Raptors as an assistant coach before the 2009-2010 season and now serving as the team’s Director of Player Development.

If ever the Raptors wanted to start a “once a Raptor, always a Raptor” campaign, Alvin Williams would be the perfect pitch man.

Til this day, few Raptors, if any, remain as beloved as Alvin “Boogie” Williams.