Basketball

Carter nets 55 in charity game

NBA: So Fresh 176, So Clean 171 -- V. Carter 55 pts.

The affair was billed as a charity exhibition basketball game between So Fresh and So Clean, the team names picked by party host Vince Carter. But really, it was So Right.

On a muggy Friday night in the middle of summer, with the NBA season still three months away, a capacity crowd turned out at the Air Canada Centre to watch some of the best in the league shoot the lights out.

But it was Carter's party.

The crowd welcomed with a rapturous applause that rocked the building the Raptor superstar, who on Wednesday committed a huge chunk of his future to Toronto, signing a six-year contract extension worth as much as $94 million US.

"I had a blast man," said Carter, grinning. "When all the guys show up and we have some big names.

"We just put 19,800 (fans) for a charity game. That's wonderful."

Signs dotted the crowd, but one summed it up simply: "Thanx for staying Vince."

On the heels of some heady weeks in which Raptor general manager Glen Grunwald re-sign his three free agents -- Antonio Davis, Alvin Williams and Jerome Williams -- ink Carter to a long-term commitment and nab one of the best centres ever in Hakeem (The Dream) Olajuwon for the Raptor faithful at the ACC, the season-opener is clearly too long in coming.

Thirteen of Carter's NBA pals, including Alonzo Mourning of the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks' Ray Allen, Los Angeles Clippers' Elton Brand, Carter's North Carolina teammates Antawn Jamison and Shammond Williams, and Raptors small forward Morris Peterson, all of them clad in purple-and-white, took part in the event, which was more a show of shooting talents than an actual game.

Defence?

There was none.

"Whew, lot of points, man. Lotta points," whistled Carter, looking at the scoring sheet -- he led scorers with 55 points.

Indeed, there were plenty of moments worthy of flashbulbs and standing ovations as Carter was at his acrobatic best.

When Carter went air-borne for a slam dunk, Mourning bowed in an `I'm not worthy' pose.

"Vince is doing something special down here," said Mourning, who brought his wife and son to Toronto and plans to attend Caribana this weekend.

"He was my Olympic teammate, and any time any of my colleagues in the league put together an event, create a positive atmosphere, helping young kids, I'm all for it. Any time he does this and my schedule permits, I'll be there for him."

There was former Raptors point guard Mark Jackson, now with the New York Knicks, dishing behind-the-back passes, finishing with 22 assists.

There was Allen firing up three pointers.

And Jerome (the Junk Yard Dog) Williams doing what he does best, inciting the crowd, barking, hanging off the rim.

And, of course, there was Carter, salvaging another win, sinking a huge one-handed dunk with four seconds left to give So Fresh a 176-171 lead.

After the final buzzer sounded, Carter addressed the crowd, saying, "You're making history. We just sold out a charity game.

"And we're going to be doing it for six more years, baby, six more. Give yourself a round of appluase for being so great, you were definitely the sixth man this year, and I thank you all."

The crowd chanted "Let's go Raptors" as Carter headed to the dressing room.

Comic personality Cedric The Entertainer and Eddie Griffin, of TV's Malcom & Eddie, acted as celebrity coaches.

Raptors head coach Lenny Wilkens enjoyed a night off, taking in the game from the 15th row.

But he got a rousing ovation when his picture was flashed on the Jumbotron.

Ditto Grunwald, who looked genuinely surprised by the reception.

The fans even cheered when Carter's mother, Michelle, walked onto the court.

The game was part of Carter's week-long Summer Jam, his goal was to raise $350,000 to go to his Embassy of Hope charity for underprivileged children.

"It was a dream come true," Carter said of the week. "Everything has been successful, everybody had a great time."

Before tip-off, Carter was recognized by the NBA for his charitable work in the community.