I was around 6 years old when my parents bought me my first basketball magazine.
I forget the name of the magazine now, but as I was flipping through the pages of it I remember seeing breathtaking images of the top players in the game at the time soaring through the air.
It was my first introduction to players like Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, Stephon Marbury and other league stars. While I had an appreciation for the talent of all these greats, the one player that caught my attention was Vince Carter.
In his photo, Carter was pictured flying through the air in his Raptors jersey, past multiple defenders with one hand on the ball on his way to throw down a thunderous dunk.
Carter had a smirk on his face. It was different from his counterparts, who had mainly been pictured with looks of intensity and consternation. It was a look that said, “I know I’m great.” It was a powerful image for a young black boy still trying to find his own path to greatness.
At that point, I didn’t know much about Carter but I knew one thing, he was different. To me, he was “half-man, half-amazing” before I even knew that was his nickname. The more I paid attention to Carter the more electrifying plays I saw. Every poster dunk, windmill, and 360 left me in awe.
Long before there was Linsanity, there was Vinsanity.
His dunks were a powerful display of both strength and elegance that transcended the game. If Carter could play this boldly on a basketball court then what could stop me from attacking life the same way. The way Carter displayed his talent and dedication empowered children like me all over the world.
Now, almost two decades later, Carter is calling it a career in the NBA.
“I’m officially done,” Carter said on the Winging It podcast that came out on Thursday.
Carter had previously announced that this would be his last NBA season, but the ending of the Hawks’ season due to COVID-19 opened questions about a possible return for the 43-year-old.
But as he once famously said after a stylish, Slam Dunk Contest-sealing between the legs dunk, “It’s over.”
Carter was the first NBA player ever to play in four different decades. And with that comes a collection of highlights. Here’s 40.
Many will remember the 22-year NBA veteran and future Hall of Famer for his historic dunks and mind-boggling plays that pop up on their social media timelines from time to time, looking at you Frederic Weis. However, I see Carter’s career as a microcosm of what it means to be a professional and a role model.
If you are like me, Carter’s skill and dunks may have caught your attention but his personality made you a fan.
He was an 8-time All-Star, Rookie of the year in 1999, and won arguably the most iconic Dunk Contest in the history of the league in 2000.
However, Carter also won the Twyman-Stokes teammate of the year award in 2016, started a nonprofit to empower children, and spoke about the importance of HBCUs and black education at Morehouse College.
Additionally, in a career that spanned more than two decades, Carter has never been caught in any major scandal or allegations that we’ve seen affect the careers of many other great athletes.
Carter gracefully made the transition from being a perennial All-Star to an integral role player on many successful teams.
At the height of his career, he averaged close to 25 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists per game as a shooting guard with the Raptors and Nets. In the latter part of his career, he was influential in multiple playoff runs on different teams like the Magic, Mavericks, and Grizzlies.
When his career ended, he was the prominent veteran voice for a young and coming Atlanta Hawks team that is still trying to find its way.
Carter has been excellent in every role he has played in this league and has gained what many wish to obtain in their respective fields.
He is a legend, a teacher, and an inspiration.
Sadly the coronavirus robbed him of a proper send off, one complete with a video tribute and gifts. A walk off the court to a standing ovation and hugs and well-wishes from every single opponent. That will have to wait till the Raptors retire his No. 15.
His career will be remembered for his ability to do things on the basketball court that no one could even imagine.
But his true legacy will be defined by the service he gave to the game both on and off the court.