Vince Carter.

Vince Carter: Creating the Toronto Raptors we see today

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The Toronto Raptors are in the midst of a franchise-best regular season as they currently sit one game back from the Eastern Conference-topping Cleveland Cavaliers. 

The franchise north of the border, led by the backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, look likely to reach 50 wins in the regular season for the first time since they entered the league in 1995. 

They are giving LeBron James and his Cavs teammates a run for their money in the East and have a distinct chance of topping the conference for the first time in their history. 

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Lowry and DeRozan have been the cornerstone of the Raptors for the past four years, but it was another man whose actions made Toronto an organisation to be taken seriously. 

Much like the expansion teams to come before them, the Raptors - along with the Vancouver Grizzlies - struggled to get to terms with life in the NBA. However, the arrival of Vince Carter changed the way people viewed the franchise from the six. 

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During their first four years, they failed to win over 30 games in a season, but after Carter was traded from the Golden State Warriors for Antwan Jamison, he set about changing people's opinions on the Canadians. 

In his rookie campaign of 1998-99, the swingman played almost every game in the lockout-shortened season and it was clear to see he had the quality to lead the Raptors out of the doldrums. 

Vince Carter #15

At the turn of the century, they reached the playoffs for the first time in their short history as Vince, along with the backup of Antonio Davis and distant cousin Tracy McGrady - among others - finished with a regular season record of 45-37.

12 months later, after being swept in the first round by the New York Knicks, they were back in the playoffs off the back of a then-franchise record regular season record. 

After going 47-35 - a record that stood until 2013-14 - the Raptors and Carter came a shot away from reaching the Conference Finals after he missed an open look at the buzzer against the number one seeded Philadelphia 76ers in game seven. 

That would prove to be as good as it got for the Raptors during the Carter era, but the seed had been sown and the Canadian franchise was beginning to be looked at differently. They were no longer an unpopular or unfancied organisation that people did no want to play for. They were now an exciting, passionately followed team. 

Toronto Raptors forward Vince Carter (R) grabs the

Carter's arrival at the Air Canada Center changed the Raptors, they set franchise attendance records from 1999-2001 as people flocked in their droves to see the exciting shooting guard in action. 

He gave them an identity and brought success at a time where the powers that be may have looked at the possibility of relocating. He built a relationship between the franchise and fans in a city where baseball and ice hockey reigned supreme.

The real success was short-lived, but it was the first taste of the good times for the young organisation. The final year of his time in Canada was a dud as they failed to make the playoffs, but he had given them a name and people were now interested in making the move to the Air Canada. 

There may have been ups and downs since Cater's departure to the New Jersey Nets. But if it wasn't for Vince and his exciting, full-throttle style of play, what has been built north of the border may not have been possible.

Eastern Conference
Toronto Raptors
Atlantic Division
DeMar DeRozan

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