Fans Cheer Vince Carter for First Time- How will he be Remembered?

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Toronto, ON- Right up until the first commercial break in the 1st quarter, Twitter was abuzz in the hours leading up to Wednesday night’s Raptors vs. Grizzlies game.

Not because the two best teams in the NBA were playing, but because anticipation was building for a Vince Carter tribute as part of the Raptors 20th anniversary campaign.

When the time came, fans in the crowd were directed to watch the jumbo-tron where the tribute to Vince Carter (currently on the Grizzlies) played.

Watch the video here, courtesy NBA.com

For the first time, since the franchise altering trade back in 2004, the crowd at the ACC cheered the prodigal son, as Vince Carter stood in front of the vistors bench, watching his own tribute.

Check out his reaction to the tribute here.

The 35-year old bench player was clearly emotional, and let it show with a few tears. The Toronto crowd gave the former face of the franchise a standing ovation.

After the game, Carter spoke about the tribute, and his time in Toronto.

“It was a great feeling. I couldn’t write it any better. It’s just amazing to be in the moment and to see it. To kind of relive it as it was happening. You see all the stuff and you see all the people that you played with and as each play as it was happening. I can remember all that stuff as if it was yesterday,” said Carter.

Odd, how a little bit of winning can change a fan’s attitude. From villian, to almost forgiven. Moving foward, Raptors fans did well in realizing Carter was still a member of the opposition, and went back to their old ways of booing his every possession.

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So how will Vince be remembered? The Raptors will almost certainly retire his number one day. He is one of the flashiest and most entertaining players in team history. He single-handedly put Toronto on the map in the basketball community and laid the foundation for the many young Canadian basketball players currently in the NBA. Both Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins have said they watched VC as kids. After Wednesday’s game, Terrence Ross said the same.

“It’s almost like a dream,” Terrence Ross said of having Carter guard him.

“You see Vince and his Raptors highlights. When you see him lined up on the other side, it’s something you dream about,” Ross said.

The Vince Carter highlights with the Raptors were endless, and who, after all, can forget the 2000 NBA dunk contest…When everyone in the building, including Vince, knew, “It’s Ova.”

But at the same time, who can’t remember Vince mailing it in at the end of his tenure with the Toronto Raptors?

At the start of the 2004-05 season, he claimed he didn’t want to dunk anymore. And he didn’t. That season, Vince Carter put up career lows in PPG, FG%, 3PT%, FT attempts and % per game.

He killed his own value ahead of the trade. Rob Babcock sent him packing to the then New Jersey Nets. The Raptors received Eric Williams, Aaron Williams, Alonzo Mourning-who was bought out without playing a game for the Raptors- and two first round picks. One of those picks turned into Joey Graham, an eventual bust. The other was traded away.

The Raptors received nothing for their best player in franchise history. Carter went on to New Jersey, and immediately returned to his flashy all-star form. To make matters worse, he led the Nets to consecutive Eastern Conference semi-finals, with a thrilling, yet cruel victory over the his former Raptors team in the first round of the 2006/2007 playoffs.

Courtesy NBA.com

Courtesy NBA.com

An NBA championship has eluded Vince Carter up until this point of his career, but for one of the greatest dunkers of all time, Vince makes a strong case as a future hall of famer.If you look at Toronto Raptors career leaders, you’ll see Vince Carter’s name in the top-3 of many categories.

Eleven seasons have passed since Carter donned the Raptors jersey, and following the trade, fans gave him hell every time he entered the Air Canada Centre.

A Raptors franchise, once stuck in a miserable rut (a point could be made the Carter trade facilitated those struggles) has now found success, and the Raptors look to make their second straight playoff appearance. Does time heal wounds? Does winning heal wounds?

Should Vince Carter be forgiven? I’ll leave that answer up to you.

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