The Raptors twittersphere blew up late this afternoon after columnist Michael Grange tweeted the following:
— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) March 9, 2012
For the record, @JSportsnet is John Shannon, who has had a very long and successful career in the Canadian sports media, so I think we can safely assume that it’s a truthful statement if Shannon was willing to go public with it.
A lot of Raptors fans immediately 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 Mr. 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.