By: Dan Grant
The Toronto Raptors are honouring Vince Carter with a video tribute tonight as they take on Carter’s latest team, the NBA-leading Memphis Grizzlies. Not to be too dramatic, but this is a massive wart on the face of what should be the most exciting season in the team’s history.
I mean, I get it. I hate it, but I get it. A lot of positive Carter sentiment has surfaced as of late, among some fans and particularly among the media. This sentiment seems to be based on three ‘facts’ that I consider to be ill-conceived misconstructions of truth. They’re myths, essentially. What are they? I’m glad you asked.
1. Vince Carter is the greatest player in team history and it’s the 20th anniversary. We should honour him!
At his highest peak, Carter was certainly the most talented player in team history. But did any player do less with more? Vince is a poster child for wasted talent – not because of major injury, not because of a substance abuse problem, just because of a bad attitude. While Vince might statistically rank among the team leaders in many categories, that says more about the short time the team has existed and about the futility of many Raptors seasons than it does about Carter himself. We forget, but he played just six and a half seasons here. He’s been an opponent longer than he was ever a Raptor.
2. Vince is the greatest thing that ever happened to basketball in Canada. Bennett, Wiggins and the rest of the National program owe him a debt!
Really? I keep hearing this one and it just doesn’t add up for me. Did Vince Carter make basketball more popular in Canada? Sure he did. Among the fans. Do we really believe that if Vince Carter played somewhere else then Andrew Wiggins would be playing hockey? Would Anthony Bennett be working at Foot Locker? Because that’s the argument people are making when they cite Carter’s influence on Canada basketball as a reason to forgive him. If he somehow, by the osmosis of stardom, helped athletes like Tyler Ennis and Cory Joseph choose basketball over another sport, great. But you know what? Kids in school now don’t even remember him playing for Toronto. Kids as old as Grade 5 were born AFTER he was traded to New Jersey. His influence on youth in the country is massively overstated and already waning.
3. Vince has moved on. We should move on too! Why hold a grudge?
At this point, it’s not about a grudge anymore. It’s about getting what is due. And for me, at least, that’s an apology. Many believe that Carter harbours no resentment towards Toronto and understands why the fans boo him. He has expressed regret about his exit in several interviews over the past few seasons. The problem I have is that he expressed regret that the exit happened at all, not about how it happened. I’ve heard Jalen Rose, Tracy McGrady and Carter himself state that we don’t have the whole story. I even heard former head coach Butch Carter on the Fan590 this morning spouting that ‘fans don’t like to blame management for being bad’ suggesting that management was more to blame than Vince. Fine, I get that. Carter was in a bad situation. He wasn’t being treated like a star. He didn’t feel he was being given the respect his peers were given, that he had created something special in Toronto and that he should get what was due to him. I completely understand it and sympathize with it even.
But what does that have to do with the fans? You were upset with management so you tanked games that we paid to see? What did the fans do to deserve that, Vince? You say you were mistreated, but what about us? Expressing vague remorse isn’t enough. He needs to apologize. Formally. He needs to say ‘Look, I understand that things didn’t go the way we wanted, I wish I had handled things differently. The organization and I had irreconcilable differences, that’s true. But I’d like to apologize to the fans. They didn’t do anything to deserve this. They did nothing but support me during my time in Toronto and they were innocent bystanders in a situation that got out of control’. You can use that, Vince. Verbatim. No charge.
If anyone doesn’t think him taking games off was a big deal, let’s have a look to refresh your memory:
Player A – 15.9 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.1 APG, 41/32/69 (FG%/3P%/FT %)
Player B – 27.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.7 APG, 46/43/82
Player A is Vince Carter in the first half of 2004-05 in 20 games with the Raptors. Player B is Vince Carter in 2004-05 in 57 games with the Nets. That is in the same season, from the same player. He went from literally the worst statistical season of his career, by a long shot, to literally the best statistical season of his career.
I was all in on this guy. I had the poster above my bed and the jersey on my back. He killed his own trade value when it should have been highest and ran out of town with his tail between his legs. And we’re honouring him? For what? Honour is earned and anything he earned from us has long since gone sour.
Screw Vince Carter.