From Vince Carter to Chris Bosh to DeMar DeRozan, three star player eras in Toronto Raptors history have now ended. Appropriately, now would really be a good time to have the “greatest Raptor of all time” debate, but, in reality, there is only one correct answer: DeMar DeRozan.
From Vince Carter’s 2004 trade to the departure of Chris Bosh in 2010 and, about two weeks ago, the end of DeMar DeRozan’s tenure in Toronto, three notable star players have come and gone through Toronto in the last 15 years. These three players could all rightfully be added to the “all-time greatest Raptor” discussion. Although you can probably make a valid case for any of those three guys, and you’ll probably find someone – as I did – who makes a case for a lesser-considered option like Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan is the real titleholder as the greatest Raptor ever.
Before this article delves any deeper, here is the Twitter poll I ran on this debate, which received 57 votes in total. Overwhelmingly, the most popular choice was also DeMar DeRozan.
Let’s break it down, starting with the definition of greatness, for the purposes of this article.
Greatness is defined here by accomplishments and accolades. This may seem shortsighted at first but please, keep reading and it will become clear.
Vince Carter, on one hand, was a great player for the Raptors. In his seven seasons with Toronto, Vince Carter averaged 23.4 points per game in 403 career games. In addition, he was a key part of two playoff teams for this organization. Effectively, there is no doubt that Vince Carter was a very good player during his time in Toronto.
Despite all this, Carter is significantly more notable for the icon he became in this city and the attention he brought to the sport of basketball north of the border. In other words, although he put up great individual numbers as a Raptor, he never accomplished anything significant with Toronto and it is clear that the man nicknamed Air Canada was more important for his cultural impact than anything he did on the court.
Undoubtedly, Vince Carter made basketball a real passion for a lot of people in a city and a country dominated by hockey. Vince was an electrifying, exciting and fresh young face for people to watch in awe. He held basketball camps in the Toronto and elsewhere, was very engaged in the community and brought hope to a basketball team that was in its infancy and just trying to get its legs in this city.
For his impact on basketball here, Vince Carter will likely best be remembered as the most iconic player in Toronto Raptors history. However, because of his lack of accolades and true “success” with the team, it seems unwise to label him as the greatest Toronto Raptor ever.
The next most common name in this debate seems to be Chris Bosh, and rightfully so. In 509 career games over seven seasons with Toronto, Bosh averaged 20.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.
Statistically, that makes him the most well-rounded player of the three in this discussion. While Carter averaged 23.4 points per game and DeMar had a higher FT% (82.7% to Bosh’s 79.6%), Chris Bosh was the most balanced statistical contributor.
Much like Carter deserves the title for most iconic Raptor, Chris Bosh takes the title for the best player in team history by statistical production.
Bosh always put up significant and well-rounded numbers while being a key cog on two (short-lived) Toronto Raptors playoff runs, similar to Vince Carter. In other words, Bosh is another example of a great player in this franchise’s history that just could not get much accomplished in the bigger picture. Of course, that is not even close to entirely Bosh’s fault, much like Carter could not be blamed for his lack of accomplishment in Toronto. As the leader of the team, however, a significant amount of the onus was naturally on Bosh and he could not deliver great results.
If individual statistical production alone dictated “greatness” as a basketball player, Chris Bosh might have the title of “greatest Raptor ever” locked up. However, because he produced magnificent numbers but did not experience success otherwise, Bosh has firmly taken the spot as the franchise’s best player statistically but the title of “greatest Raptor ever” is beyond his reach.
Finally, and most importantly in this debate, is the man whose tenure with the Toronto Raptors ended just around two weeks ago. DeMar DeRozan is, for all intents and purposes, the greatest Raptor ever. Let’s decipher why…
Impact on Basketball in Toronto and Canada
“Putting Toronto on the map” as a basketball city is an accomplishment that will rightfully always be attributed to Vince Carter. However, in recent years, DeMar DeRozan has done much of the same in this city.
DeRozan has represented this team and Canada proudly. He has shown loyalty to this city by re-signing without taking a meeting elsewhere, and deserves credit for much of the recent growth in hoops popularity across Canada. His jersey is the one that most young people are wearing and he resembles Vince Carter in the way that he has become the catalyst and main attraction for this generation of young Canadian kids playing basketball.
DeRozan will always be remembered as a prolific scorer. In fact, he finished his Raptors career averaging 19.7 points per game.
On top of that, here is where DeMar ranks on a larger level in franchise history…
Accordingly, the productivity of DeRozan in a Raptors uniform is unquestionable. He was the first option on this team for 7 years and he showed out for the Raptors on the court, helping the team become an Eastern conference powerhouse over the last half decade, as detailed below.
Accomplishments and Winning
Simply, DeMar DeRozan was the catalyst of this team for its entire stretch of recent success, which speaks volumes about his greatness as a Toronto Raptor. While it would be unfair to attribute all the success to one individual and not the entire team, to say that he was not the on-court leader of the team would be a mistake.
He led this team to 5 straight playoff appearances and although he struggled in the playoffs, he was still a big part of this organization’s success for a long time. This was especially true when he helped Toronto reach the pinnacle of its success with an Eastern conference finals berth in 2015/16.
This is where DeRozan truly transcends the greatness of Carter and Bosh in the context of this organization. DeMar had a cultural impact on basketball like Carter, and was a great player like Bosh, but he helped the team accomplish a lot more than either of them. That elevates him to the greatest player in franchise history.
DeRozan checks every box discussed above: he has had a great impact on basketball in Toronto and Canada, a great individual player who has led his team to its longest period of success since 1995. For those reasons, ultimately, it is clear that DeMar DeRozan is far and away… the greatest Raptor ever.