Tonight will be All-Star Saturday Night. I debate if I will even watch it. I likely will out of some obligation to know what is going on. However, if I didn't cover the NBA in some way, I would not even bother. All-Star Saturday Night has become a complete joke to me. It is a collection of who feels like competing in the various contests. It was over a decade ago in Oakland that we saw Vince Carter put on a show in the slam dunk contest for all-time. There was nothing that would have stopped me from watching that. At the time I was working on a hockey broadcast(Shocking I know) but it was over in plenty of time to catch the Vince Carter Show. I won't lie with every V.C Dunk I popped large for each dunk as did the folks watching with me at the radio station. It was so loud you could apparently hear us on the air in the studio located a level below where we were. It is one of those moments I will never forget where I was for that for the rest of my life. Apparently, the man who made it happen remembers it fondly as well and why wouldn't he.
Vince Carter (Via Twitter) - O' Canada do you remember this day (Saturday) in Oakland when Toronto was put on the map...#memories Enjoy your Saturday!!!!!
If we are honest that night put the Raptors on the map in the United States perhaps more than any single event in the history of the franchise. Raptors fans barring an unexpected trade will not get to boo Vince Carter this year. Raptor fans boo Vince for his own actions when he here and his actions after he left. Vince himself has always said consistently he still loves Toronto. It has come off as disingenuous at times. However, it sure seems like he actually means it. People who are skeptical might think Vince is coming to the end of line and is just trying to repair his image here. That might be true. It also might just be he has matured and realized that what he had in Toronto he has never truly had anywhere else.
My feelings on Vince have never been that of hate, they have always been of disappointment of what he truly could have been. Vince love him or hate him, the fact he had and still has to lesser extend some extraordinary talent is not a debate, it is a fact. What is a debate is if he ever truly got the most out of that talent, that is another story. Based on his actions and his words the answer would appear to be no. I have always thought if Vince Carter got the most out of his talent we would have him in a conversation with Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and others as the best players in the modern game. Some feel that Vince Carter has the numbers to get in the Hall of Fame. I personally don't think of him as a Hall of Famer. He could have and probably should have been one.
Should he be recognized as the best Raptor of all time and have his number 15 hang at the ACC becomes another story and different debate in some ways. The thing that will always work against him is that infamous interview with John Thompson after he had been traded to the Nets. Vince in that interview basically questioned if he gave all he had in his time in Toronto. He felt that he didn't and said as much in that interview. It was like pouring gasoline on fire of hate that already existed for him in Toronto when he left. He after all asked to be traded and wanted to leave. Now on top of that, he was saying he wasn't sure he gave all he had in his time here. It is probably why some still hate Vince almost a decade later or at least a big part of the reason.
Still, can anyone deny that he was the one player that consistently put the Raptors on the map in the U.S. He was the top voted player for the All-Star Game numerous times. Chris Bosh has never started in an All-Star game and never had the appeal that Vince did south of the border. In many ways it is why Bosh decided to leave and head to Miami. Vince didn't have to go to U.S or a big market for anything. He had all the stuff any NBA Superstar would have in terms of publicity and advertising in the U.S. While he was the poster boy for the NBA here in Canada. Vince's reasons for leaving had everything to do with Raptor management. Some of those issues I would agree with him. He was less than thrilled with the revolving door of coaches he had played under. He didn't like the hiring of Rob Babcock. Looking back on it does anyone disagree with that?
So if we go 10 years forward from today, will we feel the same way about Vince? The debate on if the Raptors should honor him has already been debated while he is still active in the NBA. Here is something to consider, the fact the Raptors have never truly been able to replace him at the small forward or the shooting guard position. No one has come close in filling that void. The Raptors have seldom seen the light of day in the U.S media since he left. The Raptors played on Christmas Day back when they only had like 2 games on that day when Vince was here. Now the Raptors are never seen on that type of marquee. Chris Bosh made note of that during his exit. Here is the thing Vince Carter was such a show himself he made the Raptors a viable option to appear on National T.V in the U.S. Vinsanity was the biggest thing in the NBA for a time. When you combine the player and his impact on the Raptor brand that has never been seen since, it makes sense that number 15 should hang in the ACC.
The issue becomes how the future Raptor fanbase will feel about that. It is not like Vince Carter brought any titles to Toronto. But the Leafs just honored a guy that never did either in Mats Sundin. However, the feelings of Leaf fans towards Sundin is very different than how Raptors fans feel about Carter. You can argue that Carter accomplished more than Sundin. I don't ever recall anyone that was not a Leaf fan, that considered him the best player in the game or even in that argument. Vince for a stretch of time was. He brought an excitement to the Raptors that no one has since. Going to the Raptor Game was the cool thing to do in Toronto. The ACC was filled to see Vince regardless of the other team on marquee.
Will we ever forgive and forget and make peace with Vince Carter? I don't know what the answer is. I had, long ago and have never truly hated him. Fact is Vince does have a big ego and thinks a great deal of himself. However, he is not really this bad person that you would want him to be. He actually did a lot of good in his time here for charities and all of that. He is never going to be as popular as other players that struck a chord with fans like an Alvin Williams or Jerome William or even a Matt Bonner. That said, if I was making a list of people you should hate more than Vince...Tracy McGrady, Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu all would go ahead of Vince for me.
Love him or hate him, he created the most exciting period of this franchises history. It might be time to start remembering those things as much as we do all the bad things. Something to consider as you watch an All-Star Saturday Night that will not be anything close to the excitement that was created in Oakland over a decade ago.