Having officially announced his retirement, the question of whether Vince Carter’s number should be retired by the Raptors was at the forefront of NBA conversation throughout the day.
Some of my Belly Up Sports colleagues and those I interact with regularly on Raptors Twitter already know my stance on this question. Fortunately, those interactions involve mutual agreement to disagree as a regular part of our interactions. No hard feelings either way.
Now, I expect to draw the ire of Raptors fandom in general. I’m at peace with it. (Insert shrugging woman emoji here.) Yeah, I’m that Raptors fan. I don’t think Vince Carter‘s number should be retired by the Raptors. And I’m not completely alone, for what it’s worth. My roommate was a fan of the Raptors during Carter’s tenure which is something that I cannot say. His reaction was immediate, animated, and in agreement.
Those of you who are familiar with my writing will know that I don’t just say controversial things to grab clicks or make waves. Looking at you Stephen A. Smith, Colin Cowherd, Max Kellerman, Doug Gottl… okay, you get the picture. I have reasons for everything I say. You might not agree with them, but you know I’m not just throwing crap at the wall and hoping something will stick. So, let’s get to it. Here’s why the Raptors should not retire Vince Carter’s number.
When I think of players who have had their numbers retired, I think of special relationships between the player and the organization. A mutual acknowledgment of years invested in the pursuit of the same goal, games won and lost, obstacles overcome. At the end of everything, the relationship between team and player is almost sacred. Think about it. Jordan and the Bulls. Kobe and the Lakers. Duncan and the Spurs. Dirk and the Mavs. Wade and the Heat. Combining those players with those teams engenders an immediate sense of camaraderie respect and partnership. Vince Carter and the Raptors don’t have that.
I’m not saying it’s anyone’s fault. From what I’ve read and heard (as I mentioned above, I was not a Raptors fan at the time) there was plenty of blame to go around. The thing that gets me though, is that even in the not too distant past, Carter has said misleading things and contradicted himself when speaking about the end of his time in Toronto.
I feel like it’s about time that he was past it.
Yes, that’s just my opinion. I’m happy to leave that out of the argument. Vince has every right to still be salty. But if he is (and that seems evident) why does he deserve to have his number retired by a franchise that he doesn’t even seem to like, respect, or have forgiven, even all these years later?
Vince Carter’s Number Retirement Evidence
We’ve all seen the articles, right? “Vince Carter should finish his career in Toronto“, “Kyle Lowry Wants Vince Carter to Finish His Career in Toronto“, “Jamal Murray really wants to see Vince Carter finish career with Raptors“. There are dozens of them floating around out there. And you know what? If that had happened, I would absolutely endorse Vince Carter’s number being retired by the Raptors. That would indicate to me a reconciliation that puts the player/team relationship at least in line with the retired numbers I mentioned above if not on the same level. But that didn’t happen.
I know what some of you are thinking. But what about that time Vince said he’d be willing to come back? Yeah, I’m way ahead of you. Here’s the tweet from just shy of a year ago.
AIR CANADA BACK? 🇨🇦🤔— Dunk Bait (@DunkBait) July 26, 2019
Vince Carter speaks on the possibility of ending his career where it started.
(via 6ixbuzztv | IG) pic.twitter.com/S20aiUMgsO
P.S. It took every ounce of self-control I have to not reply to the first visible response to this tweet with someone saying they don’t think the Raps will ever get another ring. Like, really. Ever!? Get the eff outta here.
When I read between the lines on this clip, Carter seems to be implying that the only impediment to his returning to Toronto for his final season was on the side of the Raptors organization. Now, Raptors fans, whether you feel that Vince’s jersey should be retired or not, you can’t be buying this BS! This organization. Our organization. The organization with one of the best overall cultures in professional sports? The team that belongs to MLSE, the organization that was the best company to work for in Canada in 2019 according to indeed.com? This seemed immediately suspect to me…
…and the evidence supports my intuition.
Here we go again: Vince Carter shifting blame to the Raptors. "It has to be something the organization wants". The Raps have shown interest in bringing him back multiple times in recent years, I've been told. That interest has never been mutual. Few do revisionist history like VC https://t.co/NexkQq88Dg— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) July 26, 2019
I know we as Raptors fans consider Josh Lewenberg to be a reliable source of information and we know he has the access. Based on what I know about the Raptors organization since Masai Ujiri joined the front office as GM in 2013 and Lewenberg’s statement, as recently as July 26, 2019, Carter was being openly disrespectful to the organization that we love. Not to mention manipulating the feelings of the Toronto fans who loved him with a blatant deception.
But yeah, sure. Let’s retire his number. He’d clearly give a crap about it.
Belly Up colleagues Chaka Cummings and ZachMac had some points to throw my way on this topic in a Twitter exchange earlier in the day. One being, that without Vince Carter I wouldn’t be a fan of the 2019-20 NBA Champion Toronto Raptors today because basketball wouldn’t exist in Toronto if he hadn’t been a Raptor.
I have two words to say to that.
I grew up as a basketball fan in Canada and was into basketball before the expansion that brought the first two NBA franchises north of the border. I was a Canadian basketball fan absolutely surrounded by puck heads since I lived in a middle-of-nowhere rural community. Only rarely could I find a pick-up game. But! The few people I knew that were into basketball loved the game. It only stands to reason that in more metropolitan areas of the country, there would be more and more basketball fans. Basketball would have survived in Canada even if Vince hadn’t been a Toronto Raptor. There is zero room for doubt on the point.
To drive that point home, I call on an expert witness. On a recent episode of the Raptor Queens podcast, we had the privilege of interviewing Paul Jones who has been a part of the Raptors media crew from day one. And from day one, three years before Vince Carter’s draft he knew Canadians would embrace the game whose roots come from The North.
Compromise to Retiring Vince Carter’s Number
Please do not mistake my stance here. I’m not intending to take anything away from what Vince Carter did for basketball in Canada. But there is where I make my distinction. Yes, he played for the Raptors and that’s where the world was introduced to Vinsanity. But I would argue that the Raptors as an organization should not in any way feel beholden to someone who seems clearly disdainful of the organization to which he owes his career and I would even go so far as to say his legacy.
Let’s just take a moment to remember that then Toronto GM Glen Grunwald made some pretty savvy moves to make sure Carter ended up in Toronto believing him to be the best player in that year’s draft. Vince’s legacy of being the driving force behind the popularization of basketball for an entire country wouldn’t have been possible if he’d spent his years with U.S. franchises. Not to mention being drafted by a Western Conference team during a time period when the West dominated the NBA. But he doesn’t seem particularly grateful for that as far as I can see.
My compromise? Give him a statue somewhere. Not where we know Kyle Lowry’s statue will one day stand outside of Scotia Bank Arena. At the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame perhaps?
When it comes down to it, MLSE and the Raptors organization will be making the final call and I’m very curious to see how that shakes out. I think it’s likely that Carter’s number will be retired by the Raptors while actively hoping it won’t be. If the organization doesn’t decide to do it right away… if it doesn’t happen until there is a changing of the guard in the front office; I’ll take that as evidence that the current Raptor powers that be agree with me.
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