It was fun at but I didn’t give it much thought at the time. Then I started remembering how the Raps slowly ascended and became an actual NBA franchise and all the players that were part of the process.
You know the feeling you have after you’ve just had a great date? You think about what you could have done or said to make it better, but overall you love the way things went down and you are able to recall every single detail of your encounter.
That was me. So I figured, instead of just thinking about it, let’s put it out there for all to see. So here’s my list of the 10 best Raptors of all time.
10. Jalen Rose
Career numbers with Raptors: 3 and a half years, 177 games, 16.2 points per game, 2.9 rebounds per game, 3.4 assist per game.
Jalen Rose came to the Raptors hoping to be the sidekick to Half-Man, Half-Amazing (Vince Carter). The combo was actually pretty decent as Rose played a variety of positions, alternating between point guard, shooting guard and small forward.
Quite frankly, Rose was like Stephen Jackson before Stephen Jackson became the player he is today. He could run your offense, defend your best player and be a little trigger happy at times. The problem with Jalen was that he was a complimentary player, and far too often he was asked to be the No. 1 guy because the team’s star player was injured.
In addition, once Vince Carter was traded away, Rose’s days in Toronto became numbered. He was the guy making franchise player type money but producing Stephen Jackson-type numbers. So he was eventually sent packing to the Knicks, but the memories of his playing days are still out there for all of us to remember.
9. Tracy McGrady
Career numbers with Raptors: 3 years, 192 games, 11.0 points per game, 5.5 rebounds per game, 2.5 assists per game.
The ultimate "shoulda, coulda, woulda" guy for the Raptors. Fans, experts, columnists and players have often wondered what would have happened had Tracy McGrady remained with the Raptors to play alongside his cousin Vince Carter.
The truth is we will never truly know; but then again McGrady left Toronto for two reasons:
I. Diddy: It's all about the Benjamins
Every rapper raps about it, tells you how much of it he's got and how many chicks he can get because of it (we're talking about money). Chicago and Orlando threw money at T-Mac and there was no way he was turning the amount of coin down.
II.Rick Ross: Boss Status
Tracy McGrady wanted to be the man in the worst way. Even if he wasn't the No. 1 option, he wanted to at least be the No. 2 option (as evidenced by the fact he signed with Orlando to play sidekick to Grant Hill).
And in Toronto, that wasn't going to happen because T-Mac was coming off the bench and was the third option behind Vince Carter and Antonio Davis. Those are the two main reasons why McGrady jumped ship.
With that said, he gets the No. 9 spot because he was a decent player for the Raptors instead of a great one. He showed great promise, but eventually displayed all of his talents in another jersey.
8. T.J. Ford
Career numbers with Raptors: 2 years, 126 games, 13.2 points per game, 7.2 assists per game, 2.7 rebounds per game.
T.J. Ford has played the least amount of games of anyone in this list. And yet he still made the cut.
When Ford came to Toronto, he was a point guard with blazing speed that understood how to run his team and get his teammates involved. Once it was crunch time, Ford figured out ways to take over and get to the basket and score.
Ford was wildly underrated in his time in Toronto. You know how everybody these days is used to having ESPN and being able to watch highlights whenever they feel like it? That was Ford. You always knew what you were getting with him and you kind of took him for granted.
What hurt Ford's ranking was injuries; he missed a lot of time because of them and therefore became expendable. In his last year with the Raptors, Ford missed a big chunk of games and was replaced by Jose Calderon in the starting lineup. Calderon was so efficient at running the team that once Ford became healthy enough to play, he was demoted to the role of sixth man. He was ineffective in that role and therefore was placed once again in the starting rotation, where he thrived. The team played better and that was that.
The problem that occurred afterwards was a business problem, not a basketball one. Calderon had become a free agent and the Raptors did not want to pay two point guards starters money. Hence, they took the player that rarely missed games and traded the oft-injured one. I am not second guessing the decision, but just remember that the Raps have not made the playoffs since they traded T.J. Ford.
7. Antonio Davis
Career numbers with Raptors: 5 years, 302 games, 13.1 points per game, 9.3 rebounds per game, 1.7 assists per game.
Before coming to Toronto, Antonio Davis was simply known as one of the Davis boys that set screens to free up Reggie Miller. Truth be told, fans weren't sure what they were getting from Antonio Davis.
To Raptors fans, he was like a pager (remember, that's when pagers started becoming fashionable): useful, dependable and could help you out of tough jam every now and then. But once he hit the court in a Raptors jersey, he ended up actually being a cool cell phone.
Antonio Davis had always been a backup power forward in Indiana, so the widespread assumption was that he was just a backup big man. But once he got to Toronto, he started at center for the Raptors. He rebounded, blocked shots, kept people out of the paint, was a physical presence and scored in the post. Although Davis was not a great offensive presence in the post, he was still a cell phone as opposed to the pager fans were expecting.
Davis was the starting center for a team that came within a missed Vince Carter jump shot of making the Eastern Conference Finals. He did the dirty work and never took a play off while with Toronto. Antonio Davis is the best center the Toronto Raptors have ever had. That has to count for something right?
6. Jose Calderon
Career numbers with Raptors: 4 years and counting, 303 games, 9.8 points per game, 2.4 rebounds per game, 6.7 assists per game.
As I covered earlier, when the Raptors were faced with the decision of picking between Jose Calderon and T.J. Ford, they chose Calderon.
The logic at the time was simple: T.J Ford was like an Xbox 360—efficient, entertaining, and even positively surprising every now and then. But the problem with the Xbox 360 is the dreaded “Red Rings of Death.” The Rings occur when the 360 overheats and melts certain pieces inside the console. The only way to have it fixed is to send it to a Microsoft depot for them to fix it up and have it returned within about two to four weeks.
The analogy is fairly on point considering that Ford was injury prone. Calderon, on the other hand, was like a brand new Playstation 3. He was (still is) durable and gave you things that the 360 did not. The game play was about the same but he offered a few new features such as a Blu-Ray player (ability to finish at the basket), the ability to browse the internet (ability to make open jump shots) and it came with no added baggage (you know, it was free to go online and there was none of that prima donna stuff).
Keep in mind, Jose Calderon is still an active player with the Raptors; hence he can still keep climbing on this list. Let’s be honest, don’t you just expect him to actually go up a few spots? Thought so.
5. Alvin Williams
Career numbers with Raptors: 8 years, 417 games, 9.3 points per game, 2.6 rebounds per game, 4.3 assists per game.
Alvin Williams is one of those players where the statistics don’t tell the whole story about him.
Williams was the Toronto Raptors point guard during his playing days. As a matter of fact, he was so good that he would get minutes at both guard positions because of his shooting stroke and deadly crossover. In addition, the players and coaches had such confidence in him that they asked him to guard Allen Iverson one-on-one in regular season matchups and playoff games. There were some games in which he was successful, but there were also games where he got lit up (50 points in one regular season game and another 50 in the playoffs).
But the fact that the team had the confidence in him to guard A.I. says everything you need to know about him as a player and warrior. On offense, if the shot clock was winding down late in the game and you were unable to get the ball to Carter, you were completely comfortable with Williams handling the rock. For instance, if you went to a Usher concert and the show was canceled due to unforeseen circumstances, but Justin Timberlake agreed to perform to keep the fans happy, you would be disappointed, but not that disappointed right? (I might have just lost all the males that were reading this list.)
Well, in a nutshell, that was Alvin Williams. Williams found a way to step his game up in the playoffs as he kept making big shot after big shot when the Raptors faced the New York Knicks in a decisive Game 5 (first round) in the 2000-2001 NBA playoffs.
What ultimately killed Williams was that he was too much of a good soldier and fan favorite. Whenever he was faced with injuries, he would ignore doctors orders and hit the hardwood In that sense, he was the anti-McGrady (since joining the Houston Rockets, T-Mac has appeared in 297 of a possible 410 games) but paid for it later in his career.
Because he kept playing with various ailments, his body eventually broke down, causing him to miss several games because he had played injured far too long. By the time his last year with the Raptors came, Williams on the bench and unable to contribute. Perhaps people forget him today, but I am here to make sure that we remember the fifth best Raptor of all time.
4. Charles Oakley
Career numbers with Raptors: 3 years, 208 games, 7.9 points per game, 8.0 rebounds per game, 3.3 assists per game.
Some might be surprised to see him this high on this list. I mean, save for a few 15-foot jump shots and some rebounds, he hasn't done much as a Raptor, right?
Eight points per game and eight rebounds per game can’t be good enough to be in the top four Raptors of all-time discussion, can it?
Most people only know Oak now because of his role as Michael Jordan's best friend/enforcer/body guard and his Shaft persona (in case you're clueless, just Google these words: "Charles Oakley slaps"—I guarantee you find some interesting stuff).
But Charles Oakley meant so much more to the Raptors than just sheer numbers. Oakley brought professionalism as well as an attitude to the team. Whenever Vince Carter whined about contact or injuries, Oakley took him aside and told him to stop acting like a baby and to play his ass off (he probably said: “shut up and suit up biatchhhhhh”).
The numbers back this up. Oakley was in Toronto from the 1998-1999 (lockout year) season to the 2000-2001 season. During those three seasons, Vince Carter appeared in 207 out of a possible 214 games. But once Oak left, V.C. only suited up in 176 games out of a possible 246 games with the Raptors.
Although Oakley was not necessarily the most productive of players, his defense allowed the Raptors to shut down teams defensively in the paint and he was the one guy that was able to push the team's star to play at a high level and suck it up no matter what.
Once Oakley left, the team became soft and Vince Carter bailed on the Raptors.
Career numbers with Raptors: 3 years, 200 games, 19.6 points per game, 8.8 assists per game, 4.1 rebounds per game.
Before killing his career as an NBA general manager with the New York Knicks, Isiah Thomas was once the man responsible for the direction of the Toronto Raptors franchise. In the team’s first ever draft, Thomas selected a point guard from Arizona that went by the name of Damon Stoudamire.
At the time, several people were baffled by the pick because they were not all that familiar with Stoudamire. And yet, once Damon suited up, the fans, the media and rest of the NBA fell in love with Mighty Mouse (his nickname).
The left-handed point guard got to any spot he wanted on the court and kept exciting the fans with each game. This sounds fairly routine now, but back then the Toronto Raptors were an expansion franchise in their first year in the league. Keep in mind, Toronto is a hockey city—fans had no idea when to chant, when to boo or when to go get more beer and come back drunk because they were not at all familiar with the NBA game.
However, they quickly became familiar with Damon Stoudamire. The man made it a habit to beat people off the dribble and get the shot he wanted with ease. He spearheaded the biggest win in franchise history at the time when Toronto defeated a Chicago Bulls (Raptors TV shows this game every summer) team that finished the season with an NBA-record 72 wins.
Needless to say, Stoudamire was the first player that Raptors fans truly embraced in the formative years of the franchise.
2. Chris Bosh
Career numbers with Raptors: 6 years and counting, 451 games, 19.8 points per game, 9.2 rebounds per game, 2.2 assist per game.
CB4 was drafted as the big man that was supposed to be the Robin to Vince Carter’s Batman.
Unfortunately, Carter had other ideas. He felt as though the Raptors should have traded the draft pick that eventually became Chris Bosh to obtain a big man. The irony is that Bosh has today become the player that Carter wanted back then.
In his rookie season, Bosh was forced to play center at times against the likes of Alonzo Mourning, Nene and Tim Duncan, to name a few. He lacked the experience and physical strength required to play against such players, but he never backed down. The young man showed some promise despite playing out of position at times.
Today, Chris Bosh is one of the top power forwards in the league. He is able to go head-to-head against the likes of Dirk Nowtizki, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and Amare Stoudemire, and actually outplay them.
This might not mean much to you, but the day that Vince Carter was traded, some Raptors fans feared for the direction of the organization.
Who would carry the burden of the franchise on his back?
Who would give management as well as the fans hope that the team could succeed?
In the end Chris Bosh became the answer to both questions (Check out this article I wrote about CB4 here). He goes out every night and battles against the best power forwards in the league, and has them for breakfast, dinner and lunch. Rarely have we seen a player be this good at their position in a Raptors uniform. That should be good enough to earn him the No. 2 spot.
Mind you, he’s gaining on….
1. Vince Carter
Career numbers with Raptors: 6 years, 403 games, 23.4 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game, 3.9 assists per game.
Toronto Raptors fans remember the Vince Carter that was always injured, that pouted, that had his mother getting more face time than every other Raptors player and that asked to be traded.
That Vince Carter started out the 2004 season coasting through games, refusing to go to basket, settling for jump shots, and giving little effort on the court while waiting for his trade request to be fulfilled. The moment eventually came in December when he was sent to New Jersey for Aaron Williams, Eric Williams, Alonzo Mourning and two first-round picks.
Carter then became a high-flyer once again and everybody fell in love with him all over again. He had an interview with John Thompson in which he basically admitted that he stopped trying in Toronto. That’s when the Raptors fan base completely turned on him (rightfully so) and that’s why they heckle the hell out of him whenever he plays in Toronto.
Despite all those things, Raptors fans should nonetheless be grateful in a certain way to Carter.
Although V.C. gave up in Toronto, people are quick to forget that he put the team on the map. In Carter’s first years with the Raptors, Canada’s other NBA basketball (Vancouver Grizzlies) was losing money and was eventually forced to relocate to Memphis, where pretty much the same situation seems to be repeating itself.
The Raptors, on the other hand, remained in Toronto because they sold out games, sold tons of merchandise, and were able to eventually make the playoffs. There used to be a time that people would check out the highlights on TSN, The Score (Canadian sports channels) and ESPN on nights that the Raptors played just to see what ridiculous dunk Carter was able to pull off. He had you glued to your seat even when he was getting eliminated by the New York Knicks in the franchise’s first playoff appearance.
The following year, Carter led his squad to an epic seven game series in the second round against Allen Iverson’s 76ers. People are all quick to forget, but Vince Carter not only potentially saved the Toronto Raptors from relocation, he put the team on the NBA map.
In my book, that’s good for best Raptor ever…….for now.