The Toronto Raptors faced off against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday and it should have been a repeat of the drubbing they gave the Brooklyn Nets a couple of days earlier. But other than a very late 4th quarter run, the game was a lot closer than the 108-93 final score implied. There could be many reasons for the valiant effort put forth by the now 9-20 Kings but how can you not look to Carter as the main reason.
For what may be the very last time in his career, former Raptor Vince Carter played at the Air Canada Centre. Coincidentally enough, due to the number of injuries on the team, he did so as a starter. Over the last few years in Memphis and now with the Kings, the veteran has been known to help out the youngsters on the team. So it isn’t very surprising that they gave it their all for him as they tested the 20-8 Raptors. The score in the end didn’t really matter. Carter’s scoreline of 4 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound and 3 blocks doesn’t really matter either. Well, I guess both do in some regard, but for me, this game was mostly a blur as I once again fell victim to the Vince Carter Curse.
The curse has nothing to do with how the relationship between him and this organization fell apart. It was acrimonious on both sides and both sides, whether they admit it or not, are responsible for its failure which led to Carter being traded. The city and the country were outraged at his perceived lack of effort and vaulted the “half-man half-amazing” baller to the number one spot on top of the Raptors’ fans most hated list. Some believe he still belongs there. But no, the curse has nothing to do with hatred the fans felt.
The trade to the New Jersey Nets happened 13 years ago almost to the day. The December 17 trade was awful and set the team back a few years. Does anyone even remember who we got back in return? There was a couple of guys named Williams (not related) which meant we now had three players with the same name if you included Jerome “Junkyard Dog” Williams. I thought at that point we were going to be called the Toronto Williams. We received that other guy (Alonzo Mourning) who didn’t want to play here and never did. We also got a couple of first round draft picks that wound up being Joey Graham and the other was part of another forgetful trade. Yes it was a horrific trade by any standard, but the curse wasn’t about receiving proper compensation either.
You would think therefore that the curse involves his post Raptor era. The 2001 All Star Dunk contest winner has come back a number of times to Toronto. Each time it seems to break our hearts further. He takes the downpour of boos that fans shower him with every time he touched the ball and turned it into motivation for torching his former team. In his second game back for example, he not only scored 42 points, he scored the game winning bucket with 0.1 seconds left. Hearing him shout “This is my house!” still haunts Torontonians to this day. We would love to say that was the one and only time, but it wasn’t. Carter and the Nets beat us in the playoffs and then a couple of years later Carter was back to his old tricks hitting a game tying three and following that up with the game winning basket in overtime. Plenty of revenged and plenty of angst all rolled into together.
All these things though don’t make up the Vince Carter curse regardless of the fact they all led to a great deal of suffering for Toronto fans. For me though, the Vince Carter curse started well before any of this and has caused me more suffering than anything else I can recall in Raptors history with that Jorge Garbajosa injury coming in second place. The weird part about it though, is that, it wasn’t even something Vince Carter did or didn’t do. It started when Tracy McGrady decided he didn’t want to play under Vince’s shadow, and took some bad advice to not resign in Toronto.
Since that moment, everytime I hear the name McGrady but moreso with Carter, I think of that moment and more painfully, I think of what might have been. Even now, over a decade later when I see how well Carter has aged. How he has changed his game; how he mentors younger players and in essence, how mature he has become, I still think about what could have been. What could these two potential hall of famers have done together. Would there have been a championship in Toronto; would there have been several? Would Carter have provided an even stronger basketball imprint in Toronto and Canada. So I as watched from tip off all the way through the standing ovation he received when he left the game, all I could do was think about what might have been, the Carter Curse – and dammit, it still hurts.
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