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
9. Dec. 30, 2000: Carter Channels Inner-Shaq Against Phoenix
8. Carter Catches Fire from Beyond the Arc
7. Dec. 7, 2001: Carter Does It All Against the Nuggets
6. Carter Goes Buck Hunting After Team USA Snub
5. Vince Carter Makes His Grand Entrance
4. May 4, 2001: Carter Does It All With Toronto on the Ropes
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.
3. Feb. 27, 2000: Carter Makes Stunning U.S. National TV Debut
2. March 2000: Vince Carter Brings March Madness to the NBA
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.
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:
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.