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Okay, I’m a bit late to this but what the heck … being limited to the number of days we’re here each week takes some timing issues away.
But since the joint where the Raptors play is now the Scotiabank Arena rather than Air Canada Centre, why not take a trip down memory lane?
Now, it’s not like anyone should get too wistful about the name change because it’s not as if the ACC was the scene of any great consistent championship play from its two main tenants, and it’s not like there’s an abiding love for the airline itself.
But still … here’s a purely personal Top 10 list to maybe jog your memories:
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Getting off on the right foot
You always remember your first — isn’t that what they say?
Well, it doesn’t get much better – and didn’t considering the time, the opponent, the event – than the first basket ever scored in the ACC back on Feb. 21, 1999.
It was a Charles Oakley lob to Vince Carter for a dunk against the Vancouver Grizzlies and it brought down the house.
Say this for then-coach Butch Carter: he had a sense of the occasion.
A bitter end
I can’t think of a more dramatic, emotional, loud few minutes than the final ticks of the clock in Game 7 between the Raptors and Brooklyn Nets back in May 2014.
Terry Ross makes a great steal, the Raptors were down by one and have a shot to win but they botch the play just enough to allow Paul Pierce to block Kyle Lowry’s attempt.
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The building was electric and jet-engine loud all afternoon and it was as good and as tight a game as has been played there.
Yes, it took far too long for Raptors fans to make their peace with Vince Carter after he left and the venom and vitriol of his early appearances as an opponent were distasteful.
But, finally and rightfully, the fans and the team provided him with a fitting tribute when he arrived with the Memphis Grizzlies in November 2014.
It was raw and emotional — his weren’t the only non-dry eyes in the joint — and a moment worth remembering.
Okay, it wasn’t a big game in any grand scheme of things, two going-nowhere teams meeting when Minnesota visited the ACC in 2013.
Then Matt Happened.
Cementing his reputation as a fan favourite, Bonner pulled down Kevin Garnett, who took umbrage to the play and it almost touch off a brawl.
Bonner walking off the court, his hands held high, serenaded by fans chanting his name was truly a memorable moment.
A half century and one
Yeah, it’s been done twice since — Ross on a Saturday night when he couldn’t miss a shot and DeMar DeRozan on a magical New Year’s Day — but the first Raptor to go for 50 in a game was memorable for a lot of reasons.
One, it was that Carter fellow again (you could probably find 10 of his highlights alone) and, two, it came on a rare Sunday afternoon national U.S. television game against the Phoenix Suns that further cemented the Raptors as a franchise that had some relevance.
It was a win and that was good but his performance was memorable for what it meant in a bigger picture.
The one Kevin O’Neill year was rife with shenanigans — the broken lamp, the injuries that sent the season careening off the rails — and it was perfectly bookended by his, um, force of personality.
The morning of opening night at home — Halloween — KO was asked about his favourite costume as a kid and, guess what, he didn’t want to play along. Sotto voce, after being asked, he says to a staffer: “Will the ridiculousness never end?” And I’m sure there were at least one and maybe four expletives thrown in.
The morning of his last day of employment, after trying to engineer a buyout of his contract for a couple of weeks, he accuses upper management of being brown-nosed suck-ups more interested in being friends with the players than they were winning.
Sure, it cost him his job but it also capped off a tumultuous season.
Hardly a hero’s welcome
We all know the anger with which Carter was received when he first came back and we remember the boos Chris Bosh, as did Antonio Davis and Damon Stoudamire.
But for pure, adulterated disgust, I don’t think anything can match what Tracy McGrady faced when he played his first game back.
It was harsh and from the heart and the fans were as angry as they’ve ever been. Tracy, of course, loved every minute of it and milked it for the entire game. That was as memorable as the reception.
A presidential statement
Okay, it didn’t exactly happen in the building but indulge me, would you?
Jurassic Park, or whatever you want to call the square where fans gather to watch playoff games, was a uniquely Toronto thing back in the day and it was the place to be.
Fans were fired up but when Masai Ujiri took the microphone before a game against the Nets and dropped his famous “Eff Brooklyn” on the assembled masses. It was a moment to remember.
We were all in our seats getting ready for the game when word of his outburst reached us and the overwhelming reaction was, “Are you sure Masai said that?”
A moment of Linsanity
There have been few NBA phenomena like the wave of Linsanity that swept over the league when Jeremy Lin made his arrival on the scene with the New York Knicks and nowhere was it more crazy than here in Toronto.
The audience was basically split between fans cheering wildly for the homeside and those who were in love with Lin and he didn’t disappoint.
His game-winning three-pointer set off of a celebration that basically turned the ACC into Madison Square Garden.
He’d had enough
Long before Kevin Durant became something of a public enemy around the league by joining the Golden State Warriors, he was responsible for one of the most dramatic daggers thrown in the ACC.
As if he was just tired of playing and figured he’d end the game once and for all, Durant hit a deep, deep, deep three-pointer with less than two seconds left in double-overtime to give the Oklahoma City Thunder a win over the Raptors.
It turned what could have been just another run of the mill regular-season game into something special, which is what memories are made of, right?
Doug Smith is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @smithraps