Four for the road

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

Chris Bosh becomes the latest star to bolt Toronto, providing further evidence why it’s so difficult to build a contending hoops team in Hogtown.

Whether it was Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter and now Bosh, there comes a time when a marquee name grows tired of the organization, becomes more in tune with the inherent problems of playing in the only non-American market and the inevitable happens — they wave goodbye.

NBA players love coming to Toronto as visitors, they love the strip clubs, the escorts, they love how racism isn’t as overt as it is in the States, but they aren’t sold on the idea of playing here — unless they are overpaid to do so.

McGrady was the first person to voice his annoyance when he would tune into a TV station and notice how much coverage was given to curling and so little exposure was afforded basketball.

Of course, nothing has changed and nothing will change as long as the media, no matter the format, continues to be controlled by white middle- to upper-middle-class males whose only reference point is hockey.

Having to provide a passport each time they cross the border has always been a nuisance for NBA players, who are spoiled and can’t be bothered with life’s inconveniences, no matter how little.

It’s no wonder why fans should be upset at how little inroads the Raptors have made since Carter missed that shot at the buzzer nine years ago, a shot that would have put Toronto into the Eastern final and in all likelihood set up a date with Shaq, Kobe and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA final.

That team provided the blueprint on how a roster must be assembled in Toronto and it’s the only way the Raptors can ever be successful.

You had a star, an athletic wing drafted in Carter, and you surround him with veteran pieces, acquired through shrewd trades, and complementary bodies.

It begins, above everything else, with the draft.

For Bosh, the beginning of the end was obvious in Cleveland when he broke his face.

Bosh knew, despite Toronto’s best efforts to surround him, that it wasn’t going to work and that a change was needed.

Seven years is a long time for any player in today’s era to remain with the same team and Bosh simply needed a change.

And so did the Raptors.

But now what?

In the short term, there’s going to be plenty of disappointment at the sight of seeing another star leave Toronto, but each had their reasons for wanting to move on.

Here’s a look at Toronto’s four marquee players who split town.

DAMON STOUDAMIRE

1995-98

The original face of the Raptors, selected seventh overall. Fans at SkyDome booed his selection, wanting instead for the team to take Ed O’Bannon.

Stoudamire won rookie honours, won over the hearts of fans by playing big, despite his small stature.

To this day, Stoudamire regrets his decision to be traded.

In hindsight, it’s quite apparent what happened. Stoudamire was basically brainwashed by GM Isiah Thomas (pictured right with Stoudamire) and when Thomas walked out after losing an ownership battle, Mighty Mouse asked out.

Toronto shipped Stoudamire to his home town in Portland along with Walt Williams and Carlos Rogers for Kenny Anderson, who refused to play in Toronto, Alvin Williams, Gary Trent, two first-round picks, a second-round pick and cash considerations.

TRACY MCGRADY

1997-2000

Another great draft pick by Thomas, who selected the high schooler ninth overall in 1997. However, T-Mac had the misfortune of being coached by Darrell Walker.

It wasn’t until Butch Carter became head coach that T-Mac began to blossom, but McGrady’s ego grew as well.

He could not sit back and watch Carter, his distant cousin, be the man when McGrady thought he should be the go-to guy.

When McGrady bolted as a free agent during the summer of 2000 for Orlando, the Raptors got nothing in return.

T-Mac would go on to win two scoring titles, play in seven all-star games but he never played beyond the first round of the playoffs.

Fittingly, when Houston made it out of the first round last spring, McGrady was injured during the Rockets’ run.

Today, McGrady is a free agent, his future very much in doubt, be it injury related or ego-related.

VINCE CARTER

1998-2004

A brilliant move on draft day that saved the franchise money, a sum they used to build their practice facility at the ACC, Toronto agreed to swap picks with Golden State at the fifth-overall slot (Antawn Jamison).

Carter became an instant star in the lockout-shortened season in 1998-99, essentially saving basketball in Toronto, which was reeling in the wake of the implosions by Thomas and Butch Carter.

Carter would win rookie honours, would go on to be dunk king and was mentioned in the same sentence as Kobe Bryant.

The turning point arrived when ownership allowed Carter to interfere with decisions, when ownership allowed Carter to attend his graduation on the very same day of Game 7 in Philly.

That was the beginning of the end and when Carter didn’t get his way, GM Rob Babcock traded Carter to New Jersey for basically nothing.

Had anyone in upper management known anything about basketball, the trade that netted Toronto Alonzo Mourning, who never showed his face, Eric Williams, Aaron Williams and two first-round picks would never have happened.

Carter teamed up with Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson and played well, never making it past the second round, but his game is declining.

This past spring, he was a complete bust for the Magic.

CHRIS BOSH

2003-2010

The Raptors could have taken Dwyane Wade with the fourth-overall pick in 2003, but they already had Carter.

In retrospect, it was a huge mistake.

Bosh watched as Carter pouted his way out of town, got abused as an undersized big playing against men, but he persevered and became a five-time all-star.

Bosh evolved into the face of the franchise, played hard, but he never made his teammates better.

In seven years, Bosh appeared in two post-seasons, winning three games and was never able to get out of the first round.

Bosh knows he has to be on a team with a dominant wing, something Toronto could not provide.

Bosh truly believes he’s a franchise guy, but in reality he’s not.


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