In the history of the NBA, how many players can say that their career spanned over 4 decades? The answer is only one: Vince Carter. The 8 time All-Star officially retired earlier today on The Ringer’s “Winging It” podcast. The decision did not come as a surprise, as Carter has been hinting at his retirement all season and the Atlanta Hawks were not invited to participate in Orlando when the NBA resumes in late July. You can see his official retirement statement in the tweet below:
After 22 years, Vince Carter has announced his retirement.
— #ThankYouVince (@ringernba) June 25, 2020
Recapping Vince Carter’s Prolific NBA Career
Vince Carter was selected #5 overall in the 1998 draft by the Golden State Warriors, but was instantly traded to the Raptors for his teammate and the #4 pick in the draft, Antawn Jamison. Carter bust onto the scene with Toronto, averaging 18.3 ppg and 5.7 rpg in his rookie season, and quickly became known for his high flying, earth-shattering finishes at the rim. These finishes would usually result in a highlight-reel dunk but occasionally, Carter would opt for the acrobatic layup instead. Carter instantly became one of the most popular players in the league among young fans and garnered the nickname “Air Canada.” He was responsible for one of the greatest Slam Dunk contest performances of all time and also delivered one of the most disrespectful in-game dunks of all time during the 2000 Olympics, both videos can be seen below:
In Carter’s second year, his ppg ballooned up to 25.7 and alongside his cousin Tracy McGrady, and the two brought the Raptors to their first ever playoff appearance. After McGrady was dealt in the following season, Carter established himself among the top #2 guards in the league, averaging a career best 27.6 ppg in just his 3rd season. Carter even had a cameo as himself in the movie Like Mike (2002), as the player Calvin Cambridge (main character in Like Mike) had to make a play against in order to send his fictional team, the LA Knights, to the playoffs, despite losing his ability to play basketball “like Michael Jordan.” Like Michael Jordan, Carter had played his college ball at North Carolina, and the two (at their peaks) shared an elite athleticism trait rivaled by few in the NBA. In 2003, Carter gave up his all-star spot so Michael Jordan could play in the final all-star game of his career.
After 6 stellar seasons in Toronto, Carter was traded to the New Jersey Nets in the after 20 games into the 2004 season. The Nets, coming off back to back Finals appearances the two years prior, needed to fill a scoring void after losing Kenyon Martin to the Nuggets, and believed Carter was the man to do so. While the Nets never returned to an NBA Finals with Vince Carter, the combination of Carter/Kidd/Jefferson proved to be a dominant force in the East. VC benefited substantially from Kidd’s play-making ability and the two connected on so many beautiful ally-oops, as seen below:
Nets fans fell in love with “Vinsanity” since they had never been witness to such an athletic monster on their team. In other words, Carter was the closest thing to MJ that Nets fans would ever have the privilege of watching. Carter would go on to play 5 seasons with the Nets, averaging 23.6 ppg over that span. The Nets made the playoffs 3 out of the 5 seasons Carter was there, but unfortunately the team fell apart after the 2006-2007 season, as Jason Kidd was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2007-2008 season and Carter was dealt to the Magic in the summer of 2009.
While many believed Carter’s career to be over after his tenure with the Nets, VC continued to defy the odds. Carter was able to be a great complement to Dwight Howard and in two seasons with Orlando, managed to average 16.3 ppg. In the 2009-2010 playoffs, Carter helped the Magic reach the Eastern Conference Finals, before losing 4 games to 2 against the Boston Celtics. It was the only time in Carter’s career he would reach conference finals series. After his stint in Orlando, Carter would go on to play for 5 more teams, including the Suns, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Kings, and Hawks.
While he never won a championship, he was always viewed as a great teammate and an overall positive contributor to every team he’s ever been a part of. Carter was able to last as long as he did in the NBA due to his ability to adjust his role according to whatever the team he was playing for at that time needed. Even in the last several years, he developed into a great 3 and D player, mixing in the occasional highlight reel dunk/layup. He is no doubt a 1st ballot Hall-of-Famer and will be go down as one of the greatest athletes to ever play the sport of basketball.