Back in the early 2000s, Toronto was experiencing a foreign luxury that had been unconventional to the city since the Raptors' inaugural 1995 season: Raptors success. Not only was the team becoming a perennial playoff contender, but the organization had real title aspirations. Behind superstar Vince Carter, the future of the Raptors organization looked bright.
However, the team never tapped into their potential and, by 2004, their championship window had closed. There are many reasons for the Toronto Raptors' demise. From trading the up-and-coming Tracy McGrady to the Orlando Magic to the many injuries suffered on the roster, the Raptors never seemed to fully discover how talented they really were.
But, the main reason for the Raptors' failure was the selfish attitude of Vince Carter and his inability to lead the squad. After all, Vince Carter demanded a trade from the organization due to the team's floundering record in 2004. This rubbed many fans the wrong way and, in 2004, the Raptors shipped their franchise cornerstone to New Jersey for forwards Eric Williams and Aaron Williams, veteran center Alonzo Mourning and two first-round picks.
The "Vinsanity" experiment had failed.
In New Jersey, Vince Carter would turn out to be, yet again, all hype. Instead of taking the Nets, who already possessed stars Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson, to the next level, New Jersey never advanced to the NBA Finals and would abandon ship in 2008.
Carter would later be traded to the Orlando Magic, who were looking for that one last piece to get them back to the NBA Finals. Carter proved he was not that piece, as his tenure in Orlando would be tainted with shortcomings and missed buzzer-beaters.
The former superstar would later be traded to Phoenix, where he looked like a shell of his former self, and now finds himself playing for the champion Dallas Mavericks. He is currently averaging only 10 points per game, which is a career low.
Ironically, news has just broke that former Raptors GM Glen Grunwald said "no" to a deal that would have sent both Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki from the Dallas Mavericks to Toronto in exchange for Vince Carter and Antonio Davis.
In hindsight, this missed opportunity could be the biggest "what-if" in Toronto Raptors history.
Both Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki have become locks for the Hall of Fame. Nash, who won back-to-back MVPs in 2004-05 and 2005-06, is arguably the greatest distributor in NBA history. Despite never winning a championship, the fearless point guard is the best Canadian basketball player of all time.
Nowitzki, meanwhile, just won his first championship. Even though critics doubted that a team led by the 7'0" German power forward would ever capture the legendary Larry O'Brien Trophy, Nowitzki helped defeat the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals last season. He, also, has won a MVP award.
Vince Carter, on the other hand, is a fringe Hall of Famer. Despite the impressive number of accolades he has earned, including eight All-Star appearances, the UNC alum never became close to reaching his vast potential.
If the Raptors had accepted that trade, the NBA would be in a completely different place. The Dallas Mavericks would have never won that last championship, the Los Angeles Lakers would have had free reign in the West, and the East would have become the dominant conference. Heck, there may not even be a "Big Three" right now in Miami, as Toronto would have never received the opportunity to draft power forward Chris Bosh.
Plus, depending on when the offer was placed, the Toronto Raptors could have boasted one of the most fearsome threesomes in the league with Tracy McGrady, Nowitzki and Nash.
Raptors history was forever changed when Grunwald decided that Carter was too valuable to give up. Sure, the team has tons of highlight reels to remember the "golden times" of Toronto basketball, but, in the end, what is a "golden age" without any championship banners?
Now, every time Carter enters the Air Canada Centre, instead of seeing "We Love Vinsanity" posters and hearing MVP chants, the 35-year-old veteran is heckled and jeered until the buzzer sounds.
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