All sports fans love to reminisce to the good old days, maybe it was a better period or span of time for their favourite or local team or quite possibly it was just a simpler and more carefree time in their own lives. Whatever the reasons nothing gets the argumentative juices flowing like a good old-fashioned ‘All-Time Top 5’ list – let’s get our own going.
I decided to embark on a new five-part series in which we will debate and argue the merits of the top five Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Blue Jays as well as the top five overall athletes in Toronto sports history and finally as a contrast we will do the top ten athletes currently residing in the ‘Big Smoke’. Feel free to comment and please post your own opinion on any of the top five lists, I am sure there will be seriously differing opinions across the board and people definitely place a different emphasis on things like winning, personal stats and overall impact on the city.
Part II – Top 5 Raptors of all time
Part III – Top 5 Blue Jays of all time
Part IV – Top 5 Toronto Sports Athletes of all time
Part V – Top 10 Current Toronto Athletes
Let’s get to the fun.
Part II – Top Five All-Time Toronto Raptors
The junior franchise among the majors in Toronto, the Raptors have none the less given Toronto sports fans a lot of good/bad times, meaningful basketball mixed with some pretty obsolete seasons and boasts a pretty solid resume of basketball talent that has come and gone. The team was established in 1995 and played their original seasons (and three more seasons) at the cavernous Skydome (aka Rogers Centre).
The team has gone through a lot over the past 15 years including a monumental (for us) upset against the Chicago Bulls (during the Bulls run to another title and the 72-10 win-loss season), let’s just assume the Bulls had a great night on the town before playing that game, score an assist to the Toronto night life for that one! Vin-sanity’s rise and fall, Chris Bosh and Bryan Colangelo, and the ever-growing record three-point field goal record. The Raptors have been a very solid drafting team and can boast 8 First team “All-rookies” in Damon Stoudemire (1996), Marcus Camby (1997), Vince Carter (1999), Morris Peterson (2001), Chris Bosh (2004), Charlie Villanueva (2006), Andre Bargnani (2007) and Jorge Garbajosa (2007).
Let’s just say the Toronto Raptors have had a tumultuous fifteen plus seasons and with the recent departure of Chris Bosh, a whole new franchise game plan is about to be implemented. Let’s take a look at the five greatest Toronto Raptors contributors since the year 1995:
Potentially a strange inclusion on an all-time list consider the player was only with the Raptors for 2.5 seasons, but the impact felt by ‘Mighty Mouse’ still resonates and outside of Vince Carter was the most exciting Raptor of all time. The former Arizona Wildcat standout was drafted with the first ever Toronto Raptors draft selection (7th overall) by GM Isiah Thomas who was enamoured with the quick but slight point guard. Stoudamire had an outstanding rookie campaign for the Raps setting the record for three-point field goals made by a rookie with 133 (record since broken), ranked third in NBA history for assists per game by a rookie (9.3).
Stoudamire went on to win the NBA Rookie of the Year (the shortest man to ever do so) and the team appeared to be in the right hands for a resurgence and hopeful quick rise to prominence for the expansion franchise. In his next season, Stoudamire played a Raptors record (to this day) 3311 minutes and averaged 20.2 PPG, 8.8 APG and 4.1 RPG and still holds Raptors records for most assists in a season (709), assist per game (8.8) and minutes per game (41).
Tired of the constant losing, the final straw for Stoudamire was when Isiah Thomas had a falling out with ownership after a failed power play to gain controlling interest in the budding franchise, Stoudamire was shipped out on February 13th, 2010 to the Portland Trail Blazers for Kenny Anderson, Alvin Williams, Gary Trent, two 1st round draft picks, a 2nd round draft pick and cash. Things quickly went south for Mighty Mouse and his career spiraled downwards after departing Toronto, run-ins with the law for a marijuana charge and plummeting overall stats, Stoudamire even admitted that leaving Toronto in hindsight was probably a mistake.
A spoiled brat upon his departure? Yes. But one of the most impactful Raptors in franchise history, even with only 2.5 years? As a day one Raptors fan, I say yes. Based on overall impact on the franchise (and assets we received in return) he just beats out potential top-fivers Antonio Davis, Alvin Williams, Tracy McGrady and Charles Oakley.
I can already feel the eye rolls and sarcastic remarks as you wonder how this ‘overpaid bum’ could ever rank on a greatest all-time Toronto Raptors piece, but fact is, Calderon has put up five pretty impressive seasons as the Raptors main point or backup point guard. The franchise’s all-time leader in assists and assist/turnover ratio Calderon’s career averages (all with the Raptors) as a starter have been even more impressive (33.3 MPG, 12.2 PPG/8.3 APG/3.0 RPG), he is currently the 8th leading scorer in Raptor’s franchise history also.
Calderon, standing 6’3″ and weighing 210 pounds played six season as a professional in Europe and was signed by the infamous Rob Babcock on August 3rd, 2005. Known as a pass-first, low-turnover playmaker, Calderon has also proved to be an effective overall shooter (49.6% FG), solid range (38.7 3P%) and of course one of the best free-throw shooters in the game (87.8% FG) having set an NBA record for free-throw shooting (98.1%) in 2008/2009.
Injuries have taken their toll on the Raptors efficient Spaniard point-guard (a curse of the Raptors) and his lacklustre on the ball defense has been much maligned, but fact is for a relatively baby franchise, a player who is the all-time assist leader and in the top eight in scoring all the while being a great teammate and unselfish ballplayer, Jose Calderon belongs on this list. How much longer he actually remains in Toronto of course remains to be seen as a rumoured deal sending Calderon to Charlotte fell through in the much discussed fiasco involving Michael Jordan and the Bobcats.
#3 – SF Morris Peterson, August 26th, 1977 in Flint, Michigan. Currently ranks #1 in all-time games played, #2 in minutes, #3 in all-time scoring and #4 in all-time rebounding (7 seasons, 544 games, 6500 points, 2064 rebounds).
Playing at the basketball crazy factory known as Michigan St under legendary head coach Tom Izzo, “MoPete” helped the Spartans [Mich St] win a National Championship in 2000 leading the team in scoring, field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage and was subsequently selected 21st overall in the 2000 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors. Peterson quickly became a Raptors fan favourite for his gritty workman like style (371 consecutive games played between February 12th, 2002 and November 22nd, 2006) and all-around effective style.
Peterson is all over the Raptors all-time rankings as we noted, to summarize he ranks #1 in games, #2 in minutes, #3 in points scored and #4 in rebounding. Peterson had a penchant for big-time shots at crucial times and he was always good for ridiculous half court heaves from time to time. He made the NBA All-Rookie team in 2001 and #24 remains a popular player in the Toronto basketball scene. It would seem ludicrous for MoPete not to be on this list and his overall game, longevity and numbers places him firmly amongst the Raptors greatest in my opinion.
Drafted 4th overall in 2003 by the Toronto Raptors in what some call the greatest NBA draft class of all-time featuring Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony Bosh took his lanky and long frame to Canada’s lone franchise and would eventually establish records for essentially every major statistical category. For his rookie season, Bosh averaged 11.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 33.5 minutes in 75 games leading all rookies in rebounding and blocked shots and was named to the All-Rookie team.
Bosh also helped fans forget about the ugly divorce between then hero Vince Carter and the team and was anointed the new face of the franchise and really, Chris never looked back taking the reigns and putting up huge individual numbers though outside of a division title in 2006/2007 never could lead the team to the next level in the post-season. A five-time all-star Bosh is the all-time franchise leader in points scored, defensive rebounds, offensive rebounds, total rebounds and RPG, blocks, free-throws made and double-double’s.
More discussion on Bosh located here, for whatever reason and whomever the Raptors brought into town (Jermaine O’Neal, Hedo Turkuglu, TJ Ford, Jason Kapono, Jarret Jack) it just never seemed to click with Bosh as the franchise player and he eventually opted out of his contract and ended up with the Miami Heat where both Dwayne Wade and Lebron James are members of the now infamous and hated team in South Beach.
So how could the all-time leader in basically everything Raptors not be its top all-time player? Because the man at the top of the list was simply the best player to ever don the uniform and essentially put Toronto basketball on the map and at one point was considered among the games best players and a guy who fans will never ever forget.
#1 – SG Vince Carter, born January 26th, 1977 in Daytona Beach, Florida. 4th all-time in games played, 3rd all-time in minutes, 2nd in scoring, highest point-per-game and highest PPG in a season (actually owns the top three in that category).
Vincent Lamar Carter, aka Vin-sanity had the entire city of Toronto at his feet beginning in 1998 after being drafted 5th overall by the Golden State Warriors and quickly flipped to the Raptors for the 4th overall pick Antawn Jamison. Carter’s rookie season was shortened by the NBA lock-out in 1999 and Vince started basically every game for head coach Butch Carter averaging 18.3 points per game and eventually won the NBA Rookie of the Year award.
The very next year Carter was selected to the All-Star team and averaged 25.7 ppg, made the 3rd team All-NBA team and captivated the entire world after winning the greatest NBA Slam Dunk contest in history at the 2000 All-Star game with an array of high-flying, gravity defying throw-downs. In 2000/2001 Carter averaged a career high 27.6 ppg, made the All-Star team and was voted to the 2nd team All-NBA team all the while leading the Raptors to its greatest season with 47 regular season wins.
In the playoffs, the Raptors beat the New York Knicks (3-2) and advanced the Eastern Conference Sem-Final, where they took the Philadelphia 76ers to a decisive seventh game, the same day Vince decided to attend his North Carolina university graduation ceremony and after missing a game-winning shot with 2 seconds remaining was heavily criticized by the ultra tough Toronto media on his decision to attend the ceremony.
However, the team was doing well on the court and raking it in off the court with the NBAs top draw and most exciting player Vince Carter firmly in tow, and the team rewarded Carter in the summer of 2001 with a MAX 94 million/six-year contract extension to what both parties hoped would be a successful marriage. One could say that this was the proverbial beginning of the end for both Carter and the franchise and the next few years would prove painful (literally) for the team and the injury prone shooting guard.
Over the next three seasons Carter played 60, 43 and 73 games respectively and the chinks in the once bullet-proof Carter were starting to become very apparent in Raptor land. Questions arose about his toughness, hustle and bad defense league wide and it all came to a head in 2004 when Carter became disenchanted with the direction of the franchise and in the 2004/2005 season suddenly stopped driving the hoop, swore off dunking and basically played like a sieve, giving up on the team. Carter averaged 15.9 points in 30.4 minutes for the Raptors and upon being dealt to the New Jersey Nets on December 17th, 2004 (for Alonzo Mourning, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams and two future 1st round picks) went on to average 27.5 points in 38.9 minutes per game, a pretty stark difference.
Carter even reference the marked difference in his play after the trade in an early January interview with TNTs John Thompson that he didn’t always push himself in Toronto. The fan base in Toronto felt betrayed and letdown and considering the team didn’t add a single tangible asset for the greatest player in its history, it also set the franchise back several years. Carter is still roundly booed upon his return to the ACC.
So why Carter? As painful as it is to admit, Vince Carter was Toronto basketball, the team never had more success than during the Vin-sanity tenure and individually Vince was the greatest player to ever play for the team, period. During the height of his popularity, people often included Carter in talks for the games greatest player, and on countless occasions Vince literally put the team on his back and was almost single-handedly responsible for some of the best Raptors basketball in team history, and for those reasons I have to rank Vince Carter as the greatest Toronto Raptor of all time.