Vince Carter was world famous for his dunks, but cheering for the former superstar wasn’t always so rosy.
Toronto Raptors fans came to know the Carter letdown intimately, and as we continue to walk down memory lane in advance of VC’s return with the Grizzlies on Wednesday, we present Carter’s most disappointing moments as a Raptor.
10) “I don’t want to dunk anymore”
It may seem silly now, but when Carter declared his dunking days over it was a huge deal. At the time, Carter was settling for jumpers more than ever and looked pedestrian out on the floor, allowing his anti-dunking comments to lend credence to the theory that he was quitting on the team.
9) Wince Carter
As explosive as he was on the court, Carter was also extremely injury prone—a source of constant frustration for Raptors fans. In more than six seasons with Toronto, Carter only played a full 82-game schedule once, and missed a total of 77 games to various injuries (most notably, in the ’01-02 and ’02-03 seasons, when he missed 22 and 39 games, respectively, with jumper’s knee). That the team struggled in his absence—losing to the Pistons in the first round in ’01-02 and failing to reach the post-season the next year—didn’t help matters.
8) The college graduation
Graduating college is a pretty big deal. So is game seven of the Eastern Conference semi-finals. But one of them can be officially accomplished by asking to have a piece of paper mailed to you. Can you guess which?
On the day of the most important game of his career and Raptors’ franchise history, Carter flew to Chapel Hill, NC, to attend his graduation from the University of North Carolina in person. He did make it back for game seven and no can say for sure that he would have performed better if he had stayed with the team, but relaxing and running through his usual pregame routine instead of hopping on and off planes certainly couldn’t have hurt.
7) The alleged Carter, Mitchell rumble
In his first year as head coach of the Raptors, Sam Mitchell didn’t do much to win Carter over, going so far as to bench his star during the fourth quarter in some games. The rift between the two escalated to an alleged locker room rumble that then-Raptor and current ESPN analyst Jalen Rose has described in a most colourful manner, claiming that Carter actually picked Mitchell up and body slammed him WWE-style.
Although Mitchell denied the incident, that the story is so believable for fans points to serious problems between the two from the outset, dooming a promising season very early on.
6) The playoff stinker
The Raptors were clearly overmatched in their first-ever playoff appearance in 2000 against the New York Knicks, but Carter was still expected to shine. After all, he was the league’s fifth leading scorer at 27.6 points per game and had a seemingly limitless ceiling.
Instead, his playoff debut saw him rack up 16 points on an atrocious 3-for-20 shooting. He made up for that performance with a 27-point outing in game two, but came up short again in game three, shooting 5-for-17 for 15 points in the first NBA playoff game ever hosted in Canada.
5) “Carter at the buzzer, no good!”
It’s still hard to find a Raptors fan who can remember this moment without dry heaving. The feeling of excitement when the ball ended up in Carter’s hands, the blind confidence that the shot would drop and the soul-crushing disappointment when it rimmed out. Despite that, though, at the time, you could be satisfied with the team’s performance, knowing that the Raptors’ future was bright and secure.
If only that were the case.
4) Hey look, Dee Brown is open
Yes, Carter was disappointing in games one and three of Toronto’s first-round matchup in 2000, but the most frustrating moment of that Knicks series came in game two. In the dying seconds, Carter had the ball at the top of the three-point arc with space to drive or pull-up on New York’s Latrell Sprewell. Instead, he passed the ball to Dee Brown—who was, admittedly, open—who proceeded to miss. Carter’s heart may have been in the right place, but you’d still like to see your team’s best player take that shot.
3) The alleged Seattle incident
After Carter was traded to the New Jersey Nets in December 2004, the Tacoma News Tribune reported that he had tipped off the Seattle Supersonics’ bench about one of the plays the Raptors ran in the final minute of a game played on Nov. 19, 2004. The incident has never been proven.
2) The trade
Whether Carter wanted to be traded or not, the move that sent him to the New Jersey Nets officially marked the end of an era. The loss of Toronto’s adopted son still causes fans to curse Carter’s name nearly a decade later, as it confirmed once and for all that the grand expectations his otherworldly talent inspired would never be realized.
1) The John Thompson interview
In an exclusive interview with John Thompson following his trade to the Nets, Carter was asked if he’d given his all to the Raptors at all times. This was Carter’s reply:
“In years past, no. I was just fortunate to have the talent.”
Though he was already a Net when he uttered it, that comment was Carter’s most disappointing act as a Raptor, turning what was crushing disappointment into outright hatred among Toronto sports fans. Thompson later said Carter’s words were misinterpreted, but to Raptor fans this interview will always be a national confession that he quit on the team.