A career as memorable as Vince Carter's deserves a proper send-off. There should be ceremonies, speeches, highlight montages and celebrations. Unfortunately, it looks like there may be none of that.
When the NBA suspended the season on Wednesday due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, it may have brought Carter's legendary career to an abrupt end. Carter announced in June that he was planning to retire at the end of the 2019-20 season, his 22nd in the NBA. With no one sure as to when the league will return, it looks likely that Air Canada has played his last game.
Inevitably, he went out in style. With less than 20 seconds left in overtime in the Atlanta Hawks' game against the Knicks on Wednesday night, Carter came into the game and proceeded to drain a three-pointer on what might be the final shot of his career.
Here's a look back at the top 7 moments from Carter's unforgettable time in Toronto.
#7: Drafted by the Raptors
In the Raptors' first three seasons after being founded in 1995, they won 21, 30 and 16 games, respectively. Attendances and excitement levels were low and the team desperately needed a spark. When the team made a draft-day trade for North Carolina product Vince Carter, who was selected by the Warriors, it changed the entire trajectory of the franchise. Toronto went on to set league attendance records and make the playoffs in three straight years from 2000-2002.
#6: Dunking on Dikembe Mutombo
You already knew there would be plenty of dunking on this list. The first entry comes courtesy of an absolute posterization of renowned big man Dikembe Mutombo during Carter's rookie season. "I got the opportunity to switch through the baseline," Carter said in a video with the NBA's YouTube channel. "I took the one dribble then I saw him [Mutombo] there. My mentality was to jump to the top of the square. He had long arms but they weren't that long."
#5: Winning his first playoff series
In 2000, the Raptors made their first playoff appearance in team history but were promptly swept by the New York Knicks. One year later, they got their chance for revenge, playing the Knicks once again in the first round. The team fell behind 2-1 in the best-of-five series but Carter helped them fight back. In a decisive Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, he put up 27 points as the Raptors clinched the series with a 93-89 win.
#4: Dunking on Tim Duncan
Carter and Tim Duncan squared off a number of times, including in college when the two played at rival ACC schools. Naturally, that means Duncan got posterized by Vinsanity more than once, but there's one moment in particular that stands out above all else. In 2002, Carter made one of the greatest big men in NBA history look silly with an earth-shattering slam over the 6-11 Duncan.
#3: "Le dunk de la mort"
A dunk so good it has its own title. "Le dunk de la mort" or "the dunk of death" was the label given by the French media to one of the most truly devastating dunks in the history of the sport. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Carter's USA team came up against France in the gold medal game. With the Americans up 15 in the second half, Carter got the ball after a scramble and proceeded to put the 7-2 Frédéric Weis to shame by leaping over him entirely to slam it home.
#2: 2001 playoffs duel with Allen Iverson
The Raptors fought their way to the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2001 where they came up against the no. 1 seed Philadelphia 76ers. Philadelphia star Allen Iverson was at the peak of his career, leading the NBA in points per game with 31.1. The 2001 series turned into an epic battle between two of the biggest stars of the game. Iverson averaged 33.7 PPG in the series and Carter averaged 30.4 PPG as it went to seven games. In the end, the Raptors came up just short, losing Game 7 88-87 after a missed buzzer-beater attempt by Carter.
#1: 2000 Slam Dunk Contest
The 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest is what really introduced the world to "half man, half amazing." All it took was one dunk for Carter to send the arena into absolute bedlam and leave Shaquille O'Neal in visible shock, but there was more to come. A between-the-legs slam sparked a now-famous reaction from Carter, who looked into the camera and repeatedly said "it's over." He ended up winning the trophy, with three of his five dunks getting perfect scores from the judges. To this day, many consider 2000 the best dunk contest in history, and it perfectly encapsulated the legend of "Air Canada."