What Could Have Been: The 2000 Raptors

What if?

Recently, Michael Landsberg of Off The Record, one of Canada’s premier sports talk shows, somehow managed to convince Charles Oakley, Tracy McGrady, and Vince Carter to appear on his show at the same time.

They discussed a wide variety of topics related to their time in Toronto, and also squeezed in many unnecessary product endorsements in the process. I was hoping that Vince and Tracy would join Landsberg in studio, since it would have made for much better TV than seeing them answer questions with awkward delays and cut offs. Nonetheless, this interview should be of interest to Raptor fans everywhere.

Unfortunately, it also helps add further anguish to the hearts of the Toronto faithful, forcing us to remember that our team lost two superstar players before they hit their prime. These days, we are stuck watching teams that feature the results of poor drafting and the lack of important basketball fundamentals like defense. Oh, and our franchise is led by Andrea Bargnani, Leandro Barbosa, or Demar Derozan – pick one.

Anyway, a couple of interesting observations from the interview:

  • I know Landsberg is just trying to give context about a Raptors team from ten years ago to the casual fan, but the 2001 Raptors were NOT led by Oakley and Vince Carter. That team, especially in the playoffs, succeeded largely because of Carter, Alvin Williams, and Antonio Davis. Oak was instrumental in his own right, but those other four players had a lot more to do with the Raptors success.
  • T-Mac is coming to you live from a place called “Sugar Land, TX”, which is very fitting considering his  work ethic over the years.
  • Charles Oakley speaks like Mike Tyson on morphine.

    Live from Sugar Land!

  • McGrady points out that in his first year with the Raptors (1997-1998), he was surrounded by a players that he really did not respect as veterans. Wait, you mean to tell me that McGrady did not respect the likes of John Wallace and Reggie Slater? Preposterous.
  • T-Mac also makes it a point to emphasize that Oakley always had the backs of other players on the team during his time in Toronto, noting that today’s NBA just “doesn’t have [guys] [like] that” anymore. Fair point, but what about tough-guys like Kevin Garnett who shout in opponents’ ears and crawl on the floor? Can Charles Oakley do that?
  • Landsberg wastes two minutes of viewers’ time by asking Vince and Tracy to describe a useless anecdote about driving to the 2000 dunk contest arena in a stretch limo. He has these players on a Canadian TV show for the first time in 10 years, and that is the best the writers can come up with?
  • We learn that Vince Carter essentially forced Tracy McGrady to take part in the greatest Slam Dunk contest in NBA history (yes, better than the ’88 contest featuring ‘Nique and Jordan. The 2000 contest featured unique dunks in all three rounds from all of the contestants – except maybe Larry Hughes).
  • I just realized how balanced the 1999-2001 Raptors had been in terms of veteran leadership and young superstar talent. Not only did the team have a veteran enforcer in Oak, but they also had a formidable inside presence with Davis and Kevin Willis, a hustle/energy guy in Jerome Williams, a sharpshooter in Dell Curry, and veteran point guards like Mugsy and Alvin Williams leading the way. Leave it up to Raptors management (thank you, Glen Grunwald) to royally screw up that nucleus in the span of two summers.
  • Apparently, Kobe had said during an interview with SLAM that the 2000 Raptors nucleus of McGrady and Carter could have won championships together.  I am surprised that Bryant felt this way considering that the rise of the Raptors would have coincided with the Lakers three peat from 2000-2002. Though I love the idea of the Raptors winning a championship with Carter and McGrady, even a healthyteam with both of them in their prime could not have beaten an in-his-prime Shaq and an emerging Kobe Bryant in a seven game series.

    Could T-Mac and Vince have toppled the Lakers dynasty?

  •  We learn that Charles Oakley and Lenny Wilkins had problems while Oak was in Toronto because Wilkins felt that Oak was undermining his authority with the players. So that’s why Oakley was traded….
  • Landsberg says that Tracy moved on from the Raptors to have a “hall of fame” career. What? T-Mac had five prime seasons after leaving Toronto, after which his numbers and games played dipped by a considerable amount. He’s a career 20-6-4 guy who hasn’t made it out of the first round at any point in his career (despite having a functioning Yao Ming). Jersey retirement in Houston or Orlando? Sure. But Hall of Fame?
  • The most hilarious thing about the exchange above is Carter shaking his head and squinting his face in confusion when Landsberg suggests that McGrady is a Hall-of-Famer.
  • I still don’t understand why McGrady was booed by Raptor fans when he first returned with the Magic in 2001. I mean, he wanted to lead his own team with max money and step away from Vince’s shadow, which is actually understandable. It’s not as if he organized a live television farce and cowardly left to join two other superstars, one of whom was his draft class rival (*ahem* excuse me, I seem to have a cough). Where was I going with this again?
  • T-Mac thinks the 2001 Raptors would have beaten the Sixers in Game 7 had he been a part of that team. Talk about an understatement – I don’t think the series would have even gone to six games.
  • Oakley says that Toronto fans were “slow” in learning the game. I highly doubt that, considering the passionate Raptors fans I have met over the years, all of whom consistently support badly produced teams on a regular basis.
  • When Oakley says, “we gave [the fans] our heart every night we played”, Vince looks down in shame on que. You can’t make this stuff up.

    The face of our franchise for six years.

  • Oak makes a good point about Raptor fans booing literally every major player that leaves Toronto via free agency or trade. Seriously, what gives? I love the passion of Toronto fans, but at least understand why you’re booing a player, don’t just follow the crowd because you heard it on TV or because your friend is doing it. Case in point: booing Chris Bosh last year during the Heat’s trip to Toronto. What? Bosh played for the Raptors longer than Vince did, and he gave it his all during his time in Toronto. He left via free agency after 6 years and one or two insignificant playoff berths. Why is he required to stay?
  • I also understand he associated himself with the stink of Lebron James’ “decision” by joining the Heat, but regardless, Bosh didn’t do much to deserve such intense treatment. I attended his return to the Air Canada Centre in person this year – those boos were loud.
  • Landsberg talks to Tracy and Vince about being booed during their returns to Toronto. This leads me to provide a mandatory link of this shot, which is perhaps one of the most clutch plays you’ll ever see in an NBA game, considering the circumstances. The funny thing is that Carter replicated that performance a couple of times during his trips back to the ACC, most notably in 2008 when he not only hit a game tying shot, but also had the game-winning dunk in overtime. I know Vince can’t be relied on during the playoffs (Dwight Howard nods in approval), but when he is motivated, VC is cold-as-ice during clutch moments. Unfortunately for us Carter fans, he seems to only be motivated once every three years.
  • The last two minutes of the interview contains frivolous promotion of McGrady’s oxygenated water, Oakley’s car wash and website, and Carter’s restaurant. Fantastic waste of time.

    Remember Shareef Abdur-Rahim in a Grizzlies uniform? Most don’t.

  • Should Carter’s number be retired in Toronto? Short answer: yes. Long answer? Hell yes.
  • Here’s why: there was a very real possibility of the Raptors folding as a franchise (much like the Grizzlies) before Carter arrived on the scene. It’s important to note that he almost single-handedly lead the 16-66 team he inherited in 1998 to a playoff berth by 2000, and one shot away from the Eastern Conference Finals by 2001. Moreover, he was very active in the community, and loved representing Toronto. Chris Bosh was not able to accomplish as much during his six years here, nor was he as big of a North American presence as Vince. For a time, our franchise player was known around the league (and sometimes still is) as the “RuPaul of big men” (thanks, Shaq). For his influence in helping put Toronto on the NBA map and transform the team into a legitimate contender, it’s a no-brainer to retire Carter’s #15, in my opinion.
  • Since Oakley is hopped up on morphine, he says that the Raptors should retire McGrady’s number as well, to which both Carter and McGrady rightly protest.
  •  Oak also says that both players deserve to be in the Hall-of-Fame. Yes, let’s just ignore the fact that neither of them really accomplished much outside of the regular season in 12+ years in the NBA.
  • Vince rightfully asks “why?” when Landsberg asks him if he regrets attending his college graduation on the morning of game 7. You can read my thoughts about that topic here. Vince Carter may have made many mistakes during his last couple of years in Toronto, but obtaining a degree is not one of them.

Carter fittingly sums up his entire career, the 2000-2001 Raptors, and the interview when he says, “if I had made that shot [in Game 7], you wouldn’t ask that question”.

And that’s a wrap.


4 thoughts on “What Could Have Been: The 2000 Raptors

  1. Only comment is the GM who ended up tearing apart that amazing team is also the same one who put it together. Honestly you have to give Glen Grunwald a lot of credit. He was a great GM and in my mind still the best GM Toronto has ever had.

    • I agree with that – he definitely put together a team full of vets fairly quickly, and was the best GM in our short history. Where it went wrong was signing Antonio Davis to a 5-year contract, and JYD of all people to a seven year contract. Plus, the Olajuwon signing was horrible in hindsight.

  2. I agree with Vince Carter having his number retired in Toronto. If any player is going to have his number retired, it has to be Vince. If the fans would get off issues from 10 years ago and just remember Vince for the good rather than the bad, then it should happen.

    • Unfortunetly, the Toronto media like to play this stuff up, and a lot of casual fans get involved for no other reason than to just look cool booing a former player. This is pretty much the reason why Raptor fans have booed Carter, Tracy, and poor Chris Bosh, who really didn’t do anything to deserve getting booed by the fans.

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