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1999-00: Future Looks Bright for Raptors

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1999-00: Future Looks Bright for Raptors
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After the 1998-99 season the future finally looked bright again for the Raptors and their dedicated fans. At that season’s end Vince Carter took the microphone and addressed the Air Canada Centre crowd after the final game and guaranteed a trip to the post-season next year. This was a bold promise by the rookie, but the promise would be kept and the Raptors would have their best season yet.

With the offseason acquisition of Antonio Davis for a high draft pick, the Raptors not only got older, they got a whole lot better. Vince Carter continued his climb to the apex of NBA stardom and his younger cousin, Tracy McGrady, wasn’t far behind. With a fifteen-point victory over the Wizards the Raptors went into the All-Star break with a record of 22-19, marking the first time in their brief history the Raptors would begin the second half with a winning record.

As the All-Star game approached it became clear that Carter would become the first Raptor to appear and start an NBA All-Star Game. He did so in true VC fashion amassing the second-most votes in NBA history with 1,911,973.

So the stage was set for Vince. Not only would he be competing with the NBA's best in the annual classic, but he was also the centre of all the media, public and player attention as the NBA.com Slam Dunk Competition returned to All-Star weekend after a two-year hiatus. The pressure was on for Vince and the anticipation in and around the arena was heavy as NBA stars, not easily impressed, gathered courtside with personal video cameras and jaws poised to drop.

Vince did not disappoint. He amazed the fans and pros alike with creative dunks never even imagined before he completed them. Runner-up Steve Francis knew he was beat when Vince did the incomprehensible by dunking the ball, cramming his arm into the rim and hanging from it as an arena packed to capacity stared in near silence, unable to believe what they had just witnessed.

In the second half of the campaign, the Raptors continued to prove that they had taken great leaps forward. In their first-ever NBC appearance, the Raptors posted a thrilling 103-102 victory over Phoenix with Carter scoring a career and franchise-high 51 points. The team would finish the season with a franchise-best record of 45-37 and their first trip into the playoffs. Carter finished the year fourth in the league in scoring while Davis emerged as the star he knew he could be, registering career highs in virtually every statistical category.

The playoffs proved to be a tougher test for Toronto as the club was eliminated in three games by the New York Knicks. The Raptors lost the final game of the series, 87-80, in the first-ever NBA playoff game in Canada.

Vince Carter was the star of the show at All-Star Weekend with an impressive victory in the Slam Dunk contest.