My First NBA fan moment was way back in and around 2003, I was the ripe old age of 10 years old and although moving towards liking and understanding certain sports, I never found one that I could hang on to and one I could confidently play, and not feel like I was trying to talk myself into knowing how to play a sport even though i knew better. I had no chance in hockey, because I lacked the patience or willingness to learn how to skate, football seemed like a far too easy way to get really hurt, and baseball meant I would have to have good coordination, which I did not. So I gave it a shot with basketball, though my desire and real passion for it never really came about till I got an Xbox for Christmas. Spoiled and excited, I ran to plug it in and play some Halo, ( it came as a bundle. You get the console you get the game. Win win) and my love for Halo grew and grew, but that has nothing to do with this story so i’m moving on. The real change in excitement I had for basketball, from kinda interested to big fan, was when I got NBA Live 2004 with one of my basketball heros, Vince Carter on the cover. I think only the other games I played more than Live 03 was Halo and Spider-man 2, and only because those were all time classics. So when the main menu appeared with Vince Carter and a Jermaine Dupri track blasting in the background, it was a shot of fandom that struck in me. A Toronto Raptor had made the cover of an NBA basketball video game, which may not sound like a big deal to others, but for me it showed how far Vince had carried that franchise.
Time passed since I hit that start button on my original Xbox, and in the summer of 2006 the Raptors traded away disgruntled star Vince Carter to the New Jersey Nets for Eric and Aaron Williams, Alonzo Mourning (who thought going to Canada was a chore and never suited up for them) and a pick. Vince then went on an national television interview with John Thompson on NBA TV, saying he basically packed in it for the Organization and was ready for a trade. It was a conflicting moment that had me both hate the player and the team, how one player could just call it quits on a franchise he helped build from nothing into something? And maybe better yet, how could one team not consistently build around him, and get such an awful return for an all star and a cornerstone of their team. Rob Babcock was on the worst…Sorry… The worst general manager the Raptors ever hired, and that trade proved it. The Raptors would face the Nets in the playoffs a couple years later, and wouldn’t you know it a Vince Carter game winner here and there down the line for a couple of seasons, and the Raptors were haunted by a ghost that would never go away. It was the perfect “fuck you” to every and all Raptors fans, my heart sunk and all I could really do was just say “god damn it i loved that”. Maybe that was the insane person in me, the one who craved anarchy and madness, but i remembered how good this guy was, and i just kind of chuckled. He made the Nets into a run and gun alleyoop team with Jason Kidd throwing lobs to either Richard Jefferson or Vince Carter, it was a much better team and one that twisted that knife in my ever so slightly, a twist of the knife that reminded me what potential we gave up.
Vince would have his Nets days numbered though, and he was traded, along with Ryan Anderson to the Orlando Magic. The Magic were hoping for some vet experience, along with some late game clutch skill to help them get to the finals against the Lakers in 2009, But ultimately fell in a 4 game sweep. Carter would play a couple seasons in Orlando, playing decent and still putting up 15-16 points a game, but his best days as a go to guy were behind him, and he turned from star to key role player as his career shifted from Orlando to Phoenix. He only had played one year there, and his totals took a dip. He had only played in 51 games, averaged 13 points per game, and the Suns just missed the playoffs a year after getting 54 wins the season before. My hatred turned into appreciation, and somewhat….Sympathy, is this how my favorite player will end his career? Unable to regain that good form in Toronto and New Jersey? It seemed that he was ready to say goodbye, he was a 10 plus year vet, in a league that was transitioning into athletic wings that could really run the floor both ways. His legs were not as young as they were, and for a guy who relied on his legs for offense, I wondered if the league was too fast for him. But then the Dallas Mavericks signed Carter- who was bought out from his contract after a six player deal landed him in Phoenix- It was a three year deal that would push Carter’s age to 37. But he still seemed happy to play, despite how his body would deteriorate, he still wanted to put on the sneakers instead of hanging them up.
Trips to Memphis,and now Sacremento on a one year deal. Vince Carter is years removed from his glory years, but he is content in continuing to play the sport he loves, and continuing to evolve in an evolving league in ways that can keep him around longer, and that can benefit the team he is on. Each Year he gives us some of that old Vince jump, and other times he is just playing garbage minutes shooting threes. But the joy for the game remains there, and at least for now, Half Man Half Amazing has a hard time saying goodbye, a hard time leaving the hardwood for good. He may have a beard and not be as athletic as he once was, but I still see that NBA Live 2004 cover guy whenever I see him play. It makes me smile, and it makes me reminiscence of a good time when I was that kid running down to play that video game, and always losing my mind whenever number 15 on the Raps would do a crazy dunk. I know time will catch up to him, time never loses, but Vince has given me another year of memories and another year of possibly creating more. Vince means so much to me both as a basketball fan, and a fan of a growing sport in Canada that started when Vince started his first game ever for the Toronto Raptors.