While many fans have clung to the lows, Vince Carter created more than his fair share of joy during his time with the Toronto Raptors, helping to make the team relevant to fans around the world.
With the man formerly known as Air Canada in town with the Grizzlies Wednesday, here’s a look back at his 10 most memorable triumphs as a Raptor.
10) Christening the Air Canada Centre
The Toronto Maple Leafs had the honour of opening up the Air Canada Centre on Feb. 20, 1999 in a matchup with the arch-rival Montreal Canadiens. The Leafs won the game 3-2 behind an overtime goal from Steve Thomas. Although the game was good and Mats Sundin did rack up a goal and an assist, it wasn’t the type of standout performance you’d like to see for the opening of a new arena.
Enter Carter and the Toronto Raptors just one day later. In a matchup with the Vancouver Grizzlies, Carter unofficially christened the Air Canada Centre with a line of 27 points, six rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks on 11-of-16 shooting (including 3-of-4 from beyond-the-arc). Below, the first basket scored at the ACC and the first time Carter threw down in his new home in a 102-87 Raptors win.
9) The Series Clincher
Carter took a lot of flak for coming up short in big moments, but during game five of Toronto’s first round matchup with the New York Knicks in 2001 he came up huge. Carter finished with 27 points on 50 percent shooting and 6 rebounds, including one very memorable putback to put the Raptors up by four in the closing minutes and send Toronto out of the first round for the first time in franchise history.
8) Worldwide Vinsanity
Carter’s superstardom reached fans all over the world, a fact that made him the top All-Star vote getter for four years, including three-straight—feats matched only by Julius Erving and Michael Jordan.
7) The Vince Carter All-Star Game
The dunk below is crazy—and could’ve made the top dunks list—but what’s more important is the event in which it took place. From 2001 right up until he was traded, Carter put together an annual All-Star charity game each summer, benefitting various charities he was involved with in Toronto and beyond. Carter’s ability to attract well-known NBA players every year and do a lot of good for the city still ranks among his greatest accomplishments in Toronto.
6) The OT Dagger
Vince Carter has hit a lot of game-winning shots in his career and even though he never hit any playoff game winners as a Raptor, he did drill a few in the regular season. This overtime dagger from Nov. 26, 2003 put the finishing touches on a 43-point night and followed on the heels of an incredibly clutch block on Jason Terry at the end of regulation to force the extra frame.
5) The Game-Winning Dunk
When do you ever see a game-winning dunk? This one capped off a win that put the cherry on top of a stretch of 11 wins in 12 games between Feb. 27, 2000 and March 19, 2000—arguably the most successful run in Raptors’ franchise history.
4) Good Evening America
Feb. 27, 2000 didn’t just kick off a stretch of unprecedented success, it was also the first time the Raptors suited up on American national television. When the lights hit him, Carter didn’t fail to shine back, going off for a career-high 51 points on 17-for-32 shooting with four triples, nine rebounds and three steals in a 103-102 victory over the Phoenix Suns. Not a bad way to let the rest of the league know you’re not just a dunker.
3) 1999 Rookie of the Year
When Carter was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year in 1999, the sense of promise that surrounded the Raptors was tangible. After all, the rookie was tall, strong, charismatic and reminded people of Jordan, with his above-the-rim play and natural scoring gifts (he averaged 18.3 points per game in his rookie year). Here’s a clip that was supposedly sent out by the Raptors to convince the league of Carter’s ROTY worthiness.
2) Answering the Answer
The 2001 Eastern Conference semi-finals between the Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers provided Raptor fans’ with some of their most vivid memories of the VC years, and when it comes to Carter triumphs, it’s hard to beat game three. Responding to a 54-point torch job from league MVP Allen Iverson in game two, Carter put up 50 of his own and notched NBA playoff records for most triples in a half (eight) and most triples in a game (nine). Overall, Carter went nine-for-13 from deep, 19-of-29 from the floor, collected six rebounds, dropped seven dimes, blocked four shots and made one steal in a 102-78 Raptors win. Pure domination.
1) The 2000 Slam Dunk Contest
Carter’s dazzling performance in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest showcased a repertoire of dunks that will likely never be matched.
Catapulting Carter into superstardom, the event also put Toronto on the map as an NBA city. An entire generation of fans can still remember exactly where they were and how they reacted during each and every one of Carter’s jams.
VC can also be credited with pretty much single-handedly reviving the dunk contest—the 2000 contest was the first one held in two seasons—and then immediately killing it by setting the bar so high it would never again be cleared.