The Incredible Career of Vince Carter

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TORONTO, ON- Atlanta Hawk and former Toronto Raptor star Vince Carter came back to his old home maybe for the last time.

After 22 seasons, Vince Carter has finally called it a career. He played for eight different teams spanning four decades and has a resume unlike any other. “Vinsanity” also has a highlight reel more entertaining than most NBA legends. 

Let’s take a look, and pay homage, to the career of Mr. “Half Man, Half Amazing” himself – Vince Carter.

Toronto Raptors (1998-2004)

TORONTO - NOVEMBER 3: Vince Carter #15 of the Toronto Raptors salutes the crowd after beating the Houston Rockets 95-88 during a game at the Air Canada Centre on November 3, 2003 in Toronto, Canada.
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Vince Carter was drafted by the Golden State Warriors in 1998 but was instantly traded to the Toronto Raptors. Prior to Carter, Toronto was nothing more than an expansion team with no hopes of landing a marque superstar. Lo and behold the Raptors’ draft day swap with the Warriors would change the landscape of basketball in Canada forever.

In just his second year in the league, “Air Canada” led the Raptors to their first playoff berth in franchise history. He also earned his first of six all-star appearances with the Raptors; Carter led the league in all-star votes that year, making it the first of four times in which he would accomplish such a feat.

In 2001, he elevated Toronto to heights never before seen. They would lose – in heartbreaking fashion – to the eventual Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia 76ers in seven games. Carter, who attended his college graduation hours earlier, would miss the game-winning shot at the buzzer.

The next few seasons for the perennial all-star were riddled with injuries and front-office conflict. This culminated in Carter forcing his way out of Toronto. In December of 2004, the once face of Canada basketball was traded to the New Jersey Nets.

New Jersey Nets (2004-2009)

Nets Vince Carter and Jason Kidd in the first half against the Clippers at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J.
Jeff Zelevansky/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images

As a member of the Nets, Carter would experience some of his most productive years. He eclipsed his 23.4 points per game average in Toronto to average 23.6 points with New Jersey. Carter also proved to be indefatigable, missing just 11 games in four full seasons with the Nets and leading them to three straight playoff runs.

The tandem of Carter and Kidd in New Jersey was a force to be reckoned with. The Hall of Fame point guard was fond of the league’s most prolific dunker filling the lanes, as the two were poised to make a real run at a championship.

Despite being the first duo since Jordan and Pippen to record triple-doubles in the same game, the Carter-Kidd-led Nets couldn’t get over the hump. They never made it out of the second round, and during the 2007-2008 season, Kidd was traded to the Dallas Mavericks. Carter would finish the 2008-2009 campaign, but subsequently be traded to the Magic that offseason.

His season in Orlando would mark the beginning of the second half of his career. Carter would bounce around from team to team, while still providing veteran leadership.

Orlando Magic (2009-2010)

18 March 2010: Orlando Magic guard Vince Carter rests during the Orlando Magic 108-102 overtime victory over the Miami Heat at the AmericanAirlines Arena, in Miami, Florida, USA.
Christophe Elise/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images

Prior to Carter’s arrival, the Magic were Eastern Conference champions. They had lost to the Lakers in five games and hoped his shot-creating ability would put them over the top.

Orlando would once again advance to the Conference Finals – Carter’s lone appearance in his career – but would lose to the Celtics in six games. Carter failed to live up to expectations as he posted two games of single-digit scoring, and a game three +/- of -20.

Phoenix Suns (2010-2011)

Phoenix traded for Vince Carter on December 18, 2010, and he would play 51 games for them. He averaged 13.5 points on 42 percent shooting and scored his 20,000th career point while in a Suns uniform. Carter became the 37th NBA player to accomplish such a feat.

Dallas Mavericks (2011-2014)

January 26, 2014: Dallas Mavericks shooting guard Vince Carter #25 during an NBA game between the Detroit Pistons and the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX Dallas defeated Detroit 116-106
Albert Pena/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Carter reunited with his former Nets teammate Jason Kidd after signing a three-year $12-million dollar deal with Dallas. His time with the Mavericks saw the once ferocious dunker transition into a three-point marksman.

It now behooves the journeyman to punish opposing teams from beyond the arc, and during the 2014 playoffs, he nailed a game-winning three-pointer against the one-seeded Spurs. The Mavericks had a 2-1 series lead but would go on to lose in seven games.

Memphis Grizzlies (2014-2017)

Apr 27, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (20) is fouled by Memphis Grizzlies guard Vince Carter (15) in game six of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Upon joining the Grit and Grind Grizzlies, Carter saw his minutes diminish. To start the 2015-2016 season, he appeared in just one of Memphis’ first 12 games. However, he remained stolid and continued to mentor the younger players on the team.

In 2016, Carter became the first 40-year-old in NBA history to hit six threes in one game, and in April of that year became the first 40-year-old to hit three or more threes in a single playoff game.

Sacramento Kings (2017-2018)

Apr 11, 2018; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Vince Carter (15) dunks the ball against the Houston Rockets during the fourth quarter at Golden 1 Center
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

On July 10th, 2017, the veteran sharpshooter signed a one-year, $8 million dollar contract with the Kings. Prior to the season’s start, he won Most Influential Veteran at the Players Choice Awards – highlighting his model status on and off the court. At the end of the season, Carter was also awarded the NBPA’s Backbone Award and Most Respected Award. 

Atlanta Hawks (2018-2020)

TORONTO, ON- Atlanta Hawk and former Toronto Raptor star Vince Carter came back to his old home maybe for the last time.
Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Carter, unknowingly, played his last game on March 11th, 2020. In Vince-like fashion, he drilled his final shot in the dying seconds of the game, off an assist from Trae Young. The rising superstar lauded having Carter as a teammate, reminiscing on the fact that he and other Hawk players called him Yoda because “he has all the knowledge in the world,” per an interview with Ernie Johnson.

His Numbers

Carter’s 22-year career is inundated with stats and records that are comparable to very few in NBA history. He’s the only player to have played in four different decades and is third all-time in games played – with a whopping 1,541 games. Only Robert Parish and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have played in more. 

With one of the smoothest transitions from superstar to role-player, he is the only player in league history with 2,000 triples and 1,000 dunks. His numbers depict an intestinal fortitude and longevity that very few will ever match.

Carter’s Most Memorable Moments 

Carter has arguably the greatest highlight reel in NBA history. He has a myriad of moments worth replaying, but perhaps his two most salient are the 2000 Dunk Contest and the “Dunk of Death.”

The 2000 Dunk Contest

In 2000, Carter cemented his place as not only of the league’s best dunkers but one of their most special entertainers as well. He obliterated the competition, which included his cousin Tracy McGrady, and performed dunks never before seen.

His first dunk of the competition was a reverse 360 windmill, which had the crowd – and every NBA player – stunned. His penultimate dunk was the now-iconic “honey dip,” in which he drove his entire forearm into the rim. The arena’s bewilderment and star stuckness was palpable, as they knew they were bearing witness to history.

Carter literally resurrected the dunk contest that night. In both 1998 and 1999, the contest was cancelled due to a lack of popularity. Carter single-handedly ushered the NBA into the new decade, reinvigorating the dunk contest.

The “Dunk of Death

In his third year in the league, Carter was selected to join the USA men’s basketball Olympic team. In the team’s final game of group stage, against France, Carter delivered the greatest dunk in basketball history. 

He jumped over 7-foot-2 Frederic Weis and threw down a vicious dunk – nearly tearing the rim off. The feat was so awe-inspiring that it was the French media that dubbed it the “le dunk de la mort” or “the dunk of death.”

The now-infamous Weis had this to say fifteen years after the play, “I learned that people can fly,” per an article by ESPN.

From phenom to grizzled veteran, Vince Carter has seen it all. He introduced Canada to the sport of basketball, skied over 7-footers, and saved the dunk contest. Carter aged in a classy manner and proved to be a role model for the younger generation. All that’s left for Carter is the Hall of Fame.

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