February 18, 2016
By Doug Cunningham
Workers Independent News
Toronto, Canada – The NBA had its All-Star weekend outside the United States for the very first time, holding its marquee mid-season showcase in Toronto. That makes sense and it has nothing do with the fact that the man who invented the game, James Naismith, was a Canadian.
No, the reason the NBA put it in Toronto was because of an American player. We’re not talking about Michael Jordan, either. We’re talking about another North Carolina product, Vince Carter, who played six seasons for the Toronto Raptors after arriving in 1998.
In that brief time, Carter turned a whole generation of kids in Canada into rabid basketball fans. Because of his popularity and the way he played above the rim, earning the nickname Air Canada, thousands of Canadian kids decided they would play basketball and not hockey, which has been the national sport since about the time they invented ice. Carter’s impact also meant something else.
The Raptors came into the league in 1995, along with the Vancouver Grizzlies. But the Grizzlies lasted only six seasons before moving to Memphis due to a lack of support. Meanwhile because of Vince Carter, the Raptors became the hottest-selling ticket in town. That allowed the Raptors to put down roots and thrive, to this very day.
In a lot of ways, Vince Carter never lived up the hype that he would be the next Michael Jordan. But in terms of what he did for the game of basketball in Canada, Vince Carter exceeded Michael Jordan.
That’s a pretty good legacy, when you think about it.