Toronto Raptors: Top 5 shots in franchise history

Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors Vince Carter
Vince Carter of the Toronto Raptors. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Ezra O. Shaw/Allsport /

3. Vincer Carter vs. Philadelphia 76ers – May 20, 2001

The only shot on this list not to go in, Vince Carter’s attempt at a game-winning fadeaway will go down in Raptors lore as one of the franchise’s biggest what-ifs.

Fresh off their first ever playoff series win, the fifth-seeded Toronto Raptors were set to take on the Allen Iverson-led first-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the second round.

After stealing home court advantage by winning Game 1, the Raptors protected home court in Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead. Toronto dropped the next two, but a 39-point effort from Carter in Game 6 ensured that the series would finish in a decisive Game 7 in Philadelphia.

Now the controversial part. On the day of Game 7, Carter flew to Chapel Hill, N.C. to accept his degree from the University of North Carolina in Afro-American studies and graduate with his classmates. Then, he boarded a private plane headed for Philly, where he’d arrive five hours before tip-off. In an interview given to NBC before the game, Carter insisted he was ready to play and that criticisms from his teammates on his going to North Carolina fell on deaf ears.

After averaging 32.2 points per game over the course of the series, Carter was able to put up just 20 points in what was at the time the biggest game in franchise history. If he could have mustered 22, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

With two seconds on the clock and down by one, Carter worked his way free of Sixers power forward Tyrone Hill. He caught Dell Curry’s inbounds pass and pump-faked Hill into next year. With Hill out of the picture, Carter had a clear view of the net.

In a shot that would make the basketball analytics community want to yank their hair out, Carter took aim with both of his size-16 sneakers on the three point line. The shot looked true, but as it approached the rim, it bricked. Carter grimaced as if he immediately knew the media firestorm he’d be walking into, and left the court.

Just over 19 years later, some of Carter’s old teammate still question his decision to attend his graduation. Charles Oakley was part of the starting five that night, and in a recent interview with Sportsnet, he stated his belief that the Raptors would have won if Carter had not flown to UNC.

It does seem now that both sides are happy however. The longest tenured NBA player in history at 22 seasons, Carter finished his career this year with the Atlanta Hawks. He even got to hit that same fateful shot (albeit at the opposite end of the court) in 2014, as a member of the Dallas Mavericks.

Carter was greeted sourly by most Toronto fans in his first few returns to the city, but time heals all. He was welcomed back with open arms in 2015, putting a bow on this unfortunate situation that jammed a stake between a superstar and his franchise.