Most Raptors fans have attended a game at Scotiabank Arena, seen highlights of a young Vince Carter, and of course watched every minute of the team's historic run to the 2019 NBA championship. But only die-hards remember the first Raptors game in 1995, can tell you where they were for the 2000 NBA Dunk Contest, or have camped out to get a prime viewing spot at Jurassic Park. 100 Things Raptors Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die reveals the most critical moments and important facts about past and present players, coaches, and teams that are part of the young history that is Raptors basketball. Whether you're a seasoned fan from the Chris Bosh days or a new supporter of Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard, this revised and updated guide contains everything Raptors fans should know, see, and do in their lifetime.
About the Author
Dave Mendonca is a writer and broadcaster whose work has appeared in the Costco Connection, the Dallas Morning News, ESPN.com, FILM.com, FILMINK Magazine (Australia), the Houston Press, the Santa Monica Daily Press, and Star Wars Insider (England). He is the author of Basketball Talk,The Way It Should Be! He lives in Markham, Ontario.Jerome "Junkyard Dog" Williams is a popular power forward who played for the Raptors from 2001 to 2003. He lives in Henderson, Nevada.Matt Devlin has been the play-by-play announcer for the Toronto Raptors of the NBA since 2008. He resides in Toronto, Ontario.
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100 Things Raptors Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die
By Dave Mendonca
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2015 Dave Mendonca
All rights reserved.
On June 24th, 1998, the Raptors franchise changed forever. During NBA draft night, Toronto dealt its fourth overall selection, University of North Carolina forward Antawn Jamison to Golden State for its fifth overall pick, Jamison's UNC teammate, Vincent Lamar Carter, and cash considerations. In what would be one of the NBA's most intense love-hate relationships between a team's fan base and its superstar, Vinsanity was born.
The marriage began beautifully. In the early years, Vince "Air Canada" Carter thrilled Raptors fans with his electrifying and thunderous aerial assault on NBA rims across North America. As a result the accolades were piling up — a Rookie of the Year award, two All-Star selections, an eye-popping 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest win, and two trips to the playoffs — in his first three seasons. "He was a premier talent," Carter's former Raptors teammate, Jerome Williams said. "He was definitely one of those players who got not only the fans excited, but he got his teammates excited. Whenever you have a guy with that type of athleticism and talent level, there's a buzz in the air."
Toronto was in love. Raptors fans' memories of the franchise's losing ways before Vince arrived had now been replaced with his crowd-pleasing, high-flying acrobatics at the Air Canada Centre, which dominated nightly sports television highlight reels.
Alas, like many marriages, this one had its bumps. One of the biggest was before Game 7 of a 2001 second-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers. Carter decided to attend his North Carolina graduation earlier that day. His controversial move confused and angered many Raptors fans and some teammates who felt he should have stayed with the club. It reached a boiling point later when Carter — in the waning seconds of Game 7 — missed what would have been a series-winning shot which ended the Raptors once promising season. All of a sudden Carter's golden image, in Raptors fans' eyes, lost some of its lustre.
In the next few seasons, he would experience various injuries, increased fan and mediia scrutiny suggesting he was quitting on the team, and issues with management, which ultimately forced a December 2004 trade to New Jersey.
Just like that, the love affair was over. Carter had become Raptors' fans most hated villain. With every future Toronto return, a reign of boos would always greet No. 15 — until November 2014, when during an in-game video tribute to the Raptors former superstar, some cheered bringing Vince to tears.
Whether you despise or love him, you can't deny Vinsanity put Toronto on the NBA map and brought excitement and joy to global basketball fans, including the future Canadian NBA players he inspired. Carter, who averaged 23.4 points per game as a Raptor, is the most dominating, explosive, and polarizing player in franchise history. Despite his flaws you might see his on-court brilliance recognized with an induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson has a special connection with Carter. Growing up, the Brampton, Ontario, native went to Carter's basketball camp where he saw his hero up close. Years later, during the 2013 NBA All-Star weekend, Thompson spoke with his idol. "[Vince] remembered me from when I was in ninth grade," said the 2011 first-round draft pick. "He and I chit-chatted and had a couple of jokes. But Vince was one of the great players for [Toronto] and one of the great players of this league." Thompson then offered the ultimate compliment: "Vinsanity was my Michael Jordan. I looked up to him."CHAPTER 2
Wince Carter and the Breakup
On August 1st, 2001, fresh off their best playoff run in team history, the Raptors signed their franchise player to a six-year, $94 million extension on what then-Toronto mayor Mel Lastman declared as Vince Carter day. "It would have been tough to go elsewhere when he made it my day," said Carter, who averaged a career-high 27.6 points per game during the 2000–01 campaign. "I'm extending my contract and I'm going to continue to be a Raptor here and I'm really looking forward to it."
Locking up Carter was one of many moves Raptors general manager Glen Grunwald made during that offseason, including re-signing free agents Antonio Davis, Jerome Williams, and Alvin Williams and trading for 12-time All-Star Hakeem Olajuwon. Toronto was loading up to prepare for the next step in its championship journey. Some Raptors fans cautiously started to get excited again, slowly forgetting Carter's graduation day fiasco and missed last-second shot, which snuffed out a promising season.
But once the 2001–02 campaign was underway, Flight 15 wasn't taking off as explosively anymore. Carter was having chronic knee issues. Before you knew it, he missed 22 games before going under the knife in late March 2002. Then, during the 2002–03 season, he missed a career-high 39 games with more knee problems and an ankle sprain. To frustrated Raptors fans, it seemed like Carter fell to the floor every game grabbing his knee or ankle while wincing in pain. He was labeled as "a whiner," "soft," "Half-man, Half-a-season," "a quitter." Wince Carter had arrived.
The Raptors had to make do without their fallen superstar. In 2001–02 they made a furious late season run to sneak into the playoffs but would lose to the Detroit Pistons in the first round. Then in 2002–03 with the team battling multiple injuries, they missed the postseason thanks to an ugly 24–58 record, which allowed them to select future All-Star Chris Bosh in the 2003 NBA Draft. It was so bad that after a loss in the Raptors' final home game, Grunwald took a microphone and told the remaining fans, "We will not stand for this any longer." Hall of Fame head coach Lenny Wilkens was fired after the season.
Grunwald would replace the laid-back Wilkens with hard-nosed, first-time NBA head coach Kevin O'Neill. In 2003–04, even though Carter played 73 games, the O'Neill experiment didn't work. His demanding ways did little to inspire VC and a Raptors club, which finished a disappointing 33–49. Another lost season meant the end for O'Neill and Grunwald, a man Carter liked and who had been with the Raptors organization since 1994. Jack McCloskey took over as interim general manager until Raptors president Richard Peddie hired rookie NBA GM Rob Babcock.
This took Carter by surprise. During an April 2004 meeting with Peddie, VC was assured he'd be kept updated during the GM hiring process. In a Sportsnet interview with longtime Raptors season-ticketholder and Carter's close friend, Nav Bhatia, he said, "As for the hiring of the GM, Peddie didn't have to say he would keep Vince informed. He just said he would. And Vince believed him — until he found out after the fact that Babcock was hired. Vince suggested that Julius Erving be interviewed for the job. Well, Dr. J. arrived at the airport in Toronto, was in town briefly, and was never brought to the Air Canada Centre or anything like that. That's what my information is. Vince doesn't think Dr. J. received a proper interview. It didn't show respect to either Vince or Dr. J., two guys most people consider basketball superstars."
Bhatia, who attended Carter's 2004 wedding, added, "Vince loves Toronto and he loves the fans of Toronto. He has two condominiums in Toronto and he wants to live here for many, many more years. But he has serious problems playing for an organization that is run by Richard Peddie. He has problems with Jack McCloskey and [player personnel director] Jim Kelly, too."
Carter, according to Bhatia, not only wanted Peddie, McCloskey, and Kelly gone, but he also had issues with Toronto's inability to improve the roster. "Vince really thought there was going to be a good chance to get [Jamaal] Magloire and [Steve] Nash," Bhatia said. "He wanted them in Toronto because, as he told Peddie in the meeting, there was an obvious need to improve two positions — the No. 1 position and the No. 5 position. He wanted Magloire and Nash because they were perfect for the positions. They're both All-Stars and they're friends of Vince's. The fact they are also both Canadian would be good, he figured, because he recognized that would help the Raptors in terms of popularity in this country."
To add to VC's growing frustration, the team took away his mother's parking spot at the Air Canada Centre and the new GM fired longtime Raptors head athletic therapist Chuck Mooney, who worked closely with Vince. As the Carter and Raptors union continued to break down, the team hired its new head coach, Sam Mitchell, who entered a big mess. In a March 2013 National Post article, the former NBA Coach of the Year said after taking the job, he flew to Florida to visit the unhappy superstar. After Carter congratulated him, he confessed, "Mentally, I'm in a place where I've got some differences with the organization, and it's unfortunate that you have come into this ... but my heart's not in it for the Toronto Raptors anymore."
With that bomb dropped, Mitchell had to forge ahead knowing his best player may not be around much longer. Since the Toronto media and Raptors fans knew Carter was possibly eyeing some sort of exit, they focused the spotlight on him more brightly. Once the 2004–05 season began, Carter received heavy criticism for his lack of effort on the court. His scoring numbers were down, and Mitchell was stapling him to the bench more often. Then, in November 2004, likely out of frustration, Carter gave reporters this golden nugget: "I don't want to dunk anymore."
Of course, that sentence outraged Raptors fans who saw it as something a spoiled child would say. It just gave them more venom to spew at a man they once adored. Carter wanted out, and the rest of the NBA knew it. Thus, Babcock was backed into a corner. How could he possibly get fair value in a deal with Carter playing poorly and other GMs realizing he needs to make a move to end this toxic situation? Finally, on December 17th, 2004, Carter was dealt in one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history. No. 15 would take off to New Jersey for centre Alonzo Mourning (who did not report to Toronto), forward Eric Williams, forward/centre Aaron Williams, a 2005 first-round draft pick (Joey Graham), and a 2006 first-round draft pick (Renaldo Balkman), which was later traded to the New York Knicks.
According to Sportsnet, the day before the deal was done, Carter told Mitchell he didn't want to leave. When Mitchell mentioned that to Babcock, the GM said, "the deal had been agreed to." Translation — there was no going back. At the time, Raptors fans thought Vince quit on the team and the city, which fuelled their seething hatred for him even more.
Their suspicions were seemingly confirmed when after the trade, TNT's John Thompson asked Carter during an interview if he pushed himself as hard as he should have in the past, "In years past, no," Carter replied. "I was just fortunate enough to have the talent. You know, you get spoiled when you're able to do a lot of things and you see that and you really don't have to work at it. But now, I think with all the injuries and the things that have gone on, I have to work a little harder and I'm a little hungrier."
As you might expect, Raptors fans were blowing their tops after that. Carter's ex-teammate, Jerome Williams, reflected on his years playing alongside Vince, also criticized his effort. "As a player and as a teammate, I wish he would have actually taken those skills and developed them more," Williams said. "He would have been on the level of a Kobe Bryant and of some of the premier players like the Carmelo Anthonys and Dwyane Wades of today. He'd be right up there, but I think with injuries and not being able to really just get that eye of the tiger, his flame kind of dwindled there. Everybody is different. You can't make leaders out of people who weren't born to lead. I just don't think he was actually born to lead. He was born to be just a great, significant basketball talent. We expected more from him because that's the position he was put in by the Raptors and other organizations."
But Vince was also ticked off. In his first game back in Toronto on April 15, 2005, Carter dominated with 39 points in a 101–90 win to silence the hostile environment filled with loud boos and jeers every time he touched the ball. "I just kind of blocked it out," Carter said. "I'm happy with the way things turned out. Maybe they are not, but this was a fun game believe it or not."CHAPTER 3
The NBA Returns to Canada
Remember the Toronto Huskies? You probably weren't born yet, but they were the city's original NBA franchise. Actually, they were a charter member of the Basketball Association of America, which later became the star-studded league you see today.
On November 1, 1946, the Huskies hosted the New York Knickerbockers at Maple Leaf Gardens in the NBA's first ever game. The contest attracted 7,090 people, a good crowd considering Toronto was a hockey-loving city, and basketball wasn't a popular sport at the time.
Unfortunately, the Huskies would lose 68–66 and finished with a 22–38 record, which resulted in them folding after one season.
Over the years NBA basketball did visit Toronto from time to time. According to the Toronto Sun, the (now defunct) Buffalo Braves played 16 regular season games at Maple Leaf Gardens between 1971 and 1975. At one point, there was talk the Braves would eventually relocate to Toronto, but it never happened. During the 1970s three Toronto ownership groups pushed hard to attract an NBA team, but when the league offered one for the 1975–76 season, the $6.15 million franchise fee proved too rich for those pursuing the opportunity.
Toronto would be teased again in 1982 when Maple Leaf Gardens hosted a Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers exhibition game, featuring NBA All-Stars Julius Erving and Moses Malone, which drew more than 15,000 people, sparking new hope an NBA team would return up north. Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien actually threatened to move his money-losing club to Toronto and rename them "the Toronto Towers" but ultimately decided to sell the team to Cleveland businessmen George and Gordon Gund before the 1983–84 campaign.
As a small consolation prize, Stepien brought the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) to Toronto. The Tornados, the first permanent Toronto professional basketball team since the Huskies left, didn't last long, only playing from December 1983 to December 1985 before moving to Pensacola, Florida.
In 1989 and 1992, Toronto would host more NBA exhibition games — this time at the retractable-roofed downtown stadium, SkyDome, which drew over 25,000 fans twice and continued to show the city could support a franchise. In 1993 the NBA took serious notice. Three bid groups were in the hunt, including Professional Basketball Franchise Inc. (PBF) led by Toronto businessman John Bitove Jr. In July then-Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo headed an NBA expansion committee, which visited Toronto to meet the interested groups, examine their plans, and look at their suggested arena sites.
Excerpted from 100 Things Raptors Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Dave Mendonca. Copyright © 2015 Dave Mendonca. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Matt Devlin xi
Foreword Jerome "Junkyard Dog" Williams xiii
1 We The Champs! 1
2 Championship Parade 9
3 Raptors Advance to Their First NBA Finals 11
4 The Shot 15
5 Kawhi Is a Fun Guy 18
6 The Trade 22
7 Vinsanity 26
8 Wince Carter and the Breakup 29
9 The NBA Returns to Canada 33
10 The Raptors Tip Off 37
11 VC's Slam Dunk Contest and Olympic Jam 38
12 Kyle Lowry, the Bulldog of Bay Street 41
13 Masai or Messiah? 47
14 Graduation Day and the Miss 51
15 Nick Nurse 53
16 The DeRozan Era 58
17 CB4 62
18 Pascal Siakam 69
19 Fred Van Vleet 74
20 Mighty Mouse 80
21 We Beat Michael Jordan 83
22 Raptors Make Their Playoff Debut 84
23 Raptors Revenge 87
24 T-Mac Breaks Toronto's Heart 91
25 The Giant GM 96
26 Raptors Are First-Time Division Champs 101
27 Good-Bye, Rudy and Hello, Record-Breaking Season 104
28 Drake, the Raptors' Global Ambassador 108
29 Isiah Thomas 112
30 Bryan Colangelo 116
31 The 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend 120
32 Raptors Pass on Kobe 127
33 Kobe Drops 81 on Toronto 128
34 LeBronto 131
35 VC and the Nets Ruin the Playoff Party 134
36 Antonio Davis and the Metric System 137
37 Tim Leiweke 142
38 Butch Carter's Strange Exit 145
39 F- Brooklyn! 148
40 Visit Jurassic Park 150
41 #WeTheNorth 151
42 The Purple Dinosaur Jerseys 153
43 Dwane Casey 156
44 Sam Mitchell 159
45 Vinsanity vs. The Answer 163
46 A Dream Come True? 166
47 Chris Childs, What Were You Thinking? 168
48 Rob Babcock 170
49 Oakley, the Enforcer 174
50 Mo Pete 178
51 Watch Vince Carter's Top 100 Dunks 181
52 Man, We Love These Guys! 182
53 Primo Pasta 185
54 Jose Calderon 189
55 We Love Toronto 194
56 Meet The Raptor 197
57 Just Plain Ugly 198
58 The 1998-99 Lockout Season 202
59 Done Deal 204
60 The NBA's United Nations 208
61 What's Your Name? 212
62 Salami and Cheese 213
63 Vince, Time to Be Clutch 215
64 Who Needs You? 217
65 The 20th Anniversary 220
66 Do You Really Know Your Raptors? 227
67 MLSE Buys the Raptors 234
68 1-15 235
69 Richard Peddie 242
70 Oh Canada! 244
71 The Red Rocket 247
72 Why Raptors Fans Are More Fun Than Leafs Fans 250
73 Moving Out of the SkyDome 252
74 Chant "Let's Go Raptors!" at a Leafs Game 254
75 Yes, He Was a Raptor 256
76 Terrible Trades 259
77 Do You Have a 50? 262
78 Mother Nature Can't Stop Junkyard Dog 267
79 Shake the Hand of the Raptors' Superfan 269
80 Skip to My Lou 271
81 The First Raptors Squad 275
82 The Naismith Cup 280
83 The Other Head Coaches 282
84 Dunk You Very Much 284
85 Herbie Kuhn 288
86 Take a Raptors Road Trip 289
87 Hello, Mr. Williams 291
88 Former Raptors Gone Bad 293
89 NCAA Champion Raptors 296
90 Best Off the Bench 298
91 Rooming with Montell 300
92 Meet a Raptors Player 301
93 Go to Real Sports Bar & Grill 303
94 Triple-Double Treats 304
95 Baby Dinos 306
96 Remember 1995 308
97 Master P Tries Out for the Raptors 310
98 The All-Time Starting Five 312
99 Stan Van Gundy Doesn't Like Free Pizza 319
100 Vince, We Forgive You 320
About the Author 327