Vince Carter looked like the rightful heir to Michael Jordan for a good minute. When the 17-year veteran debuted with the Toronto Raptors in 1998-99 (the season after Jordan’s second and seemingly final retirement), he took the basketball world into his hands almost immediately. Carter’s hyper-stylistic dunking skills were the can’t-miss trend of the game. Canada, suddenly, was becoming a capital of the game on the shoulders of its surprising star.
But since Carter fled Toronto by forcing a trade to the New Jersey Nets in 2004, there hasn’t been a lot of love between him and his former city. Upon return visits, the player formerly known as “Half-Man, Half-Insanity,” “Vinsanity,” and “Air Canada” has been booed by crowds at the Air Canada Centre. It even happened as recently as last January, when Carter rolled into town as a Dallas Maverick — one of the six teams he’s played for in his career.
But now, as a 37-year-old journeyman with the Memphis Grizzlies, Carter and his his first NBA city seem to have come to terms. During the Grizzlies’ recent trip to Toronto — a 96-92 Raptors victory — a tribute video was shown. It brought Carter to tears, and the fans to a standing ovation. It was finally time, all parties seemed to agree, to bury the hatchet.
Especially now that the Raptors have finally moved from their superstar’s exodus. Boasting one of the deepest rosters in basketball, the exciting new Toronto squad is 9-2, good for first place in the Eastern Conference. The memory of Carter can now rest in the shadow of current award contenders like Kyle Lowry, DeMar Derozan, Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross. Vinsanity is no longer a symbol of the city’s basketball failure, but a ghost of warm nostalgia.
— John Wilmes