Vince Carter is “officially done playing basketball professionally.” The legendary North Carolina alum will not be returning when the rest of the NBA starts its season back up again in late July in Orlando. The 43-year-old announced his retirement on The Ringer’s Winging It With Vince Carter podcast on June 25, calling it a career after 22 years in the NBA.
Carter already said the 2019-20 season would be his last run during an interview with ESPN’s The Jump in June last year, and he signed a one-year deal to return to the Hawks later in August.
According to the NBA, the suspended season is set to restart on July 31 with 22 teams to play inside the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida. With a record of 20-47, however, the Hawks are not among those invited to Orlando — Carter’s career ended in March when the season was halted because of the coronavirus pandemic. It was an abrupt ending that he called “tough” in the podcast.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver praised Carter for making “an indelible impact on the NBA with his remarkable skill and enduring commitment,” and thanked him for being “a true ambassador of the game.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Carter Is the First NBA Player to Play Across 4 Decades
Carter made history in the game against the Pacers on January 4 this year, becoming the first NBA player to appear in at least one game in four different decades– 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and 2020s. Hanging up his threads after 22 seasons, he also set a record for most seasons played in league history.
The Golden State Warriors selected Carter with an overall fifth pick in the 1998 NBA draft and quickly traded him to the Toronto Raptors, where he rose to fame and won Rookie of the Year in 1999. He averaged a career-high 27.6 points per game in his third season, and led the Raptors to their first second-round playoff appearance, according to the CBC. He signed a six-year, $94 million contract extension with the Raptors in August 2001, but began to be haunted by knee problems.
Carter was traded to the New Jersey Nets in 2004 and spent five years there. He played for another six teams for the rest of his career, but none lasted for more than three seasons.
Before his retirement, Carter was the last active player from the 1998 draft. The announcement somewhat came as a formality, since the eight-time All-Star had repeatedly said that this would be his last NBA season.
2. Carter’s Slam Dunks Earned Him Iconic Nicknames Including ‘Half Man, Half Amazing’
Carter’s best-known nicknames are related to his unbelievable leaping ability and slam dunks: “Half Man, Half Amazing,” “Vinsanity” (yes, long before “Linsanity”) and “Air Canada.” Considered one of the greatest dunkers in basketball history, he won the Slam Dunk Contest at the 2000 NBA All-Star Weekend, resurrecting a contest in which fans had gradually lost interest.
Basketball fans had not seen the contest for two years before that, not to mention a dunker like Carter. In 1998, the NBA ditched the Slam Dunk Contest due to a lack of interest and star players. And the following year, the All-Star Weekend was canceled because of the 204-day NBA lockout.
Carter saved a contest that was on the downgrade with one of the greatest performances ever: a 360 windmill slam, the famous “East Bay Funk Dunk” and the “honey dip.” He, therefore, set a high standard for future contestants, who will have to resort to more creativity, including dressing up as the Superman, to impress the judges and the audience.
Later that year, Carter, who’s 6’6’’, dunked over the 7’2’’ French center Frédéric Weis during a game between the U.S. and France at the 2000 Summer Olympics. The dunk, which went viral even without social media, was so powerful that the French referred to it as “the dunk of death.” Weis later told ESPN that Carter deserved to make history.
3. Carter Gave Up His Starting Spot to Michael Jordan at the 2003 All-Star Game
Moments after Carter was announced as a starter for the Eastern Conference in the 2003 NBA All-Star Game, the announcer revealed that Michael Jordan, who was among the reserves in his 14th and last ever NBA All-Star Game, would take his spot, according to The Undefeated.
It actually took some convincing to get Jordan to take the starting spot, Carter told The Undefeated. He didn’t tell Jordan about his decision until the pregame huddle. He grabbed Jordan and whispered in his ears. “I told him, ‘You’re taking this spot,’ ” said Carter during the 2019 interview.
But the six-time NBA champion insisted that Carter earned his spot. “It’s a Catch-22,” Jordan told The Undefeated. “If he gives up his spot, some fans will be disappointed. … That’s not the way it’s meant to be.”
“I told him he wasn’t getting me blackballed from the league. … He kept saying, ‘No, no, no. You earned it.’ I said, ‘Yeah … but this is your last one. So you’re gonna take the spot.’ If he didn’t, I was gonna walk back into the tunnel and into the locker room so he wouldn’t have had a choice,” said Carter.
Jordan went on to score 20 points in 36 minutes, while Carter, who played 25 minutes off the bench, only scored nine points. The Western Conference won the game in double overtime, but what’s probably more memorable is Carter paying tribute to the greatest of all time.
“That’s a memory that nobody else can talk about. That can’t be duplicated. Bruh, I got a story—I can tell this story forever. Nobody else can say that,” said Carter when he recounted the moment again during the All the Smoke podcast last month.
“It was a great stand-up moment, and it spoke volumes to me about the person and the man that Vince Carter is,” said Isiah Thomas, who was selected to coach 2003 Eastern Conference All-Stars.
4. Carter Played Multiple Sports in High School & Was a Drum Major
Carter demonstrated to be versatile and played multiple sports during his time at Mainland High School in Daytona Beach, Fla. According to the Florida High School Athletic Association, he recorded more than 2,200 points, 985 rebounds, and 335 assists over his high school basketball career.
He also played quarterback in his freshman year but had to give up football after he broke his wrist. He then got involved in another sport that he thought could help him elevate his skills in basketball–volleyball.
“I felt volleyball was important for my second jump,” he told USA Today. “I began to enjoy the sport, so I played it for three years … I knew the game would translate for what I was trying to accomplish and become a professional basketball player.”
Carter also had an unconventional interest in music. He served as a drum major for the Mainland marching band in his senior year and was offered a saxophone scholarship to Bethune-Cookman College, according to USA Today.
5. Carter Is Dedicated to Charity Work That Supports Children & Mentoring Young Players
In 1998, Carter established the Embassy of Hope Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims to help children reach their full potential by providing support to those who are less fortunate and encouraging them to believe in their dreams.
The foundation has raised funds for local hospitals, student scholarships, and children and women programs. Its flagship charity gala even brought Shaq O’Neal in 2018, when it awarded O’Neal’s father, Lucille O’Neal, the Embassy of Hope Foundation Hall of Fame Award.
According to the foundation, it has donated over 1.9 million dollars in the United States and Canada since its founding in 1998 and has also donated food and clothing to communities at home and abroad.
Carter recently said that he desires to continue his community service work post-retirement, mentor players, and bridge the gap between them and the ownership side.