Vince Carter, Kawhi Leonard Relationships with Fans Are Different

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Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard #2 with ball during the Toronto Raptors vs Boston Celtics NBA regular season game at Scotiabank Arena on October 19, 2018 in Toronto, Canada (Toronto Raptors win 113-101) (Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Kawhi Leonard and Vince Carter both demanded trades from their franchises after years of success. The fans of each team reacted with anger towards the two stars after hearing the news. However similar their situations may be, Kawhi Leonard’s relationship with San Antonio Spurs fans won’t be the same as Vince’s with Raptors fans.

Fan Relationships Differ Between Kawhi Leonard and Vince Carter

In early January, the Toronto Raptors’ resident MVP-candidate Kawhi Leonard played his first game in San Antonio since demanding a trade and leaving the Spurs in the offseason. 

Spurs fans were angry — and rightfully so. Leonard was to be the next coming of Tim Duncan. In other words, the quiet superstar who spends his entire career in San Antonio with the Spurs organization.

That wasn’t how it played out obviously. There is much speculation as to the reasons for Kawhi’s departure (Kawhi claims that the Spurs’ medical staff mishandled his injury, but many fans and media members believe that his uncle persuaded him to go somewhere he could get more lucrative brand deals) we will likely never know the truth, making such speculation pointless.

Leonard has performed at an MVP-level for the Raptors so far this season. However, his first game back in San Antonio’s AT&T Centre saw him consistently met with a barrage of boos every time he touched the ball. That scene was mightily reminiscent of Vince Carter’s first return to Toronto’s Air Canada Centre after demanding a trade.

However, despite how similar the two situations may appear, Kawhi Leonard will not hold nearly the same amount of love in Spurs fans’ hearts that Vince “Air Canada” Carter, does in the hearts of the millions of Raptors fans across Canada.

The differences between Kawhi Leonard’s relationship with Spurs fans and Vince Carter’s relationship with Raptors fans are really quite simple.

Difference in Departures

The first difference is in the departure.

Kawhi Leonard’s Departure

Kawhi’s exit was clouded in controversy, which led the media and fans to speculate as to why he left. Many speculated as to the reasons for his departure and his relationships with both teammates, coaches, and his front office.

Vince Carter’s Departure

Vince’s departure was clear-cut and direct. He was having conflicts with his head coach (Sam Mitchell) and the front office at the time. These issues stemmed from his desire to win immediately and the organization’s immediate desire to rebuild and win later. The Raptors misled Carter. He claims that the organization initially assured him that their goal was to build a playoff contender in the Raptors. They later declared that they weren’t worried about winning right away and were more focused on establishing their principles.

Although it took a long time for Raptors fans to forgive Vince Carter, they always knew why he left. No matter how much Kawhi and those close to him claim that he left because Spurs’ medical staff mishandled his injury, there will always be a large faction of Spurs fans who believe that he left San Antonio for more selfish, materialistic, Uncle-Dennis-related reasons.

Difference in Legacies

The main factor separating Vince Carter and Kawhi Leonard is not in the departures. Rather, it’s in the time that the two spent with their respective teams.

Kawhi Leonards’s Legacy

Kawhi accomplished a whole lot of positive milestones with the Spurs — the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year twice, Finals MVP, and, most importantly, an NBA championship for the city of San Antonio. However, as far as Spurs’ greats go, he’s one of many and is below guys like David Robinson, Tim Duncan, and Gregg Popovich in terms of guys who you think about when you think of the Spurs. Kawhi is mixed in with guys like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili who, despite having much less talent, contributed more to the organization than Kawhi did.

Vince Carter’s Legacy

Vince meanwhile, is that guy for the Toronto Raptors. When you think of the Raptors, Vince Carter is at the top of the list. Carter took a brand-new franchise in Toronto, a team that lacked talent and respect, and took them to the playoffs. As Vinsanity, he took basketball, a disregarded sport in Canada, and made it a nation-wide phenomenon. He inspired an entire generation of kids to start playing basketball. He electrified the sports world with his incredible dunks, both in-game and in that iconic 2000 dunk contest. Vince Carter put Toronto, put Canada on the map as far as basketball is concerned.

Carter left an impact on the Raptors’ franchise that is hard to match. That’s an impact that Kawhi most certainly did not leave on basketball in San Antonio. That is a big part of why Kawhi Leonard’s relationship with Spurs fans is different from that of Vince Carter.

Although the Spurs’ organization showed appreciation for Kawhi in the form of a tribute video for him and Danny Green, the fans did not show such class, and likely won’t for a long time to come. Even if they do come to forgive Kawhi at some point, the fans in San Antonio won’t have nearly the same appreciation for him as Raptors fans do for Vince Carter. 

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