Whether or not the NBA resumes the 2020 season is anyone’s guess at this point. When the season is officially declared over and Vince Carter’s amazing career complete, there are so many records he’s set in his two decade-plus career. What will history show as Carter’s most impressive record?
Vince Carter destined for greatness
After a McDonald’s All-American senior season in 1995, Vince Carter had more than 75 NCAA Division I offers. He chose Carolina blue to play for the legendary Dean Smith.
As a Tar Heel, Carter helped lead the team to a pair of ACC Tournament titles and Final Four appearances in his sophomore and junior seasons. He finished the 1997–98 season, his junior year, averaging 15.6 points per game and was named second-team All-American.
Following the 1998 season, Carter announced he was making himself eligible for the NBA Draft, following the same path of his teammate and good friend Antawn Jamison.
A star from the beginning
After being drafted by the Golden State Warriors with the fifth overall pick in the 1998 NBA draft, Carter was traded to the Toronto Raptors for the fourth overall pick, his Carolina teammate Antawn Jamison.
Vince Carter started his NBA career off impressively averaging 18.3 points and earned the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. In his second season, Carter established himself as one of the NBA’s best offensive players averaging 25.7 points per game (fourth-highest in the league). He earned his first All-Star Game appearance. It was that All-Star weekend where Carter became a household name.
During the Slam Dunk Contest, Carter stunned his fellow players, fans in attendance, and those watching on TV with a wide variety of impressive dunks, including a 360-degree windmill, a between-the-legs bounce dunk, and an elbow in the rim dunk. It was one of the most memorable dunk contests since former Tar Heel Michael Jordan electrified the NBA with his performance 13 years earlier.
After the All-Star break, Carter guided the Raptors to their first-ever playoff appearance in 2000. He followed it up the next season lifting Toronto to a 47-win season and first playoff series win, advancing to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Vince Carter’s rough finish in Toronto
In August 2001, after signing a six-year contract extension worth as much as $94 million, injuries began plaguing Vince Carter. Dealing with those issues in his knees and hamstrings, some around the league started describing him as a fragile player.
He missed the final 22 games of the 2001–02 regular season due to injury. After off-season surgery, Carter managed to play in just 43 games during the 2002–03 season.
During the next couple of years with trouble brewing in the front office, Carter grew frustrated with the organization, its disarray, and some of the decisions that ultimately affected his playing time. In late 2004, he was traded to the New Jersey Nets.
A few months later, Carter answered a question during an interview that set off a firestorm in Toronto with many of the fans turning against their former star player. It was a chasm that would take years to repair.
Carter’s record-setting career in the NBA
After his departure from Toronto, Vince Carter played for seven different teams. Unfortunately, he never won an NBA championship. He did, however, set numerous individual records.
Just this season alone, Carter has been toppling one record after another. In early January, he became the only player in NBA history to play in four different decades. Later that month, Carter moved past Alex English for 19th on the NBA all-time scoring list and moved up to third place in all-time NBA games played with 1,523 passing Dirk Nowitzki.
Of all his achievements, the most impressive has to be that he has played for an NBA-record 22 seasons. He surpassed the previous mark of 21 years held by Kevin Willis, Kevin Garnett, Robert Parrish, and Nowitzki. One amazing factoid tied to Carter’s longevity—four of his Atlanta Hawks teammates in 2020 were born after he was drafted in 1998.
There are many things people will remember about Vince Carter. His highlight reel of dunks throughout his career and the 2000 All-Star Dunk Contest will be among the most memorable. But in all of his accomplishments, one stands out above them all. 22 seasons. Not bad for a fragile guy.