Before Drake, Toronto had Vince Carter.
Twenty years from now, when Carter’s career is long over with, NBA junkies and even casual observers will remember his name. They’ll remember him for his performance in the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. They’ll remember when he miraculously jumped over the 7-2 Frédéric Weis en route to a slam dunk during the 2000 Olympics. This particular NBA fan will remember VC for his performance in the 2001 NBA playoffs, when he and Allen Iverson traded 50-point games like children with Pokemon cards. I can still remember the exact feeling in my mind and body when his Game 7 jumper went just long, and the Sixers advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1985. I can play that sequence in my mind to perfection. It was one of the best playoff series of my lifetime, which is a huge statement, all things considered, and it was, in large part, because of Vince Carter.
If this was still the early-to-mid 2000s, children would have Alonzo Mourning posters on their wall, posters of him making a sour face while Vince hangs on the rim above him following a tomahawk jam. Now they’ll simply watch the YouTube clip. Times have changed, and so has Vince Carter.
If one thing is for sure, it’s that we won’t remember Vince Carter for his 2012-13 season, which is fine. We’re not expected to. But there is something to be said for what he’s been able to do.
In a similar way to Dwyane Wade, whom I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, Vince Carter has been able to transform his game in a way many one-time superstars haven’t. Wade is doing it on an entirely different level, and it helped Miami to the second-longest win streak in NBA history. What Carter is doing though, may be equally as difficult, if not more so.
The player who was once known as “Vinsanity” and “Half Man, Half Amazing” for his incredible athleticism and creativity is seamlessly turning himself into a deadeye three-point shooter. Carter was always an above average three-point shooter — his career average is 38. But for the better part of his career, he did it creating his own shot. He’s become a phenomenal spot-up and catch-and-shoot three-point marksman this season; his 41 percent shooting from downtown this year is his best in eight years. He’s the one silver lining to an otherwise lost season for the Dallas Mavericks. They lost Jason Terry to the Boston Celtics last summer, and more than likely didn’t believe they had a veteran bench scorer anymore, not a consistent one anyway. Carter has been a model of consistency and is on the books for next season as well. If nothing else, that spark-off-the-bench player is one of the few roles Dallas won’t have to look far to fill moving forward.
What Carter is doing this season only adds to his Hall of Fame credentials. His 13-plus points per game is assisting the Mavericks in their league-best 41.5 bench points per game. He is fifth in total points for bench players, a rare feat for former superstars to accomplish late in their careers. We’ve only ever witnessed a few former superstars (think Ray Allen), who were capable of taking on a specific role and being effective in doing so.
As for Vince’s Hall credentials, if you’re uncertain on whether or not he is worthy, consider the following:
These are the career points, rebounds and assists per-game averages for other shooting guards in NBA history.
Clyde Drexler: 20.4/6.1/5.6
Reggie Miller: 18.2/3.0/3.0
Earl Monroe: 18.8/3.0/3.9
Hal Greer: 19.2/5.0/4.0
Vince Carter has averaged 20.9/5.0/3.8. The difference? All of the players mentioned above are in the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame. The aforementioned Ray Allen is considered a shoe in for the Hall as well. His career numbers: 19.5/4.1/3.4.
So why do we question Vince? You can’t argue rings — we all know Reggie doesn’t have one. Carter is an eight-time All-Star who at one point in his career had 10 consecutive seasons in which he averaged 20-plus points per game. So where’s the argument? How he seemingly quit on Toronto? His lack of playoff success? Did anyone, as recently as four years ago, think Vince’s career was going to last longer and in a more meaningful role than that of his cousin Tracy McGrady?
The 1999 NBA Rookie of the Year once wowed crowds with his phenomenal dunks, reverse layups and scoring outbursts. Now Vinsanity continues to wow sophisticated NBAers with his ability to change his game and extend his career by four to five years, an impressive feat that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Vince Carter, whose scoring has primarily been the result of jump shots this season, recently told Steve McPherson of The New York Times that he doesn’t even like dunking anymore. He told McPherson that if he can get the two points from a layup instead, that he’d rather do that. He’s older, more wise and he plays smarter. He knows exactly who he is on a basketball court, which is sometimes the hardest part when transforming into a role player. The dunks were exciting to watch, but we admire what he’s doing now as well.
How much does VC have left?
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