Beyond his well-earned status as dunk-master emeritus of the NBA, Vince Carter is emphatically still a contributing member of an NBA squad. Now in his record-tying 21st season, Carter is logging just over 16 minutes per game for the Atlanta Hawks and knocking down nearly 40 percent of his attempts from downtown while mentoring a talented group of up-and-comers.
With Dwyane Wade officially retiring after the season, many have speculated that Carter might follow suit and have thus treated him as such at each of his road games along the way with standing ovations and anticipatory tribute videos. The only problem is that Carter says he’d like to give it another go next season, if possible.
And why not? The former All-Star has been blessed with good health late in his career, he’s proven that he can still be productive in modest stretches, and perhaps most important, the desire is still there. Careers like Carter’s are exceedingly rare in the NBA, and that’s because most players of his stature struggle to make the transition from superstar to role player.
Carter recently spoke with Dime about what has been the key for him taking on that veteran leadership role and how he looked to a few former NBA greats as role models for how to transcend your ego and extend your longevity in a league that has swiftly revolving doors at either end.
“It doesn’t have to come next,” Carter told Dime. “It’s just what would come next if you want to keep playing the game in your, uh, elder years [laughs]. And I was OK with that. Yes I thought there were guys to talk to, but I just did my homework. When I became a role player I got into watching YouTube and started looking at how Vinnie Johnson played the game and how he was prepared. Little things that they did, Vinnie Johnson, [Manu] Ginobili. I looked at the greatest sixth men in the league’s history and just watched them and how do I now learn to incorporate who I am as a player with that approach. So, my mentality never changed. Yes, I’m coming off the bench, but my mentality was still an aggressive player like I was a starter. So I learned how to balance that and make that work.”
The results speak for themselves. Whereas many superstars before him have cut their careers short due to their unwillingness to assume a smaller role, Carter now has a chance to make NBA history playing the game he loves for as long as he’s capable.