The term Slam dunk and the name Vince Carter will always be synonymous. Right from the first time he elevated to apply a high-percentage finish, everyone knew Carter had a gift for the amazing; some of his dunks were truly aweinspiring.
Born in North Carolina in 1977, the swingman is still going strong at the age of 38, if not in terms of playing a lot of minutes, then as a contributing, senior member of a franchise vying for playoff position.
He was drafted by the Golden State Warriors with the 5th pick and then immediately traded to Toronto Raptors during the 1998 draft. He had been selected after his consistently great scoring performances for the University of North Carolina where he played for three seasons.
The trade with the Warriors was the beginning of the turnaround of the Raptors franchise as they started building around Carter. Averaging 18.5 ppg in his first season, the shooting guard-cum-small forward was named NBA Rookie of the Year.
The next year was a big one for Vince both personally as well as for the Raptors. The 99-00 season saw the Toronto franchise make the playoffs for the first time in their history while Carter himself averaged 25 points per game, getting selected to the NBA All-Star Game, and the all-NBA third team.
However, what really put him in the spotlight that season, apart from all his stellar achievements, was the fact that he won the Slam Dunk Contest at the All-Star weekend, where he showed his incredible athleticism and penchant for pulling out dunks out of the ordinary.
Some of the dunks he did display that night, including the 360 windmill, the elbow in the rim and the between the legs bounce are considered some of the toughest ones to perform, and have gone down in Dunk Contest folklore as a few of the best ever seen.
The 2000-01 season was Carter’s best individually in terms of points per game, as he averaged 27 points and took Toronto to their first playoff series win in franchise history, before going down to the Philadelphia 76ers in an exciting series that went down to the wire, with the Raptors losing 4-3 having a chance to win it at the buzzer in the 7th game.
The next few seasons saw him continue to perform well for the Toronto franchise but towards the beginning of the 2004 season, it looked like the shooting guard wasn’t very convinced by the franchise’s plans going forward and seemed disillusioned under new coach Sam Mitchell.
Sure enough, he was traded to the New Jersey Nets, where hewould go on to have the most consistent years of his career as an individual. Playing alongside Jason Kidd, Carter reached the Eastern Conference semi-finals in both 2006 and 2007, only to go down to the Miami Heat in 2006 and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007.
Following 5 good seasons with the Nets, Vince Carter was traded to his hometown ballclub, the Orlando Magic. Thrilled at the chance to play at home, Carter showed that he was ready to give it his all, helping the Magic reach the Eastern Conference Finals in the playoffs where they were eliminated by the Boston Celtics.
After a short one season stay with the Magic, Carter moved to Phoenix, where he played alongside another all-star guard in Steve Nash. However, in what was a transitional season for the franchise despite their big off-season moves, they couldn’t make the playoffs.
He was waived by the Suns in December 2011, and after clearing waivers, he signed for the 2011 Champions, the Dallas Mavericks. He spent 3 seasons with the Texas side, making his name as an effective contributor off the bench.
He made himself an integral part of Dallas’ flow-offense system and hit the game-winner in what was his last playoff series with the Mavs, nailing a 3-pointer as time expired in game 3 of the 1st round of the Western Conference Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs, a series that Dallas eventually lost 4-3 to the eventual champions San Antonio.
He is currently with the Memphis Grizzlies, having spent the last year and a half with the franchise. Though he predominantly comes off the bench, he has played a mentoring role and is a respected member of the roster.
Through the course of a career that has stretched for over 17 years, Carter has established himself as an elite player, a model professional and a role model. He has shown versatility in terms of being able to play multiple positions, and has worked hard to ensure that his natural talent doesn’t go to waste.
A glance at his accomplishments tells you of the great successes he has enjoyed as a player, making it to the NBA All-Star 8 times, winning the NBA Slam Dunk contest in 2000 and being named the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1999. He also co-holds the record for scoring the most 3-pointers in a playoff match, hittting 8 from long distance against the 76ers.
Apart from all this, he also has an Olympic Gold Medal to add to his resume, a feat he accomplished in the year 2000, leading Team USA to the title averaging 14.8 points per game. What has remained etched in the minds of fans around the world is his memorable dunk over French centre Frederic Weis.
Weis, who stands at over 7’2” tall stood in between Carter and the basket. True to his style, in what will truly remain one of the greatest dunks ever, the American jumped over the Frenchman, all 7’2”of him, and finished with authority, stunning everyone globally.
Here’s to the man remembered for his crazy dunks and given nicknames like Vinsanity and Half-Man, Half-Amazing. He remains amazing and is truly one of the most humble men to remain in the game today.Published 18 Dec 2015, 22:02 IST