On Jan. 4th, 2020, Atlanta Hawks G/F Vince Carter became the first player in NBA history, to play an NBA game in 4 different decades. To celebrate his accomplishment, I decided to write this piece, highlighting the most memorable moments of his 22 year career. You’re welcome Adam.
Vince Carter was selected 5th overall by the Golden State Warriors in the 1998 NBA draft. Moments after being selected, he was traded (for his college teammate Antawn Jamison) to the Toronto Raptors, beginning his career in Jurassic Park.
Suiting up for a squad that was only in its 4th year of existence, Carter early on showed flashes, of being the superstar that the franchise had been lacking. He averaged 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists, en route to the Rookie of the Year award in 1999. From there, he consistently improved each season, slowly cementing his status as one of the more talented players in the league.
In 2000, while participating in the dunk contest at All-Star weekend in Oakland, he put himself on the map. I’m not even going to attempt to explain the amazing dunks he did, but you can see for yourself here.
Carter’s high-flying aerial assaults on the rim, made this one of the most memorable slam dunk contest performances in NBA history.
Not to mention, he dominated a tough group of contestants, going up against the likes of Steve Francis, and his cousin Tracy McGrady, two well known high-flyers. Carter also revived a competition that had been growing stale in recent years, due to lack of star involvement, and repetitive dunks being attempted. IT’S OVER LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.
Carter’s dunk contest performance put him on the national spotlight. However, he vowed to show the league that he was more than an athletic marvel. He developed into a talented offensive player, able to shoot from long range, bully smaller guards in the post, and obviously cut and slash to the rim.
The 2000–01 NBA season was his finest showing, from a statistical standpoint. He averaged 28 points, 6 boards, and 4 assists, and made the All-NBA second team.
His offensive arsenal was on full display during the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Going up against the MVP, Allen Iverson, and the Philadelphia 76ers, he exploded, averaging 30 points during the 7 game series, capitalizing with a 50 point outburst in Game 3. Despite losing the series, Carter showed the world what he was capable of. He even graduated from college during the playoff run.
Vince continued to excel on both sides of the court, but the same couldn’t be said for his teammates. He missed the playoffs in his final 3 seasons with Toronto, and after several rifts with management and the coaching staff, he demanded a trade.
On December 17, 2004, he was traded to the New Jersey Nets for a bag of chips.
During his five year tenure with New Jersey, he averaged 24 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and had this crazy dunk on Alonzo Mourning. He guided the Nets to three straight playoff appearances between 2005–2007.
He was traded to the Orlando Magic in 2009, and with Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard, led the Magic to Vince’s first and only Conference Final appearance of his career, in 2010. They would lose to the Boston Celtics in 6 games.
Vince was then traded to Phoenix later that year, and spent an unremarkable 5 months in the desert. He then signed a three-year deal with Dallas in 2011. While not being the player he once was, he still provided Maverick fans with several memorable moments, including this game-winning triple in Game 3 of the first round versus the Spurs. Too clutch.
In 2014, he signed a three year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies. He helped stabilize those Grit-N-Grind Grizzlies squad with his veteran leadership, helping them reach the playoffs in all his three years there.
When his contract expired in 2017, many wondered whether he would retire. But at age 40, he still had plenty left in the tank.
Rather than signing with a championship contender, to acquire an NBA title (the only thing lacking from his NBA resume) Carter decided to sign with a young, rebuilding team. He did this, to not only be a veteran presence for younger players, but to also show that he can still contribute at a high level.
In 2017, he signed with the Sacramento Kings, and then inked a deal with the Atlanta Hawks in 2018, where he’ll spend his final NBA season.
In his last two stops, several young players credit Carter’s wisdom and constant teaching, being crucial to their development. Players like De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley III, and Trae Young speak highly of him.
Carter will conclude his NBA career with eight All-Star selections, two All-NBA selections, a gold medal, and several memorable nicknames, including: Vinsanity, Air Canada, and “Half-Man, Half-Amazing”.
So, what is Carter’s legacy? He never won a championship, never played in the NBA finals, and never led a team to serious title contention. Despite all that, he is an icon.
Vince was the first superstar of the Toronto Raptors, and with that, the first star in the country of Canada.
When he came into the league in 1998, the NBA had two, new struggling teams in Canada, the Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies, who were desperate for a fan favorite. For the Raptors, that was Vince. The Grizzlies never found that player while in Vancouver, which led to their relocation in 2001.
The Raptors did.
He kept their franchise in Canada, gave them their first taste of winning basketball, and most importantly, impacted a generation of young Canadians to want to go and play the sport.
He changed the notion that Canada was an hockey-only country, and inspired kids to want to go jump, dunk, and play in the NBA like him. Current NBA and Canadian players like Kelly Olynyk, Jamal Murray, and Andrew Wiggins grew up watching Carter, wanted to play basketball, & “be like Vince” growing up.
Canadian, and Cavs center Tristan Thompson, went as far as saying that Vince Carter was “his Michael Jordan”, signifying how impactful he was. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a statue of him in Toronto some day.
With all that being said, we love you Vince! Especially my younger brother Adam, he loves you a lot. Oh, and thank you for the Dunk of Death.
If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you agree, or disagree with this piece. And please, share this with your friends. With that being said, again, HAPPY NEW YEAR! And much success in 2020!
(Originally posted January 8, 2020 on Medium. Edited May 22, 2020 on WordPress.)