Vinsanity returns: A look at some of Vince Carter's highlights in Toronto
Former Raptor may play his final game at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday night
Hailed as a hero. Lustily booed as a villain. Given a standing ovation for his contributions to the game. Vince Carter has heard it all from the vocal crowd in Toronto.
Entering the contest as the league's elder statesman at age 41, it's natural to think this might be the last time Carter suits up for an NBA game in Toronto. On the chance this is indeed the last outbreak of Vinsanity to grace the hardwood at his first NBA home, here is a look at a few of the memorable occasions Carter was loved or loathed by the Raptors faithful.
The Toronto Raptors played their first game at Scotiabank Arena (then called the Air Canada Centre) on Feb. 21, 1999 against the Vancouver Grizzlies, and Carter gave the sellout crowd a glimpse of what was to come. He had 27 points — including a couple of spicy dunks — six rebounds, five assists and four steals as the Raptors defeated the Grizzlies 102-87. Carter went on to win the NBA's rookie of the year award for the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season.
Dropping 50 in the playoffs
The Raptors reached the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 2001, where they met superstar Allen Iverson and the favoured Philadelphia 76ers. After Iverson dropped 54 points in Game 2 of the series, it looked like Philly had the momentum heading back to Toronto.
Not to be outdone, Carter had 50 points in Game 3, leading Toronto to a 102-78 rout of the Sixers and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Carter's night included nine three-pointers, tying what was then an NBA post-season record, and he threw in four blocks for good measure.
Fast-forward to Game 7, and narrative changed to Carter's missed last-second shot that would have won the series, and whether he should be blamed for the loss for having the audacity to attend his university graduation ceremony at North Carolina earlier that day.
But for a brief time it looked like the Raptors were a team built to advance to the NBA Finals. Toronto wouldn't reach the second round again until 2015.
Public enemy No. 1
When Carter made his first visit to ACC in New Jersey colours on April 15, 2005, the sold-out crowd let him have it with ear-shattering boos and a steady chorus of "V-C sucks!" chants.
Unfazed, Carter scored 17 of his game-high 39 points in the third quarter and the Nets left town with a 101-90 victory. He would make a habit of putting in big performances north of the border in the years to come.
Fuelling an upset
Forging a new identity under star forward Chris Bosh, the Raptors surged to their first Atlantic Division title in 2006-07 and made the playoffs for the first time in five years. Their first-round opponent? Carter and the Nets.
Moved to tears
Carter's redemption in Toronto seemed like an impossibility at one time, but his transformation into respected league veteran, as well as many of the current crop of exceptional Canadian ballers citing him as an influence, has softened the hearts of many of those who once saw Carter as a traitor. When Carter and the Memphis Grizzlies visited Toronto on Nov. 19, 2014, he was moved to tears by a video tribute and subsequent standing ovation by a fan base finally ready to move on.
Sure, Carter was booed every time he touched the ball afterward. But a peace had finally been reached between the Raptors and their first superstar.