Vince Carter's Most Memorable Games as a Toronto Raptor

On the day that would have been Air Canada's final game in Toronto, we look back at his most memorable moments as a dino.

vince carter best games raptor

Image via Illustrator/Albert Carbó

vince carter best games raptor

Vince Carter should have been preparing to say goodbye to Toronto on April 10. Instead, he’ll be bunkered down in his home staying safe just like the rest of us.

It likely would have played out beautifully. After years of expressing anger and disappointment over the manner in which Carter forced his way out of the city, Raptors fans have come around and showered him with cheers over the last few seasons. On this particular night, his final one, coming in the year of the Raptors’ 25th anniversary, there likely would have been a special tribute; possibly some type of plaque presentation and a final ovation that would have extended for several minutes.

We have none of that. But memories, as they say, last a lifetime. Here are the most memorable games Carter had as a member of the dinos. A few games are bunched together when they fell under the same context, but fair to say this is a situation—unlike real life right now—where the more the merrier.

10. April 10, 2000: Carter’s First Triple-Double

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In the ’99-00 season, Carter quickly made the leap from tantalizing rookie to superstar. Averaging 25.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and over a steal and a block per game, each and every night became an opportunity to watch Carter further ascend his stardom.

Twenty years to the day he would have been playing his final game in Toronto, Carter racked up his first-ever triple-double at the NBA level with 31 points on just 19 shots, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists.

9. Dec. 30, 2000: Carter Channels Inner-Shaq Against Phoenix

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When you think about dominance in the NBA in any era—let alone the 2000s—one of the first names that comes to mind is Shaquille O’Neal. The Big Diesel evoked fear in the paint like no other, and on this particular night, Half-Man, Half-Amazing turned into Half-Man, Half-Shaq.

Primarily guarded by future teammate Jason Kidd, Carter posted the guard up, beat him up off the dribble, spun around him for alley-oops—leaving Kidd and his teammates no choice but to foul him to the tune of 27(!) free-throw attempts. By the time the night was over, Carter finished with 46 points (22 courtesy the charity stripe), six rebounds, six assists, a steal, and a block. During his entire tenure as a Raptor, only Shaq attempted more free-throws in a single game (thrice!).

8. Carter Catches Fire from Beyond the Arc

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In what ended up being a forgetful year for Carter, having missed the final 14 games and playoffs of the 2001-02 season, this proved to be one of his brighter moments.

You have to remember that this was before the NBA’s three-point explosion. Carter erupted for 82 points over two games against the Golden State Warriors and the Karl Malone-John Stockton-led Utah Jazz, respectively, with 42 of those points coming from beyond the arc on just 23 attempts. For context, in this year’s COVID-19 suspended season, there have already been 331 occasions when a player has made at least six three-pointers. Back in ’01-02, that happened a grand total of 67 times. Carter made six against the Warriors, then backed it up with eight more in Utah the very next game.

7. Dec. 7, 2001: Carter Does It All Against the Nuggets

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Key stats: 42 points; 13-of-15 free-throws; 15 rebounds; 6 assists; 5 steals; 2 blocks.

Context: Raptors win 98-96, improving to 12-8.

Half-Man, Half-Amazing was everywhere on this night. Playing 51 minutes of this overtime classic, Carter scored 42 points to go along with a then career-high 15 rebounds, six assists, five steals, and two blocks. He made a few three-pointers as well, none bigger than when the Raptors trailed by one with 5.4 seconds remaining in overtime.

Receiving the ball at the top of the arc, Carter had it knocked out of his hands for a second, quickly followed it, gathered, and pulled up. Nothing but the bottom of the net and he reacted like it transpired exactly the way he drew it up.

“Other than a triple-overtime game against Sacramento last year, this is one of the best games I played in,” Carter said. “This was fun.”

6. Carter Goes Buck Hunting After Team USA Snub

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Team USA for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney was set to be another all-timer, carrying on the legacy of the ’92 Dream Team. It’s more than understandable that Carter felt he deserved a place on the team, but the selection committee just didn’t feel that way in January. The Milwaukee Bucks were clearly in the wrong place at the wrong time and opposing coach George Karl’s compliment that the rising superstar would be an Olympian one day, just not at this one, only further stoked Carter’s fire.

Carter wanted to prove he belonged right now, and went off for 47 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals, two blocks, and one absolutely filthy windmill.

For good measure, Carter threw in a 48-point, 10-rebound, four-assist, three-steal, and two-block night later that year against those very same Bucks. After a few withdrawals by the likes of Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson, Carter was eventually named to the Olympic team and finished as the gold medal-winning team’s leading scorer.

5. Vince Carter Makes His Grand Entrance

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As some of you may recall, the ’98-99 season was a lockout-shortened one with only 50 regular season games. The season started in February, and while Carter threw down a few mean dunks by the time Toronto traveled to Indiana on Feb. 24, no explosion to the rim has stood the test of time like Carter’s two-handed reverse tomahawk driving baseline against the Pacers.

While the Raptors were blown out, Carter put on a show beyond the highlight with 28 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and three blocks. Not too shabby for a rook.

4. May 4, 2001: Carter Does It All With Toronto on the Ropes

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Through the first three games of the 2001 playoffs against the New York Knicks, Carter was not the man everyone expected to see based on the regular season. After averaging what ended up being a career-high 27.6 points over 75 games, Half-Man, Half-Amazing flat out stunk: He averaged 18.3 points on 30.8 percent shooting from the field. In fact, going back to the previous year’s sweep at the hands of Jeff Van Gundy’s Knicks, he averaged 18.2 points on 30 percent shooting as well. The Knicks defence—spearheaded by Latrell Sprewell as Carter’s primary defender—clearly had him under wraps.

Still, Toronto was alive, trailing the series 2-1, and believed it was just a matter of time before their superstar figured out playoff basketball. And then he did. Carter came to life with 32 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocks in Game 4, relentlessly attacking the rim with 14 free-throw attempts.

In the pivotal Game 5—this was when the first-round was still a best-of-five—while many remember Alvin Williams’ dagger with under a minute that sealed the Raptors’ victory, Carter was tremendous once again with 27 points on 50 percent shooting, six rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

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3. Feb. 27, 2000: Carter Makes Stunning U.S. National TV Debut

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Twenty years ago, the Raptors played their first game in front of a national American audience as NBC aired their Sunday afternoon tilt with the Phoenix Suns. A star-studded showdown featuring Jason Kidd, Penny Hardaway, Clifford Robinson, and a young Tracy McGrady and Shawn Marion, it was Carter who shone brightest right from the jump.

With an array of drives and long jumpers, Carter treated the home fans in Toronto, as well as everyone watching on TV, to his entire repertoire. While there weren’t as many of his customary highlight-reel dunks, a spectacular 360-degree layup plus-the-foul brought everyone to their feet. At that point, he only had 27 points. He finished a perfect 13-for-13 at the foul line, made all four of his three-point attempts, and all-told, had 51 points on 32 field-goal attempts to lead the Raptors to a nail-biting 103-102 win. Despite the individual accomplishment, Carter was more grateful for the opportunity the franchise was given.

“Opportunity for the Raptors to put ourselves on the map and just become recognized in this league,” he told Ahmad Rashad after the game in regard to playing on US national TV.

The Associated Press wrote about the performance back then: “In the NBA’s post-Michael era, there is no successor to Jordan. Vince Carter, however, could be the next best thing.”

2. March 2000: Vince Carter Brings March Madness to the NBA

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This is when Vinsanity hit supernova status. After mesmerizing us with arguably the greatest dunk contest performance of all-time and getting NBA fans to go all-in on Air Canada with a 51-point night on national TV, Carter went to work on his clutch rating with game-winner after game-winner in March.

On March 1, there was the breathtaking fadeaway from the corner at the buzzer to cap off a 28 point, five rebound, four assist performance. (See above.)

A few days later, Carter took over late against the Vancouver Grizzlies, scoring 10 straight points for the Raptors in the final few minutes to turn a tie game at 82 into a 92-88 lead with 17 seconds remaining.

On March 8, the Raptors were in Los Angeles and the Clippers saw Carter in all his glory. Setting the stage for a turnaround, Vince leaked out on a fast break with Toronto trailing by eight points with under three minutes remaining. Charles Oakley had the rebound and made the outlet pass to Dee Brown, who threw it in the air in the direction of the rim knowing Carter would take care of the rest.

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Cue the comeback, as the Raptors scored 13 of the next 17 points, including a wide-open three-pointer by Carter from the top of the arc at the buzzer to nab their seventh straight win. Seriously, they left Vince this open:

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Despite a rough start, Carter’s 14-point fourth quarter is all anyone will ever remember.

To cap off the madness, Vince was an absolute wrecking ball against the Rockets on March 19, scoring 37 points with the utmost ease, two of which came via a spectacular, thunderous two-handed tomahawk driving left baseline with 1.6 seconds left.

1. Vince Carter Duels Allen Iverson in One of the Game’s Greatest Individual Showdowns

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After snapping out of a funk against the Knicks, the stage was set for Carter to duel newly-crowned MVP Allen Iverson. The 76ers superstar had won the scoring title as well with 31.1 points per game, but Carter made sure to let him know he wasn’t going to be outdone in that department.

For the series, Iverson averaged 33.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 6.9 assists, and 3.1 steals while Carter finished with 30.4 points, six rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.9 steals, and two blocks. It’s incredibly rare to see a 50-point game in the post-season, and these two combined for three in the series.

Carter’s second-best game of the series came when Toronto needed to stave off elimination in Game 6, scoring 39 points on 17-of-31 shooting to go along with five rebounds, five assists, four steals, a block, and somehow didn’t turn the ball over a single time. This gets forgotten, of course, because of what transpired in Game 7.

What isn’t forgotten, though, is his greatest playoff performance, a 50-point effort on 29 shots including an NBA-record eight straight three-pointers without a miss in the first half alone! Oh, he added six rebounds, seven assists, four blocks, a steal, and turned the ball over just once in this one.

This is it, Carter’s greatest game.

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