I remember the beginning.
I was young, but I remember.
I remember being drawn to the striped orange ball, before knowing what it was going to mean.
I remember dribbling alone in the driveway, while the scraping of hockey sticks on asphalt echoed elsewhere.
I remember Damon Stoudamire, the Mighty Mouse, the Rookie of The Year.
I remember going to Raptorball camp at the downtown Y and high-fiving Doug Christie.
I remember when I didn’t care about winning, because all that mattered was that I had a team of my own.
Then I remember the 1998 draft.
I remember when things changed.
I remember when a hockey city evolved
I remember watching a man not just change a culture, but create one.
I remember seeing less kickball at recess, and more Bump — less ball hockey on Sundays, and more Around The World.
I remember what Vince Carter started for my city and my sport.
I remember the first time we got swept, and not feeling sad because I believed this was the start of something special.
I remember Alvin Williams reaffirming that belief by sealing our first playoff series win a year later.
I remember Vince versus A.I.
I remember when a 50-point performance was an expectation, not an exception.
I remember Game 7.
I remember running outside during the final timeout to yell at my sister down the street to come inside because Vince was about to do it.
Then I remember crying when he didn’t.
I remember being betrayed
I remember drafting a skinny guy out of Georgia Tech who could help my hero find his magic again.
But then I remember my hero quitting on us.
And I remember my hero becoming a villain.
I remember when promising turned to middling, and middling turned to obsolescence.