On Dec. 17, Vince Carter will make another visit as a member of the Sacramento Kings back to Toronto, where he spent his first six-plus seasons capturing the imagination of basketball fans in Canada.
The high point of Carter’s run in Toronto remains the 2001 NBA playoffs, when he led the franchise to their first playoff series against the Knicks in the first round, followed by a classic battle against the Sixers in which Carter and Allen Iverson traded 50-point games as the two teams went back and forth, with the series ultimately decided on the final possession in Game 7.
Recently, DIME spoke to Todd MacCulloch, Alvin Williams, Tracy Murray, and Glen Grunwald to see what they remembered. Here are four anecdotes about that series.
1. The Oakley Effect
18.8 points. 30.4 percent shooting. 2-for-19 from three. Those were Vince Carter’s numbers through his first six career playoff games. After shooting 5-for-21 in a Game 3 loss to the Knicks in the first round (which was just slightly better than his 5-for-22 performance in Game 1) in 2001, teammate Charles Oakley challenged Carter to start playing up to his All-Star potential, and ended up engaging in a back-and-forth with Carter’s mom Michelle.
Oakley was the veteran leader in the locker room and never hesitated to speak up. He was also responsible for some of the most entertaining quotes like “I’m like the transmission on a car, I do my job, you just don’t see it” (describing his role on the team) and “A shirt look good when you iron it but if you iron too much, it gonna get burned” (on the offense relying on Carter too much).
Down 2-1 in the best-of-five series to the Knicks and facing elimination at home, the last thing Toronto needed was a controversy to distract them. Just a season earlier, Raptors head coach Butch Carter filed a $5-million defamation lawsuit against Knicks center Marcus Camby just days before the start of the playoffs against the New York.
General manager Glen Grunwald never saw Oakley’s outspokenness as a distraction. “He was a great leader and a great teammate,” Grunwald said. “At the same time, he would tell you exactly what was on his mind. That was one of the great things about Oak, and it was important to the success our team had.”