One of the many byproducts of being basketball’s biggest superstar is how often that fact thrusts LeBron James into the center of another impossible-to-definitively-prove debate.
Richard Jefferson, the former Nets star and current analyst for ESPN, has a key perspective on the matter. Jefferson, after all, has played as a teammate of both James and Carter.
“I have never seen anything like Vince Carter,” Jefferson said. “I was fortunate enough to play with LeBron. But there was nothing that I have ever seen this man not be able to do. Left-hand finishes, left-hand dunks, 360 layups, handle it like a point guard. … To me, he is the most talented player I have ever seen in my life.”
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Jefferson Elaborates More on Carter
Jefferson made sure to suggest he wasn’t trying to disrespect LeBron. The intent, Jefferson indicated, was only to highlight just how special Carter was.
“People have kind of looked at Vince and said, ‘Oh, no, he was a great.’ And it’s like, you don’t understand,” Jefferson said. “What this man could do – like, you’ve seen him shoot left-handed 3s, you’ve seen him do all of these things. Vince could do anything on the basketball court and it made it pretty much impossible to guard him. When he first showed up my fourth year in the league in Jersey, he was probably the best player in the league that second half of the season. And if anybody doesn’t believe me, go and check out those numbers.”
Indeed, the numbers don’t lie. Carter was traded to the Nets from the Raptors in December 2004, and proceeded to put on a clinic on a nightly basis. Carter averaged 27.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.9 3-pointers over 57 games that season.
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Panelists Don’t Disagree With Carter
Matt Barnes, another former player turned ESPN analyst, had his own take on the debate – though he didn’t outright disagree with Jefferson.
Barnes said Lakers legend Kobe Bryant was the most talented player he ever played with or against.
“But I’d say, physically, God-given talent? Vince has it, for everything you just mentioned,” Barnes said in response to Jefferson.
ESPN NBA insider Brian Windhorst also didn’t disagree.
“If you would ask who the most gifted player was of that era, I don’t know if I would have said Vince, but I have to yield to those guys who played with him,” Windhorst said. “Because this is something that is a refrain dating back to the mid-90s, when people first saw him as a teenager, to T-Mac (Tracy McGrady), who talked about some of the things he saw him do and some many guys who were his peers. And so when you hear that from so many guys, there’s a preponderance of evidence. We didn’t get to see what Vince did in practice, we only got to see what he did in the games. But I’ve heard stories about all kinds of stuff that the cameras didn’t pick up.”