Was Vince Carter more of a hero or villain for Toronto Raptors fans?

TORONTO, ONTARIO - JUNE 10: Former Toronto Raptors player Vince Carter (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ONTARIO - JUNE 10: Former Toronto Raptors player Vince Carter (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors – Vince Carter (Photo by Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

The leadup to the breakup

Here’s the thing about breakups: In many, if not most cases, both parties are at fault.

Down the stretch of the 2001-02 season, less than a year removed from the Philadelphia series, Carter suffered a season-ending knee injury. The Raptors were struggling, with a disappointing 30-40 record when Carter played his final game.

Shockingly, though, they rallied down the stretch without their star player. The team finished the season 12-2 without Carter and squeaked into the playoffs as a No. 7 seed.

Though the series ended with a boneheaded mistake by Chris Childs. Toronto gave a valiant effort for a team without its best player. Unfortunately for the Raptors, their own success without Carter may have been the beginning of the end of their relationship with him.

Carter only played 43 games due to continued injury problems during the 2002-03 season. His scoring average dropped for the second straight year, and unlike their finish to the previous season, the Raptors plummeted to the bottom of the standings in Carter’s absence. If there was any talk of an ‘Ewing Theory’ situation with Carter the previous season, that died along with Toronto’s hopes as a playoff team.

Carter’s relationship with the team’s front office deteriorated. Media and fans questioned how much he really wanted to play, and how serious his injuries really were. Meanwhile, the Raptors’ management proved mostly incompetent, surrounding Carter with a poor supporting cast that couldn’t be expected to achieve much in the playoffs, even if Carter had played a full healthy season.

Well, in the 2003-04 season, Carter bounced back to play 73 games at 38 minutes nightly. Predictably, the mediocre roster still won just 33 games and missed the postseason. It seemed inevitable that Carter and the Raptors would part ways soon enough.