In their 20+ year history, the Toronto Raptors have had some significant moments to remember. They have had many more that we may want to forget, but let’s not dwell on that for now. There was that unlikely victory over the Chicago Bulls in their first year of existence back in 1996. There was Vince Carter’s Dunk Championship in 2000 that literally put this city on the NBA map and a year later they won their very first playoff series. Through the years there have been a number of players that have contributed to those moments and have worn the purple (or the red) proudly; but is there one that can be called the best Raptor player ever? Let’s find out.
— John Callaghan (@johncallaghan) March 30, 2014
There have been a number of stars and superstars that have played for the Raptors from Jermaine O’Neal, Tracy McGrady, Kyle Lowry and even Hall of Famer Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwan. I am not including them as although they have had excellent careers, none of them (other than Lowry) had their best years here or have spent enough time as a Raptor to be considered. There have been a number of fan favourites from the very first draft pick Damon “Mighty Mouse” Stoudamire, Morris Peterson, Alvin Williams and of course, Jerome “JYD” Williams. There is also a personal favourite of mine, Sonny Weems, who took the time to make my kids ecstatic (and their old man too!)
But for the best Raptor of all-time, I have narrowed it down to three. You may have a differing opinion as to the order of these three, but there can be no doubt that these are the best three Raptors of all time.
3Rd place – Chris Bosh
Chris Bosh was the 4th pick overall in an absolute star-studded draft class. Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony and Duane Wade joined Bosh as the top 5 picks. Shhhh, we don’t talk about Darko Milicic anymore. For the seven years Chris Bosh spent in Toronto he leads many categories including most points (10275), rebounds (4776) and blocks (600). It may be a surprise that I have placed Bosh third even if he is statistically the best, but for a Toronto team, it really is more than just about the stats. He played the game tough but there were a number of lean years and even when they made the playoffs, they never advanced very far. I didn’t see qualities that were needed to lead the team to success and fit in perfectly into his role behind James and Wade as they won 2 NBA Championships
2nd Place – Vince Carter
Vince Carter used to lead in many of those categories until Bosh superseded him, but Mr. Half-man Half-amazing deserves the second spot. Carter’s importance goes beyond the numbers and beyond his highlight real dunks. He led the team to their first playoff series victory. He let everyone in the US know about Toronto and he let everyone in Canada know how wonderfully exciting basketball is. In this mad hockey city, he was the biggest star during his tenure here. He was on every highlight real every night for the amazing things he could do. It didn’t end well here unfortunately as he was perceived as soft and sometimes lackadaisical. Whether that was fair criticism or not was irrelevant to the fans that acted like judge and jury and ostracized him for years. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that the fences have been mended and the city has embraced their hero once again. Canadian Steve Nash may have won back-to-back MVPs, but if you ask the dozen or so Canadians are in the NBA today they will all point to Carter as to the reason why they got into the game.
1st Place – DeMar DeRozan
Picking DeRozan first is not a knee-jerk reaction to the incredible start to the season he has had. By the way, in case you haven’t realized it, DeRozan has had an unbelievable start to the season. It isn’t the fact that he leads the league in scoring that is impressive, it is the fact he is doing this after a big, fat max-salary contract. The reason that DeMar DeRozan is the best Raptor ever is because he just keeps getting better year after year after year. Why? Because he works harder than everyone else. He doesn’t just do it during the season, but after it as well. How many people spend a summer eating with their left hand, brushing their teeth left-handed just so that he could dribble better with his left hand? When your best player is your hardest worker that sends a definitive message to the entire team of what is expected by each of them as well. Look at the demeanour of young kids such as Jonas Valanciunas, Norman Powell and Lucas Nogueira and tell me that they aren’t better because of him. After all, if your best player works that hard, why aren’t you?
Now it did take DeRozan a little longer to get to this elite level than the others but that just enforces the fact he never gives up. DeRozan doesn’t have the stats that Bosh had, but one day he will. He is second in Points (9802) and games (532) and should be in first in both categories later this year. DeRozan doesn’t have the flash or imprint that Carter had, but one day who knows how many Canadians will be in the NBA because of him. What DeRozan brings on top of his skill and talent, is a hard-working, ever-improving demeanour. He is someone who wants to stay a Raptor and just keeps battling regardless of the score or the situation. Tell him he is soft and he’ll show you how to drive to the basket, initiate contact and get to the free throw line as good as, if not better, than anyone in the league. Tell him he chokes in the play-offs and watch him fight through those struggles as he led the Raptors to the Conference Finals, farther than any other player before him. Tell him he won’t play well after signing a $139M contract and then get Sports Illustrated to rank him as low as 46th in the NBA and watch him… well, you already know what he has done and continues to do, this season already. His level of compete is off the charts and that demeanor is infectious. Those are the qualities of DeMar DeRozan; those are the qualities of a great leader and those are the qualities of the greatest Raptor of all time.
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