Toronto Raptors

Atlanta Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins believes Vince Carter helped build Canadian basketball's history

#Nique VC

The Toronto Raptors play the Atlanta Hawks three times this season. That would look like just a trio of games against another Eastern Conference foe in a normal season, but this year it could be the last three games against former Raptor Vince Carter.

Carter, who's in the thick of his 23rd season in the league - now playing for the Hawks - is now 13 years removed from donning the Raptors' jersey. Once the go-to guy, his role with the young Hawks is that of a mentor and teacher, something that former Hawks great Dominique Wilkins believes every young team needs.

"First of all, he's a special player and special human being - outside of basketball just a wonderful guy," Wilkins told NBA.com. "I've known Vince for quite a while … over 20 years. Here's a guy that brings a lot of credibility. He brings a lot of basketball knowledge to a very young team.

"As a young team, you cannot win on a big scale if you don't have veteran players around, and he's just the ultimate veteran type of player that you want around your young guys because he's so positive and he just brings so much basketball knowledge, and you can't buy that."

Wilkins spent the backend of his career coming to terms with the mentor role, something he would finally accept as his career came to an end. But at his peak, he was one of the NBA's most electrifying players.

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When Carter entered the league with the same amount of attention on his high-flying act, he was regularly compared to the likes of Wilkins and Michael Jordan.

No one will ever forget the performance that Carter put on at the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest, and every year around All-Star Weekend, Wilkins' own performances in the same contest gets replayed and re-lived on NBA classics. But for the two-time slam dunk champion (1985, 1990), he believes what separates him and Carter from the field was their ability to dunk in traffic.

"Many moments, many moments," Wilkins said laughing in response to how many times Carter thrilled him. "We were a lot similar in the fact that you never knew what we were going to do. In traffic ... he was one of the few dunkers in history that could do it in traffic.

"A lot of guys can do it on the break … they can get the quick dunk on you in the lane, but to do it over people like we did - there's not a lot of guys that could do that."

As the Raptors get set to take on the Hawks in their first of three games this season on Wednesday, Toronto fans will be reminded of the moments that Carter brought them to their feet. For better or worse, alongside DeMar DeRozan, Carter remains the most famed Raptor.

For a generation of fans, he still is the greatest Raptor ever. In a time when basketball wasn't the marquee sport, number 15 captured the imagination of many kids who wanted to perform on the world's biggest basketball stages as he did. All 11 Canadian players in the league now had dreams of being like Vince or wanted to fly like him.

Wilkins believes that not many others could've done what Carter did for an entire country and at the end of the day he'll always be apart of Canadian basketball history.

"He brought a culture to Canada. As far as basketball, he brought an excitement that is very rare," Wilkins said. "When you have one guy who can develop a following and a history in a country like he did - there's not a lot of guys who you can point to that could do that sort of thing the way he did it.

"There's a lot of great athletes in this league from past or present. When you can put that athleticism, that personality and perseverance … when you can put all that together it builds history, and that's what he did in Canada."

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