Thinking about some Raptors I really enjoyed watching over the years. The obvious come to mind like Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady, Damon too but there was a second-tier of Raptors that I always looked forward to seeing do their thing. These guys weren’t superstars by any means and some of them weren’t even good players, they were just mediocre talents that shone through here and there and left you with a good feeling. There’ll be disagreements here obviously because of how subjective this list is but that’s part of what makes these players ‘special’.
John Wallace: In the one season where he played all 82 games ‘Buckets’ averaged 14 points on 48% shooting and was instant offense against even the toughest of defenders. His short drive-fake followed by a 7-footer was near unstoppable, you looked at his offense and were left to wonder whether he’s the greatest offensive forward of all time. Wallace possessed a soft jumper, good finishing skills and above-average athleticism at the SF/PF spot. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t guard anybody. And when I say anybody, I literally mean you and I could score on the guy. His contests were late, his lateral quickness deplorable, his defensive hustle non-existent and his attitude was blase.
That didn’t stop me from enjoying John Wallace in the flesh. He practically used to drive Leo Rautins to tears because of his defense but these were the old crappy Raptors, you took what you got and I got to see John Wallace the scoring machine. The former Syracuse star right here in Toronto doing his thang.
Dell Curry: He used to drink a latte before each game. Just thought I’d throw that in there. His quick-release you all know about but it was his unassuming demeanor, his gray tuft of hair and that convenince store owner look that he had that made Dell Curry one of my favorites. His transition three against Philadelphia in Game 7 with less than a minute left was an example of just how unafraid and clutch he was. He was one of the reason Vince Carter wasn’t doubled on the wings and Antonio Davis was allowed to operate down low, he was the sharp-shooter that required less than half a second to get his shot off – yes, even less than Jason Kapono.
Keon Clark: Before he started doing cocaine (which is bad for you), he used to play stoned (also bad for you but not so much) which obviously helped his play. The surprising weak-side block was Keon’s staple; people compare Jamario Moon to Keon Clark but Keyon was much more of a defensive presence than Moon and he could finish around the rim. This guy used to contort his upper body in ways that seemed humanly impossible when attempting a finish. After Vince, he was the best bad-alley-oop pass corrector, it didn’t matter where you threw it, he’d finish it somehow. The “fadeaway dunk” on Shawn Bradley was his finest moment as a Raptor but to me anytime he lined up against the boards to come into the game, I got excited because Keon was sure to pull off some crazy shit.
Charles Oakley: The Raptors probably got fleeced in the Marcus Camby trade but Oakley brought something to the franchise that it had never seen – a toughness and meanness that to date hasn’t been matched. Oakley along with Kevin Willis provided a front-court that although lacked pure talent, made up for it with sheer hustle, aggressiveness and attitude. His flinchy jumper and his ill-advised behind the back passes were all tolerable because you just knew there was more to Oak than just basketball. His ultimate gaffe had to be the high-dribble late in Game 4 against Philly where Iverson stole the ball and drained a momentum-shifting three. Oakley’s bitch-slapping of Jeff McInnis was priceless but him calling out Vince Carter was even more appreciated.
Tracy Murray: He had some very surprising hops and was liable to dunk on just about anybody. Murray’s three-point shooting was his primary weapon but once in a while he used to fake the defender at the arc and drive in for a jam that proved to be the sole good memory as the Raptors piled up loss after loss. His second coming in Toronto saw him be part of some good teams where the Raptors were loaded at the swing position which resulted in reduced minutes for Murray. He wasn’t going to win you a game on his own nor was he close to being the best player on the court at any given point in time but we’ll always have a soft spot for T-Murray, much more so than Dee Brown.