Archive for the ‘Vince Carter’ Category

On Thursday night we unveiled Vince Carter as the No. 1 Raptor (surprise, surprise) in the finale of our Ultimate Raptors Rankings.

What I didn’t mention in that post is that Scott and I actually had a chance to talk to Vince a couple of weeks ago, during the final week of the regular season.

Vince was great to chat with, took a good amount of time to answer our questions and was honest with his answers when we got to the tougher questions about the John Thompson interview. It was kind of interesting to hear him surprisingly say “oh, wow” when we explained that the reason we wanted to interview him was because we were naming him the best Raptor in franchise history for our Raptors-related blog. He sounded genuinely surprised and flattered, which kind of caught me off guard. Perhaps he was just surprised that fan frustration over his departure hasn’t clouded their judgement of his peak performance, or perhaps Carter is humbler than people give him credit for.

Either way, as a lifelong Raptors fan, it was fascinating to get a few minutes with Vince Carter for RaptorBlog and to get some answers to questions Scott and I have always had, as I’m sure you have, too.

Here’s the interview, transcribed in its entirety:

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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.

Vince Carter’s Raptors résumé:

- 2nd in All-Time Franchise points (9420) and 1st in Points per game (23.4)

- 3rd in total rebounds (2091) and 4th in total assists (1553)

- 2nd in total blocks (415) and 3rd in total steals (534)

- Leader in P.E.R. (21.8)

- 5th in games played (403) and 3rd in minutes played (15,114)

- Perennial All Star and multiple-time leading vote-getter

- 2000 Slam Dunk champion

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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.

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.

If you read my Ultimate Raptors Rankings post on Alvin Williams or listened to our interview with him as part of RaptorBlog Radio, you know how highly we regard “Boogie.”

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?