Vince Carter after playing across four decades: I only targeted 15 years
Vince Carter never imagined his NBA career would span four decades, with his initial target only being to play for 15 years.
The eight-time All-Star became the first man to play in the league across four decades when he checked into the Atlanta Hawks' 116-111 home win over the Indiana Pacers to a standing ovation on Saturday.
Carter, the fifth overall pick in the 1998 NBA draft, is in his 22nd season in the league and will turn 43 in January.
The Olympic gold medallist was proud to still be competing over a timeframe that outstrips some of the biggest names in basketball history.
"It's a unique situation. Prior to the season coming I didn't know much about this stat and once it got here it got out there," said Carter.
"I saw a picture of one of my team-mates by the name of Hakeem Olajuwon [who is now 56] and the other was Trae [Young, who is 21] and it's just like, man, as much as I talk to people and handshake with former friends who are now GMs, coaches, whatever they are, I can say I played against Michael Jordan and stuff like that and now I'm playing against the Trae Youngs and all the stars of today.
"I'm just very thankful to still be around and competing at this level, probably more competitive now because I know the end is near. I challenge myself every day when I get on the floor to play my minutes hard and compete, and not to prove to anybody else but to me that I deserve to be here.
"I never imagined playing this long. I probably said before when I got to the league I said I wanted to play 15 years. Some of the elite superstars of the NBA played 12 to 14 years and I was like, 'If I can play 15 years, I'm doing something.' I got to 15 years and I still felt good and here I am seven years later. It's an unbelievable feeling.
"It hasn't really hit me. I knew about it coming into the game but once it's game time I'm locked in on my job and what I need to do. When I get home it's like, 'Wow, four decades!'
"I've seen a few videos and I think about first of all the picture quality! When I started and how it kind of moved on decade to decade to decade it gets better and better and I was in all of these. It's crazy.
"Any time you're the first doing something it's always special. It was something that was never talked about, thought about, we would probably consider unheard of.
"For it to actually happen is pretty cool. You look in the history books now and you're talking about, 'Oh, he's played a couple decades,' and, 'Oh, there's a guy who actually played four decades, what do you think about that?' And it'll be my name. "
Few players have competed in the NBA after their 40th birthday.
For Carter it is a desire to prove he still deserves his spot on the Hawks' roster that provides motivation to keep going in what should be the twilight of his career.
"There were different milestones for me personally, it had nothing to do with scoring. There were a bunch of 40-year-olds playing in this league, but I want to be a 40-year-old still contributing, still competing," he said.
"I don't play big minutes but when I'm out there I want people to say, 'Oh, he belongs.' It's not charity or a favour you're doing for me."Modified 05 Jan 2020, 18:04 IST