December 2004: Rafer Alston threatens to quit NBA
Over the years (and over the past few weeks) we have seen the Raptors frustrate players to the point where they have demanded trades and threatened to not report to the team. However, on one occasion, a player became so furious that he actually ‘Skipped’ this half-measure, and threatened to quit the sport entirely.
The 2004-2005 season should have been a good news story for Rafer Alston; over the previous two years, the Rucker Park legend successfully proved critics wrong by playing quality minutes for a handful of teams, Toronto included. Convinced that Alston could make the transition from volatile me-first streetballer to starting NBA point guard, the Raptors signed the player to his first long-term NBA contract. The only problem was that Alston arrived as advertised: a volitile me-first streetballer, miscast in a starting role. He quickly grew frustrated, and wanted out.
And I don’t blame him one fucking bit.
Alston’s return to the Raptors was similar to the scene in Goodfellas where Joe Pesci’s character meets up with an old Made gangster who remembers Pesci as a kid. The old-timer refuses to respect the recent strides made by the up-and-comer, and tells him to shine his shoes. Ditto Alston: the veteran players and coaching staff treated their new starting point guard like he was the same player of two years prior—on a10-day contract, competing for a job. Sam Mitchell even reminded the media and fans not to be fooled by Alston’s newly minted status, after benching him in Boston.
Mitchell took additional steps to personally ensure that Alston’s transition to Raptor starter would not be a smooth one, positioning the player at the blast radius of his frequent emotional and physical outbursts. On a number of occasions, Alston would compete throughout a tough Raptor loss only to absorb post-game barbs from Mitchell, while Jalen Rose and Vince Carter—both of whom combined provide less defence than a hymen at a gangbang—coasted with free passes.
It is comforting to see that the Raptors have learned that they need to provide full support for a player to grow into a larger role, and that awarding a large contract and starter minutes to a career bench player does not automatically qualify them for the job, particularly a volitile me-first streetballer.
In 2005, the Raptors traded Rafer Alston for Mike James.