In the wake of the TIFF premiere of the UNINTERUPTED documentary, “The Carter effect,” and Raptors president Masai Ujiri’s comment that Vince will “always have a home in Toronto,” the question being bandied about now is: what exactly should ‘home’ with Toronto look like when that time comes?
This naturally has led some to speculate about one of the the most divisive questions among Raptors fans: Should the franchise retire his No. 15?
The question was debated earlier this week on Prime Time Sports when posed to former MLSE president Richard Peddie and Raptors broadcaster Paul Jones.
For many opposed to this idea, the issue comes down to the fact that Carter has never apologized for his behaviour and efforts leading up to his messy exit from Toronto in 2004. And chances are he’s not going to do it now.
Of course, Carter’s supporters don’t believe he needs to.
To his Raptors detractors, Carter remains Judas with a jump shot. To his supporters, he’s the Moses of the franchise, the man who first first led them to the post-season promised land.
I have always been in the camp of those who are torn. Until now.
Like most good sports debates, there’s a lot of nuance in this one. So over the past couple of days, I wrestled with the many pros and cons of Carter’s Raptors legacy in attempt to come away with a definitive stance on whether his No. 15 should hang from the rafters of the ACC. Below, I’ve shared the back-and-forth pros and cons that jostled around in my head.
I’d also love to know whether you think the Raptors should retire his jersey.
Vote using the poll below or use the hashtag #HonourVince or #HateVince to let us know how you feel.
The Question: Should the Raptors retire Carter’s No. 15?
Against: No. He doesn’t represent the city or the country. He doesn’t have grit. He’s not an underdog. He’d stick out like a sore thumb in a “We the North” commercial, nevermind up in the rafters at the ACC, I mean Scotiabank Arena.
For: He brought new fans to the team and inspired several Canadian basketball players. Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson, Nik Stauskas have all said Carter attracted them to the sport.
Against: If we are honouring him based on inspiring grassroots players, we might as well retire Steve Nash‘s jersey too. Nash played for the national team when no other pros would. He spent his own money to give the Olympic team the best of everything in Sydney. Now he’s set up an infrastructure for the national team to develop and support players. Vince may have entertained kids but Nash had a hand in training them.
For: Carter put the Raptors on the map, and NBC for the first time, and he made Raptors gear sell in the states. Even Kevin Durant said he was a Raptors fan because of Carter.
Against: What kind of message does it send about your franchise if the first jersey you retire is one for a player who asked to be traded and won a single playoff series (a best-of-five at that) during his tenure here? The Lakers and Celtics retire the numbers of hall-of-famers and champions. The standard should be higher.
For: Carter will be in the Hall-of-Fame. If Tracy McGrady got in, Carter will be going in too. How can someone be good enough to be recognized by the Hall-of-Fame, but not by the team with which he first rose to prominence?
Against: People forget how bad things got. It’s not just that he left. It’s how he left.
He fought with Sam Mitchell, both literally and figuratively.
His mom, Michelle, was over involved with the team and admitted to leaking a story to the media about the Mitchell and Carter fight. Remember when claimed he’d never dunk again?
Then he went nuts and dunked on everyone after being traded to the Nets.
Two days following the trade, a story came out that Vince told the Seattle Soncis during a game what play the Raptors were going to run.
In the end, most Raptors fans were simply relieved to have the drama over with, which is why Carter received such a negative reception whenever he returned.
For: Things ended poorly for Shaq in Miami and in Los Angeles. You know what they both did? They honoured him. Like Carter, Shaq was injury prone and had a reputation for not working hard. But he was a transcendent figure and that’s all people remember. The same should be true about Vince.
Against: Carter’s most memorable shot was a miss. Down by a point in the final seconds of Game 7 versus Philadelphia in the second round in 2001, Carter had a shot to win the series. But his jumper missed, fuelling the critics who said he shouldn’t have flown to UNC earlier in the day to attend his college graduation.
For: Carter averaged a career-best 27.6 points in 2000-01. Nevermind that he scored 20 of the Raptors 87 points in that Game 7, with nine assists. Taking a private jet to his grad didn’t impact his play that day.
Against: The pre-game trip to UNC was the first of a few questionable decisions. After signing a six-year, $94-million extension, Carter began to have knee issues, resulting in him missing the final 22 games of the 2001-02 season and the Raptors’ first-round playoff loss to Detroit.
As the Raptors were rallying without him down the stretch to make the playoffs, Carter was seen on stage dancing with Nelly at a concert. The pattern of non-team first behaviour and being oblivious to bad optics all started back then. Let’s not forget the histrionics of Carter rolling around on the floor, earning himself the nickname “Wince” Carter.
For: What he is remembered for is putting on the greatest slam dunk competition performance ever. A performance he gave while wearing Raptors purple. That means something.
Against: No, he’s remembered for requesting a trade, which hurt his value. Toronto ended up acquiring Aaron Williams, Eric Williams, two mid-first round picks and Alonzo Mourning, who would never play in Toronto. The Cavaliers received far more for Kyrie Irving.
Then there’s this: In the 20 games before Carter sulked out of town via the trade, he averaged a career-worst in points per game (15), free throw percentage (69 per cent), three-point percentage (32 per cent) and field goal percentage (41 per cent).
In the 57 games with the Nets following the trade, Carter averaged a career-high 27.5 points per game and a career-high 42 per cent from three.
But perhaps the most damning arugment against retiring his number came during Carter’s infamous TNT interview with John Thompson.
Thompson asked: “Do you think Vince Carter has pushed himself as hard as he should have pushed himself?”
Carter’s response: “In years past, no. I was just fortunate enough to have the talent. You get spoiled when you are able to do a lot of things and you see that and you really don’t have to work at it. Being able to get a fresh start has made me want to attack the basket for a lot of reasons.”
On U.S. national TV Carter, with a smile on his face, admitted he didn’t try hard enough with the Raptors.
I rest my case, your honour.
For: In that same interview Carter also said, “There has been so many things. New coaches. New GMs. I’ve gone through four coaches in my six-and-a-half years in Toronto. It was always starting over.”
Anyone would be upset with the dysfunctional management at that time.
Against: Let’s look at it through the prism of today’s players. LeBron had his jersey burned when he left Cleveland. Isaiah Thomas had his jersey burned in Boston and he played hurt, played following his sister’s death and he didn’t want ask to be traded. Kevin Durant lost a friend in Russell Westbrook and was hated on even though he gave millions of dollars in disaster relief funds to Oklahoma City.
So we should forgive Carter and all his transgressions because he put his elbow in the rim in an exhibition and jumped over a French guy in the Olympics? How can the Raptors and their fans allow themselves to get punked in such a fashion?
In the end, I can’t bring myself to raise Carter’s name to the rafters. I consider myself a forgiving person and would probably vote for Carter as the best player in franchise history, but I’m also concerned with principle and precedent.
So if culture matters, I wouldn’t want to set the precedent that a player who quit on a franchise should receive its ultimate honour.
Now… How do you feel?