While Canadian hockey has influenced the NHL and the wider world, it has been a steeper slope for basketball to pick up popularity in the great North. Fortunately, Vince Carter was able to play a pivotal role in developing Canadian basketball before moving on to new pastures. Although he left in 2004, Carter’s contribution will not be forgotten by the Toronto Raptors.
As recently as 1994, there were no Canadian basketball teams in the NBA. However, 1995 marked the advent of expansion drafts for our beloved Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies, who lasted only six seasons before relocating and reforming as the Memphis Grizzlies. Thankfully, the Raptors exhibited superior staying power and have developed into a top NBA franchise.
Of course, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. The first three seasons were tough losing campaigns. However, hope beckoned in the shortened 1998-99 lockout season. In the 1998 NBA Draft, general manager Glen Grunwald selected Antwan Jamison fourth overall and then traded him to the Golden State Warriors for Vince Carter, who was chosen fifth overall.
Carter arrived in Toronto with a consistent presence from the outset. In his rookie season, Carter started 49 of 50 games played and averaged 35.2 minutes per game. He also generated 18.3 points per game and maintained a rate of 5.7 rebounds per game. The league was impressed and named Carter Rookie of the Year.
Although playing on a modest rookie contract, it would not be long before Carter’s performances would fuel talk of a lucrative new deal. The Daytona native would eventually set a benchmark for young Canadian basketball stars like Jamal Murray and Andrew Wiggins – these sports stars have earned a lot of money on mega deals in recent seasons. Not only that, but this also influenced Canadian sports betting at online casinos on single-game sports.
After being named Rookie of the Year in a losing season, Carter would turn the tides in 1999-2000 season by driving the Raptors to a 45-37 record. Despite losing to the New York Knicks in a 3-0 series sweep, Carter still made headlines by starring in the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star Weekend.
Jogging up from the left side of the court, Carter stunned the watching crowd by soaring 36 inches into the air and hanging there as he completed a reverse-360 before slamming the ball through the net. He then completed a more compact reverse-360 dunk, this time coming from beneath the basket on his second effort.
Carter’s third dunk saw him wrangle a bouncing ball that was corralled between his legs and then slammed home with a looping right arm. The incredible dunk registered 37 inches of flight, and cemented Carter’s Air Canada nickname. A fourth dunk saw him get 37 inches off the floor one again, and a fifth leaping dunk secured a total score of 98 and the Slam Dunk Championship. Carter’s legend was enshrined and he was ready to put the Raptors on the NBA map.
Now into his third season in Toronto, Carter posted a season with 27.6 points per game and helped the Raptors to a winning record of 47-35, which was enough for a playoff spot. For the Raptors, a 3-2 series win over the Knicks was sweet revenge following a 3-0 losing sweep the previous season. However, the playoff adventure would come to an end with a 4-3 series defeat against the Philadelphia 76ers.
It all started well for Toronto, with the Raptors winning 96-93 in the first game, which was played on the road. Allen Iverson then put on a clinic with 54 points to carry the 76ers to a 97-92 win in the second game. The Raptors then took a 2-1 series lead at the Air Canada Centre before being pulled back by the 76ers. The 76ers then went 3-2 ahead before Toronto made it 3-3. Sadly, a nail-biting 88-87 defeat in Philadelphia killed the dream of advancing any further.
In 2001-02, the Raptors weren’t quite as strong and edged into the playoffs with a 42-40 record. Carter, meanwhile, was slightly down as well, having posted 24.7 points per game. Of course, it was tremendously damaging for the team that Carter’s season was curtailed at 60 games. The loss of Carter prevented the Raptors from posting a better season record and it meant that they came up short to the Detroit Pistons in a 3-2 series defeat in the first round of the 2002 NBA Playoffs.
Having signed a $94 million six-year contract in August 2001, Carter’s impact in Toronto would begin to be questioned. However, it was never a question of his ability – rather, it was due to a succession of knee and hamstring injuries. In 2002-03, Carter made only 42 starts, though did manage to recover and start in 73 the following season. Despite missing games, Carter remained a perennial selection for the All-Star Game.
After successive losing seasons, GM Glen Grunwald and all of the coaching staff were fired during the 2004 off-season. Carter was unhappy with the decision and became further disgruntled by the hunt for a new GM and coaching staff. In Raptors news articles, was speculated at the time that Carter felt misled by the actions of the owners, who hired Rob Babcock as the new GM.
Babcock was criticized in the 2004 NBA Draft for drafting Rafael Araújo instead of Andre Iguodala. He then revealed publicly that Carter’s agent had sought a trade. Eventually, Carter was traded to the New Jersey Nets after only featuring in 20 games during his last season with the Raptors.
Carter’s injury issues seemed to lessen in New Jersey and he appeared in more than 350 games in five seasons with the Nets. However, he got no further than the Conference Semifinals. After three consecutive playoff appearances, Carter was again at a losing team and would eventually move on and feature for a further six teams, including, ironically, the Memphis Grizzlies.
As for Carter’s legacy in Toronto, it’s an exciting one in which the mercurial shooting guard and small forward made the Raptors relevant. If it wasn’t for injury, the team might have reached the 2002 NBA Finals. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be – however, Carter made the franchise viable and provided the heritage that was needed to fuel an immensely successful stretch from 2013 until 2020.
Unfortunately, Carter’s impact has yet to inspire a breakout performance or sustained period success for the Canadian men’s basketball team on the global stage. Since 2000, the men’s basketball team has only placed at a single Summer Olympics. In fact, this occurred only once and resulted in a seventh-place finish at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
As for the FIBA World Cup, the Canada men’s basketball team has placed twice since 2010 and both were low positions. In Turkey 2010, the team finished 22nd and only rose a single position to 21st in China 2019. Fundamentally, this is a team that receives long betting odds at the best online sportsbooks and casinos.
However, you would expect shorter odds when competing at the FIBA Americas Championship, which doesn’t include the involvement of the USA. In 2015, the team succeeded by winning bronze in Mexico City. If the 2022 FIBA AmeriCup goes ahead, then Canada could be an outside option with attractive online sports betting odds.