When Vince Carter Sent a Message to the NBA

Vince Carter looks on during a game
Robert Laberge/Allsport/Getty Images

It would be nice if every rookie who made the transition from college to the NBA was able to quickly adjust to the demands of playing at the game’s highest level. Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works. The NBA is the NBA for a reason. And most rookies find that out the hard way. The players are quicker and stronger. The game, itself, is more physical. The competition is on a whole other level. And just as it is with the majority of professional sports leagues, if an individual can’t cut it, the veterans will eat them alive. No, not every first-year player can make a smooth transition.

Then again, when a rookie is able to make the cut, you better believe we recognize it. When Vince Carter came into the league in the 1998-99 season, you could tell this guy was special. He had confidence, swagger, and freakish athletic abilities. There were times when you thought the former North Carolina product was going to jump out of the building. The hops, the force, and the electricity he brought with each and every thunderous slam made for instant entertainment. Carter immediately became one of those “must watch” players.

Yet, throughout a career — which is still going, by the way — filled with endless amounts of highlight reels, one play remains the catalyst responsible for the “Vinsanity” movement, in our opinion. And it happened against the Indiana Pacers, when Carter defied gravity and threw down the double-clutch reverse jam. So sit back, relax, and enjoy another edition of “Throwback Throwdowns.”

On February 24, 1999, the Toronto Raptors traveled to Indiana for a regular-season clash against the Pacers. After trailing 34-12 at the end of the first quarter, it was immediately clear that the visiting team was in for a long night. Yet, even though the game would end with Toronto getting blown out by a score of 104-84, the team, thanks to the one-man show with the No. 15 on his chest, did manage to produce the highlight of the night; something so special that, even to this day, we can’t stop talking about it.

With the Raptors down 46-27 in the second quarter, Carter, guarded by Indiana’s Chris Mullin, had the ball in the left corner. And while his team was essentially getting blown off the court, Carter decided to take matters into his own hands. He hesitated to his right, getting Mullin to commit just a bit, drove left on the baseline, two dribbles, and then took flight.

Any other individual might have just tried to dunk the ball. But that’s not how Carter works. He goes for the spectacular. Instead of slamming the rock in traffic, Carter went up, clutched the ball with two hands, brought it back down, and stuffed a reverse jam on the other side of the basket. And in that moment, Carter sent a clear message to the rest of the NBA: I’m here.

Statistics are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.