In case you missed it, we're doing a countdown of the best individual seasons in Raptors history. So far, we've debated the pros and cons of win shares as a tool of measurement, taken a deep dive into Chris Bosh's 2007-08 season at number five, admired Jose Calderon's extremely efficient and often overlooked campaign from the same year at number four, and given Kyle Lowry the credit he deserved for his 2013-14 season at number three. Today, we look at the second best individual season in team history.
No list of the best individual seasons in Toronto Raptors history would be complete without at least one entry from the man that put the team on the map. Vince Carter may have won Rookie of the Year honours for a stellar first year in 1998-99, but it was his sophomore season in 1999-00 when he had a full-blown breakout. He amassed 11.8 win shares that year, the second highest total ever by a Raptor to this day.
It’s fitting that of Vince’s six and a half seasons in Toronto, this one stands out enough statistically to rank high in win shares and therefore makes our best-of list. Because not only was it one of his absolute greatest from a numbers standpoint, it was also the one where he impacted the culture of the NBA the most.
It was the year he did this:
And it was the precursor to the summer that he did this:
While some people will certainly remember Carter for the high-flying dunks, the numbers absolutely bear repeating as well. In 1999-00, he averaged 25.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game. He did all that while shooting 46.5 percent from the field, 40.3 percent from downtown, and 79.1 percent from the charity stripe.
He finished fourth in the NBA scoring race that year and that 25.7 mark is still the second highest in team history. It was also the season when he set what still stands as a career and franchise high in scoring in an individual game, putting up 51 points at home in a nationally televised game against the Phoenix Suns on February 27th, 2000. Terrence Ross, as you may remember, unexpectedly matched that total in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers this past year, but the number has yet to be beaten and will likely stay that way for a long time.
Vince’s scoring prowess from 1999-00 is certainly memorable, but we might forget the fact that he also averaged over a steal and a block per game that season and through four of his first five as a Raptor. That’s a particularly impressive feat, especially when you consider that he’s one of only eleven guards in NBA history to ever do such a thing even once (with guys like Michael Jordan, George Gervin, and Dwyane Wade being some of the others to do it multiple times).
That complete all-around season not only earned Carter the adoration of people in Toronto and Canada at large, but league-wide as well. His growing fanbase responded by sending him to his first All-Star game that year as a starter and the league’s lead vote getter. He also earned All-NBA honours for the first time that season as a member of the All-NBA Third Team.
Vinsanity spread like wildfire that year from the All-Star game and dunk contest, to the 51-point game, and all the way to the Raptors’ first ever playoff berth in their then fifth year of existence. Carter, along with teammate and cousin Tracy McGrady, led Toronto to its first winning season that year, finishing with a 45-37 record before being swept in the first round by the New York Knicks.
It may have served as an abrupt end to the Raptors’ impressive season and Vince Carter’s breakout campaign, but his leap to superstardom was officially complete. This was the year when Carter really put himself, Toronto, and basketball in Canada firmly in the spotlight. Raptors fans may have mixed emotions about the way he eventually left the team, but his accomplishments in 1999-00 and subsequent seasons deserve to be remembered fondly for what they were: transcendent. If we hadn't been graced with Carter's meteoric rise in skill and popularity during that time, who knows if we’d still have a team to reminisce over today. Perhaps the Raptor would’ve gone the way of the Vancouver Grizzly.
Stay tuned for the sixth and final instalment of our series, in which we will discuss the number one best individual season in the history of the Toronto Raptors!