With the 20th anniversary festivities planned throughout this season, we knew the Toronto Raptors would have a difficult decision when it came to the best player in franchise history. From the moment the Raptors announced they'd be honouring Vince Carter last night in the form of a video montage, we witnessed a flood of opinions and predictions on how the entire event would transpire. It was admittedly a gutsy move by the Toronto Raptors organization -- a public booing would've been a total embarrassment, and given the risks involved, there were some valid questions making the rounds:
Is this necessary while Carter is still an active player?
Has Carter done enough on his end to repair his complicated relationship with the fans?
And most of all, are Raptors fans ready to forgive Vince Carter?
While the timing of the event remains questionable, the end result was the best-case scenario for a front office that seems to have the midas touch for the time being. The video montage was met with a standing ovation for Carter. The VC detractors would have their moment once as well, as he'd experience a chorus of boos once play began.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) November 20, 2014
Carter taps heart, raises hands, tears.— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) November 20, 2014
All this time, we wanted to make Vince Carter cry every time he came back. Who knew a standing ovation would be what finally did it.— Your Boy The Zubes (@the_Zubes) November 20, 2014
R.I.P. Vince Carter Hate 2004 - 2014 #raptors— Sid Seixeiro (@Sid_Seixeiro) November 20, 2014
Well done, TO. RT @cathalkelly: Vince Carter gets a standing O during timeout tribute. He's weeping at courtside.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) November 20, 2014
As far as I can tell... Vince Carter, the former Raptor = was bad, now good. Vince Carter, the current Grizzly = bad— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) November 20, 2014
Suggested earlier today that best thing to do would probably be cheer his Raptors highlights, boo him as a Memphis player. Good job Toronto.
— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) November 20, 2014
Although the loss to the Raptors may have soured an otherwise emotional night for Carter, he was understandably gracious in his appreciation of the ovation.
VC on video tribute/standing O: "It was a great feeling. I couldnt write it any better. I'm extremely thankful... You cant prepare for that"— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) November 20, 2014
DeRozan on VC tribute: "He deserved it. You have to give him credit for everything he brought to the city. He made me a fan at an early age"— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) November 20, 2014
The significance of what took place on Wednesday night can't be overstated. Vince Carter will continue to inspire passionate opinions on both sides of the debate. Regardless of whether you've forgiven Carter or not, there are some undeniable truths to consider: At his peak, Vince Carter was unlike any other player in this franchise's history. He inspired a whole generation of players in this city, and changed the outlook of basketball in Canada. With Carter's career on the downswing, and this Raptors squad on the rise, the fans are far better off investing positive emotions into this team than negative ones into Carter.
Think about all this franchise has been through since the Carter trade -- Mike Babcock, Hoffa Araujo, Charlie Villanueva and Joey Graham, Andrea Bargnani, Failed playoff glimpses, Jermaine O'Neal, Hedo Turkoglu, Bryan Colangelo, Rudy Gay. And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. These have been ten long, testing years and the spectre of Vince Carter and what could have been loomed over us for the majority of them.
Vince Carter has never apologized for sulking his way out of town. He's continually deflected blame and only gone as far as to tell fans that he wishes they knew the whole story behind why it ended.
But that's what makes Wednesday night even more incredible. We took the collective high road and said "Thank You" to him anyway. We showed our appreciation for the good times, and set the stage for a cordial return when he retires. It's nothing to pat ourselves on the back for, but Carter's tears said it all. At the end of the day, for a man who's played for six different teams in 17 NBA seasons, he was never loved anywhere as much as he was here.