Vince Carter, the high-flying swingman who’s in his 19th NBA season, turns 40 today, and that means he’ll soon be calling it quits on professional basketball.
It’s a marvel that Carter has been able to last this long in the NBA, and what makes it even more impressive is that he’s only missed a significant chunk of time in one of his 19 seasons. As of Thursday, his birthday, he’s laced up for 1,314 NBA games which sit him at 17 on the league’s all-time list.
Carter’s crammed a lot into those games and, with his retirement looming, we’re going to get a jumpstart on his Hall of Fame resume.
Right off the bat, fans know of Vinsanity from his incredible performance in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest which, up until 2016, was the single-best showing in the history of the event. That alone is enough to put Carter in the Hall of Fame, and his mixture of power, hang time and athleticism weren’t seen as often as it is today. Furthermore, he was a 23-year-old kid in his second NBA season, and he was living up to the expectations that he set as a rookie.
After getting picked fifth overall in the 1998 NBA Draft, Carter was named Rookie of the Year for 1998-99 after averaging 18.3 points on 45 percent shooting, 5.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists. At the time, he was the 16th rookie ever to post a line like that for an entire season, according to Basketball Reference.
It was lockout shortened, but who cares?
His sophomore year didn’t disappoint, even if you take the dunk contest away. Carter was emerging as one of the league’s top scorers, and he finished fourth in the NBA with an average of 25.7 points a night. He was just as efficient as he was voluminous. V.C. shot 46.5 percent overall, but his improved three-point shot made him much more lethal.
After nailing just 28.8 of his long-range shots as a first-year player, Carter skyrocketed up to 40.3 in his second year, and then improved the subsequent year again. By the end of 2001, Carter had posted a career-best 27.6 points per game while grabbing 5.5 boards and handing out 3.9 helpers.
The Toronto Raptors finished with the league’s fifth-most potent offense, and they ended the year with 47 wins. Basketball was still very new in Canada, but their 47 victories were a franchise-best, and the Raptors advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals before losing to Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers in seven games.
As phenomenal and exciting as Carter was during the regular season, he severely underachieved in the playoffs. That (along with his atrocious play on defense) is the single biggest detractor from his resume.
V.C. played in just one Conference Final in his career, and it was back in 2010 with the Orlando Magic. The Boston Celtics needed six games to advance to the Finals that year, but Carter posted pitiful numbers. He had a decent-sized role with the team and averaged just 13.7 points and shot abysmal 36.7 percent from the field, including 21.1 percent from three; in the regular season, he put up 16.6 points and shot 36.7 percent from three.
The length of Carter’s career saw struggles come the postseason. He’s made 10 trips, but only had two that really stand out.
His first was in 2001 when he averaged more than 27 points a night despite shooting 43.6 percent from the floor. To counteract that, he made a total of 25 threes (in 12 games) at a 41 percent clip, and that was his saving grace. The next came when he was 29, and it was, unequivocally, his best postseason showing. With the Nets, Carter lit up everybody to the tune of 29.6 points on 46 percent, and that was without a lights-out three ball.
To reach that clip, V.C. made a staggering 53 percent of his twos, and he was attempting about 17 a night. He added seven boards and 5.3 assists, but the Miami Heat sent New Jersey packing in five games. Regardless, Carter did what he needed to in that series (30.2 points, 46.9 percent).
Once the 2000s started to close out, so did Carter. While his last great season was 2006-07, he was a legit 20-22 point scorer until 2009, and one of the more underrated offensive players to those who never saw him play live. (I fell into this category and didn’t know how talented he was until a few years ago.) Carter’s one of 27 guys to have 10 or more seasons averaging more than 20 points a night, per Basketball Reference.
If there are people who view Carmelo Anthony as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, it would be an injustice not to have Carter in there.
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