Nets History Spotlight: Vince Carter Returns to Toronto

When the Nets headed north to visit the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 8, 2006, the home crowd still wasn’t in a welcoming mood for Vince Carter.

It had been just over a year since the superstar scorer was dealt to New Jersey, and in his first return he had burned the Raptors for 39 points, shooting 15-for-26 in a 101-80 Nets win on April 15, 2005.

His second time as a visitor in Toronto would become a legendary game, one that YES Network will broadcast Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. Prior to the game, YES will have exclusive interviews with Caris LeVert and Hall of Famer Jason Kidd, beginning at 7 p.m.

Let’s backtrack a little to set the scene. The fifth overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft after going to two Final Fours with North Carolina, Carter was a sensation from the moment he hit the league, making his debut in February 1999 at the start of a lockout-shortened season. He was named Rookie of the Year a few months later. The following season he won the Slam Dunk contest with a legendary performance and was named to the All-NBA Third Team. In year three, Carter was named to the All-NBA Second Team and led the Raptors to their first playoff series win before they were eliminated by the Philadelphia 76ers on Philly’s run to the NBA Finals.

In that summer of 2001, the Nets made a transformative trade, with the acquisition of Jason Kidd fueling consecutive runs to the NBA Finals and three straight Atlantic Division titles. But by December of 2004, Carter’s relationship with the Raptors had turned sour, and the Nets were off to a rough start. On Dec. 17, 2004, the day they traded for Carter, the Nets lost to Memphis to fall to 7-15.

To get Carter, the Nets dealt Alonzo Mourning, Aaron Williams, Eric Williams, and two first-round picks. The previous summer, they had received three first-round picks in the deal that sent Kenyon Martin to Denver.

The Nets would actually play in Toronto two nights later, but Carter did not play. He would average 27.5 points in 57 games for the Nets that season as the Nets went 35-25 after the trade to finish 42-40.

When the Nets arrived in Toronto for their Jan. 8, 2006 game, they and Carter were on a hot streak. Two weeks earlier, he had scored a career-high 51 points against Miami.

Against the Raptors, Carter went for 42 points on 18-for-35 shooting, including 3-for-5 from 3-point range. He added 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals, with his 3-pointer in the final seconds lifting the Nets to their 105-104 win. Jason Kidd’s handoff to Carter for the winning shot was his 15th assist of the game.

It was the 10th straight win for the Nets, with Carter averaging 33.5 points per game during the stretch. The Nets would go on to win the Atlantic Division for the fourth time in five seasons, with a 49-33 mark that matched their second-best NBA record. Carter averaged 24.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.2 steals during the 2005-06 season.

Carter remained with the Nets through the 2008-09 season. His scoring average of 23.6 points is the highest in the franchise’s NBA era and third in team history behind Hall of Famers Rick Barry and Julius Erving. His 23.4 points per game over 403 games with Toronto is the highest career scoring average in Raptors’ history.

When Carter visited the Nets with the Atlanta Hawks on Jan. 9, 2019, a tribute video was presented on the arena scoreboard, though Carter decided to play for one more season. He visited the Nets for the last time on Jan. 12, 2020.

“Obviously it wasn’t in this building, but nevertheless the feeling is the same,” Carter told the Associated Press in January 2019. “My five years was fun, a lot of fun. J-Kidd made it obviously easy to play the game up and down and create a lot of highlights and memories, so it was awesome to see.”