Next year, the Toronto Raptors celebrate 20 years in the NBA. Now, while most of those years have been less than lacklustre, we as Raptor fans have been treated to some successful times. Like this year for example. No one thought that our boys in Red, White and Black would be in thick of the Eastern Playoff hunt (yes, I know most of the East sucks, but that's no longer an excuse). Kinda reminds me of our boys in White, Purple and Black back in 1999-2000, when the team was led by one, Vincent Lamar Carter (but we all know him as Vince).
That Raptors team wasn't expected to do much that year either, but Vince along with TMac, Muggsy, Oakley, Doug Christie and a few others that you probably don't remember took the Raptors to the Playoffs for the first time. Yes, that team was inexperienced, and yes, that team got swept by the Knicks, but we were there. No longer were the Toronto Raptors just an expansion team in Canada, we were a Playoff team.
The next year, Vince Carter would prove it. The Raptors were the 5th seed the East, taking on the 4th seeded Knicks once again. No one thought the Raptors could beat the Knick in a 5 game series. But that Raptors team, lead by Vince, Alvin and Jerome Williams, Antonio Davis, and Charles Oakley proved the doubters wrong. The Raptors beat the Knicks on their home court (and haven't been good since), Toronto and Vince Carter enjoyed their best season and Toronto was buzzing.
Where am I going with this? Vince Carter is the best player to don a Toronto Raptors jersey. Period! Despite the obvious bad break up (both Vince and upper management - Babcock in particular - are to blame), Vince Carter deserves the respect of the fan base that he helped create. Whether you agree or not, the fact still remains that when Vince Carter was a Raptor, Toronto mattered as far basketball was concerned. And it wasn't just from the 2000 Dunk Contest either, Vince was a great player. Don't believe me? Ask Frédéric Weis, the guy that Vince jumped clear over in the 2000 olympics for the best in-game dunk EVER. Vince best years were with the Toronto Raptors, and he deserves to be honoured for it.
This year, he's currently in the final year of his contract with the Dallas Mavericks, and it's unknown whether he will retire or play another season or two. Should he not retire, I believe that the Raptors should sign him, both as a goodwill gesture and the fact that he's become a very decent role player over the years. Should he choose to hang up his basketball kicks, I believe two things should happen:
- Retire is jersey - No disrespect to Amir Johnson, but Vince Carter is the best player to wear #15 in Toronto. Even Amir knows this, and should the Raptors eventually raise VCs jersey to the rafters of the Air Canada Centre, I would assume that Amir wouldn't hesitate to sacrifice his jersey number in favour of Vince, nor should he.
- Join the broadcast team - This one is more of a stretch, but it makes sense. As it stands, TSN and Rogers Sportsnet is HORRIBLE when it comes to NBA coverage, the Raptors especially, and they OWN THE TEAM! As much as not having ESPN in Canada is not an excuse for players not to come to Toronto, I can understand where they are coming from. Basketball comes 2nd in priority to hockey, baseball, soccer, football, olympics... AND CURLING of all sports! The same way TSN and Rogers SN have dedicated shows for hockey and baseball, they MUST have one for basketball. Vince would do well with that (provided that he has the charisma for that). Even having him as one of the analysts for Raptors broadcasts would be better than what we have now.
Again, agree or disagree, Vince Carter and the Raptors are synonymous with each other. That will never change. It's time to get over the breakup.