Vince Carter will be first to have his number retired by the Toronto Raptors

It looks like Vince Carter’s playing days have finally come to an end, he’ll likely be the first player to have his number retired by the Toronto Raptors.

Father Time comes knocking for us all at some point and it seems like Vince Carter‘s time in the NBA has finally drawn to a close following a legendary career that has spanned four decades and well over 1500 games – with only Robert Parish and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar playing in more. Carter, at his best, put the Toronto Raptors on the map.

If this is how it ends for Carter, after nearly half a lifetime in the league that’s the way it needs to be. The NBA is currently on an indefinite hiatus after the outbreak of COVID-19 and if the season were to restart in the not-so-distant future, it’s likely the league would jump straight into the postseason.

Regardless, Carter was spending his final season in the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks, who had an overall record of 20-47. They were not destined for the postseason which means if Carter is hanging it up before the end of next season, he’s already played his last game. A man of his stature deserves more, but the circumstances prevent it.

The Toronto Raptors are in the perfect position to honour Carter if they see fit. Carter spent seven magnificent seasons with the Toronto Raptors, but they didn’t come without controversy. He was traded to the New Jersey Nets midway through the 2004-05 NBA season after becoming disgruntled with the direction of the Raptors.

The Raptors made it to the postseason three times in Carter’s seven years with the team, but the 2001-02 NBA season would be their last trip there with Vinsanity at the helm – they’d have to wait another five years before tasting playoff action again.

By then, Carter was in his third season with the Nets and averaging 25.2 points per night in New Jersey with the backing of Richard Jefferson, Jason Kidd, and Nenad Krstic. His reputation among Raptors fans was tainted after the tension surrounding his departure and he was villainized for years after.

It’s been six years since the Raptors ran a video montage of Carter during their 20th anniversary season when he and the Memphis Grizzlies came to visit during a November matchup. Since then, it seems like the public perception of Carter has done a U-turn and he’s now back in the graces of the Raptors faithful. That’s the way it should be.

Masai Ujiri called him “one of the symbols of the Toronto Raptors”, a great honour coming from the man who turned the Raptors ship around. Now, it’s time the Toronto Raptors should honour him again.

As it stands, the Raptors have never retired a number in the team’s 25-year history. The history of the team is checkered and still relatively bare. The best years of the franchise have come under the guidance of Masai Ujiri and Kyle Lowry over the past half-decade.

The team won its first-ever title last year, but before that, the best years were the early Carter years while the franchise was still trying to figure everything out. The Raptors went to successive postseasons between 2006-2008 when Chris Bosh was the face of the franchise, but it all started with Carter.

The Raptors will likely retire his number first – as they should. He was the first superstar for the Raptors and had untold success with the team, averaging a career-high 27.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game in the 2000-01 NBA season and was voted onto the All-NBA Second Team in the process.

He led the team to the postseason for the first time in 2000 and carried them to their first-ever series win during his incredible 2000-01 season, defeating the New York Knicks in five games before going down to the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.

Chris Bosh recently retired and also spent a wonderful seven seasons with the team but couldn’t lead the roster to the postseason more than twice before leaving to join the Miami Heat in 2010. His impact on the team was solidified, but he didn’t introduce Canada into basketball quite as Carter did.

That’s why Vinsanity gets the nod among other things. He took basketball to another level in Canada and gave the Raptors their first real taste of success. He was the first of his kind – or the only one of his kind, to be more precise.

DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Vince Carter all have cases to be made, but Carter has the edge due to his age, but he has more than just that. His name will hang up in the rafters one day, and that day will be soon.