Carter says he tried to recruit Shaq to Raptors, ‘felt like it was close’

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Atlanta Hawks veteran Vince Carter says that while superstars didn’t recruit each other as often in his earlier NBA days, it did happen. Specifically, he asserts that he once tried to bring Shaquille O’Neal to the Toronto Raptors.

“The only time I can recall is I tried to get Shaq to Toronto,” Carter told SI’s Jacob Feldman. “I felt like it was close. It was tough at the time, just because … a lot of guys were like, ‘What’s Canada about?’ It was tough to convince players that it’s a great place until they’re actually there.”

O’Neal was never actually a free agent during Carter’s prime with the Raptors, where he played from 1998 until December 2004. However, it’s possible that Carter tried to recruit Shaq after the latter demanded a trade away from Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers – where O’Neal won three straight championships – ahead of the 2004-05 season.

Ultimately, L.A. granted Shaq’s wish by dealing him to the Miami Heat that summer for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant, and two draft picks.

Six months later, the struggling Raptors dealt Carter to the New Jersey Nets for three players and two picks – a trade that’s still widely considered one of the worst in sports history.

Carter, an eight-time All-Star, is now entering his 22nd and self-professed final NBA season.