Vince Carter has always been a wanted man. Though selected by the Golden State Warriors with the fifth pick in the 1998 Draft, the Toronto Raptors had already organized a pre-draft deal to bring him to Canada, making it clear to him that he was the guy they wanted.
Still, a new team on the NBA horizon, the Raptors were struggling. Few kids ever grew up with hopes of playing in the NBA for a Canadian team. Most budding stars imagine their dreams will be realized at one of the more glamorous basketball cities, such as LA, New York, Boston, or Chicago.
Though the Raptors did sign some talented players in their short existence, most bolted back to a US-based team at their earliest opportunity. Toronto then turned to Vince Carter, ever hopeful he would be the guy who could help the team shed its uncool image.
When Carter arrived in Toronto, the perceptions about Canada and the Raptors started to change. He said all the right things and didn’t appear to be in a rush to get back to his homeland, either. Unlike some of his predecessors, Carter seemed to be more than happy to ply his trade across the border—anywhere that he was welcome and wanted.
The early years of the relationship went well. Not only was the kid out of North Carolina living up to the hype surrounding him, he was also turning the Raptors into a playoff contender.
On top of that, the city loved him. In a city crazy for hockey, all of a sudden Toronto was buzzing about its basketball team and its superstar.
Unfortunately, though, the love-in didn’t last. Soon after Carter signed a long-term contract in the summer of 2001 to stay with the team, his falling out with Raptors management ensued.
For all of the man’s athletic abilities, the one area of his game that was lacking was his leadership. The game itself came easily enough to him, but as Toronto looked to him to carry it to the next level, he appeared uncomfortable with the added responsibility and wanted to carry on playing without the burden of responsibility.
In short, he didn’t want to grow up.
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