The 2020-21 NBA season has felt a bit weird. Sure, there is a pandemic, but what is even weirder to me is that there is no Vince Carter. With his retirement, there goes the last remaining piece of that era of basketball stars that I grew up with.
Carter is the first player in NBA history to suit up in four different decades. When his peers were fading into the sunset one by one, enjoying the life of retirement, Carter was still dunking well into his 40s. Sure, he bounced from team to team in the later part of his career, looking like a shell of of himself, but he was still a mostly-solid contributor nonetheless. He also made an impact far beyond the court, becoming a beloved veteran leader and mentor of the younger generations. The fact that his career ended prematurely due to the pandemic is a huge shame — a legend like Carter deserved a proper sendoff, a whole arena on its feet and chanting his name.
I’m by no means a diehard VC fan, but it’s hard not to appreciate both his greatness and the legacy he left on the court. That’s why it’s so difficult to believe that such a respectable, popular legend was so hated by the team that viewed him as their franchise star for years. The Toronto Raptors drafted Carter fifth overall in 1998. At the time, Toronto was the league’s baby, with only three years of history. The team, and, more importantly, the city, desperately needed a franchise icon, a superstar who could represent them to the wider world. Carter became that icon. He was an international name with his out-of-this-world dunking prowess and mesmerizing style of play. Air Canada Center was packed full every time he played. He quite literally single-handedly put Canada on the map in the NBA, turning the Toronto Raptors into a force to be reckoned with.
But fast forward to 2004, and a disgruntled Carter had requested a trade. The Raptors eventually granted it, and Carter moved on from Toronto with a fair amount of rancor. What happened? What went so badly that made Carter hated by the exact fanbase that had viewed him as an icon? Why did Carter want out of the franchise that he so painstakingly built? If you’re curious, we chronicled the feud in Beef History, so scroll up to see all the dramatic, meaty details for yourself.
While you do that, I’m going to go off and be depressed for a bit, knowing that the era of basketball and superstars that I grew up with are now gone for good.