Time has a way of healing many things. Brett Favre plans to return to Green Bay sometime soon to have his jersey retired. LeBron James has been welcomed back to Cleveland with open arms.
And Vince Carter, well Vince Carter. There have been plenty of hard feelings since he left Canada 10 years ago. In his past returns to Toronto, he has been welcomed with boos from the home crowd.
On Wednesday night, those were noticeably absent. Carter is likely on his final legs in the NBA, playing a limited role for the Memphis Grizzlies. But when Carter returned to Toronto with the Grizzlies on Wednesday night, he was the subject of a video tribute and tears came flowing out as he was honored.
Why the hard feelings?
According to Sportsnet, the beginning of the end came when Carter missed a shot that would have sent the Raptors to the Eastern Conference final back in 2001.
That day, Carter had chosen to fly down to North Carolina to accept his college degree. That night, he missed the potential game-winning shot and his team lost.
- Raptors set to honor player their own fans hate
- DeMar DeRozan making Raptors surprisingly good team
- Several NBA greats likely playing final season
“Carter missed, ending Toronto’s run a single basket from the Eastern Conference final, and the fever dream popped like a fever blister,” the Sportnet story described it.
Eventually, Carter was traded away to the New Jersey Nets.
He's bounced around and now he's finishing up his career with the Grizzlies. Now, as the column begged, was time for forgiveness.
Why is he so important?
The reason that Wednesday night's festivities, and Carter in general, are so much debated is that he's credited by many as the all-time face of the Raptors franchise and the idol of so many young players today who grew up in Canada.
There were plenty of failed teams there, like well the Grizzlies that he currently plays on.
Remember Bryant “Big Country” Reeves and Shareef Abdur-Rahim? Those were the faces of that franchise before it bolted to Memphis in 2001 after just six seasons.
The Raptors entered the league that same year and many credit Carter as the reason that they are still there.
CBSSports.com wrote on Thursday morning “If Toronto didn't acquire him on draft night in 1999, perhaps it wouldn't have survived. Canada now has more active NBA players than any nation save for the United States, and this entire generation grew up watching him. The young players have told him that, and he can't quite wrap his head around it.”