Half-man, half-amazing. Vinsanity. Air Canada.
Carter earned his reputation and his nicknames while with the Toronto Raptors from 1998-2004. He became the face of not just a relatively new NBA franchise, but, at least sports-wise, the face of an entire country.
With tremendous aerial assaults – seemingly flying through the air with ease, and putting nearly every NBA player on his posters along the way – Carter became one of the game’s elite players. He carried an ever-improving Toronto Raptor team to their first ever playoff series win in 2001, defeating the New York Knicks in five games.
It’s one of those questions in NBA circles that are tough to answer. He was a great player for only a handful of years, and a guy who revolutionized the game. But did he sustain that high level of play long enough? Does he have the overall body of work? Is Carter a Hall of Famer? It is debatable, but I personally think he is.
After Michael Jordan retired from the game, the NBA was in desperate need of new face – a guy who had all the skills, marketability, and could do the impossible athletically.
Obviously nobody could fill Jordan’s shoes, especially that soon after his retirement. But for a while, Carter was that next-in-line guy. He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1998-1999, jumped over 7-foot tall French center Frederic Weis in the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and ruined NBA All-Star Weekend dunk contests forever with a spectacular performance at the 2000 All Star Weekend in Oakland, where Kenny Smith declared the contest over after Carter’s between the legs off-the-bounce jam.
Fellow NBAers in attendance were going crazy. Carter still had two dunks remaining. On his next dunk, he got up so high that he put his arm in the rim. Contest judge Isiah Thomas just starting laughing.
Now every year at the NBA’s annual areal showcase, the common thought is “still not better than Vince”. Just last week on Inside the NBA, Shaquille O’Neal reacted to a put back dunk by New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert with “that looked like Vince Carter”.
Carter has also played in eight All-Star games – all of which were consecutive, from 1999-2007. He won a Gold Medal as part of the United States team that took home first place in the aforementioned Sydney Olympics. He was named to the All-NBA third team in 2000 and second team in 2001, and was a prolific scorer during his prime seasons, averaging a career-best 27.6 points in the 2000-2001 season as a member of the Raptors and 27.5 with the New Jersey in 2004-2005.
There is something to be said for a guy that somewhat revolutionized the game, especially after the Jordan era, a time when the NBA was in need of a new star. While he may not have kept up the consistent career path that many people would have thought early in his career, Carter certainly has had an impact on the game.
He was a high-wire act that could flat-out score the basketball, and brought a franchise from virtual obscurity to the mainstream by making them a contender. He is regarded by some as the greatest dunker in the history of the NBA, in-game or otherwise. His virtuoso athletic feats that made NBA fans from all over shake their heads and wonder “how did he do that?” will forever be long lasting.
Maybe he gets in, maybe he doesn’t.
But he is deserving.