Toronto Raptors: Still no regret for Vince Carter after all this time

Vince Carter of the Toronto Raptors. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Ezra O. Shaw/Allsport
Vince Carter of the Toronto Raptors. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Ezra O. Shaw/Allsport /

Vince Carter says he would still attend his graduation ceremony, which took place on the same day the Toronto Raptors were playing Game 7 of the 2001 Eastern Conference semifinals.

It’s now been more than 16 years since the Toronto Raptors traded Vince Carter, but he remains a polarizing figure in Southern Ontario. As much as the narrative surrounding him has softened over time, his legacy remains complicated.

As reported by Andrew Joe Potter of theScore, another layer has now been added to the narrative. Carter admits he would still attend his graduation ceremony at North Carolina, even though it took place on the same day as Game 7 of the Raptors’ 2001 Eastern Conference semifinals series.

We appreciate the initial reaction of a lot of fans to these comments is likely a combination of frustration and anger. After all, at the time the series versus the Philadelphia 76ers represented the Raptors’ best chance to make it all the way to the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history.

Add in the rumours in subsequent seasons regarding Carter’s apparent demands to be traded from Toronto, and you can understand why. Speculation included him essentially stopping putting in the effort while playing, in order to force a trade.

However, some context is provided for the 43-year-old’s latest comments and in fairness, what he has said makes a lot of sense. As per Potter, he was talking to graduates of historically black colleges and universities:

"“I was once in your position, excited about the opportunity to graduate and receive my diploma – but I was also playing in the biggest basketball game of my professional career as well … It was a taxing day for me, but I was able to accomplish both goals and I would do it again if I had to.”"

If you’re speaking to any college or university graduate, what message does it send if someone says they regret attending their own graduation ceremony? Carter would essentially be telling everyone that sports are more important than your studies.

We realise that professional sports can be a way out of poverty for a lot of young people from poor backgrounds. At the same time however, your education is just as vital to your future, if not more.

Not many people get the chance to fulfill their dream of becoming a professional athlete, so need the backup of a good education. As for those who do get to play professional sports, they will still have to retire one day and often need something to fall back on.

Further, as much as a Game 7 in the NBA playoffs is important, you expect to have other opportunities to return to a similar position. Consider that at the time the Raptors had a strong team and Carter was only 24; he still had a long NBA career ahead of him.

(Of course, no one could have predicted just how long it would end up being. The 1998 fifth overall draft pick is the only person in NBA history to play games in four different decades.)

By comparison, a graduation ceremony is usually only a one-off occurrence in your life. In this respect it’s similar to being there for the birth of your first child, with numerous occasions of athletes missing games to see their son or daughter enter the world.

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Despite all this, there will still be plenty of fans claiming the decision cost the Raptors in the heartbreaking Game 7 88-87 loss to the 76ers. Carter had one of his worst shooting performance of the series, going just 6-for-18 and finishing with 20 points.

There may be some justification in this opinion by fans, especially when adding in all the travelling the eight-time All-Star did that day. However, this doesn’t mean he wasn’t committed or didn’t put in the effort.

Consider that Carter had team highs with nine assists and three steals, while also contributing two blocks and seven rebounds. As a final note — and we appreciate this contributes to his overall production — he was the only Raptor to play all 48 minutes.

Overall, if you want to say Carter attending his graduation ceremony cost the Raptors the chance to advance to the Eastern Conference finals, that’s fine. However, we agree with him that he should have no regret about this, regardless of the outcome.

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What is your take on Carter’s stance regarding attending his graduation ceremony on the same day as a the Toronto Raptors’ playoff game against the 76ers? Do you agree with his decision or not, and why? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.