It didn’t end the way Damon Stoudamire wanted it to, and he wishes it had been different.
Stoudamire, the first ever collegiate player selected by the Toronto Raptors has made it known every chance he has had since he left Toronto in a huff and was traded to Portland in February of 1998.
It was turbulent time in Toronto for the neophyte franchise. Ownership of the team was in limbo thanks to a shotgun clause that was enacted forcing one of the two owners to either cede their share of ownership or put up the money to buyout the other side.
Unfortunately for Mighty Mouse, he was on the side with minority owner Isiah Thomas who couldn’t put the cash together in time to buy the entire franchise. Thomas drafted Stoudamire with his first pick and it wasn’t a popular selection as many fans of the new franchise were disappointed that the name called wasn’t UCLA’s Ed O’Bannon who was coming off a national championship with the storied collegiate program. Stoudamire’s resulting loyalty to Thomas had him asked to be traded when Thomas lost his ownership stake, and the rest as they say is history. But it’s history that the diminutive guard wishes would have taken a different course.
"I was young," said Stoudamire with a smile. "Basketball is a business and as you get older it’s more about building relationships and that’s more important than the selfishness in which I left here. For me, I wish I could have done that over again because it just wasn’t done the right way."
"I don’t think that I handled it the right way and I just wish that I could have cleaned it up."
But now looking back, Stoudamire realizes how lucky he was during his time North of the border.
"Toronto is a first class organization," nodded the 39-year-old Stoudamire as he reflected on his days a Raptor. "This is a first class and very under rated city. I tell people that all the time. I love coming and enjoying the city when I’m back."
The former NBA Rookie of the Year was in Toronto to speak with aspiring young basketball players at the Raptors Academy and implored them to "respect the process." In short, put the time in and work hard and good things will come your way.
Stoudamire’s affinity for Toronto recently had him exploring an assistant coaching position with the team but as we know, life is about timing. In this instance, the timing just wasn’t right as he had just committed to becoming an assistant coach at his alma mater, the University of Arizona.
"An opportunity presented itself and it was a great opportunity and to be honest with you, the timing just wasn’t right," said Stoudamire shaking his head.
But he doesn’t rule out a chance to return to Toronto in the future.
"If the timing was right I would have come back. But who is to say that things can’t be revisited in the future."