Few realize that there is much more to “Vinsanity” than the pure talent he showed on a daily basis. It is his personality that has helped him survive in the league until the age of 43, developing a team-first mentality that has helped him maneuver through a wild NBA career.
His genetics could only take him so far. The combination of age and nagging injuries made it harder for him to make the flashy plays that transformed him into the Toronto Raptors’ first superstar. Frustrations piled up on both sides, leading to an ugly divorce.
While he continued to be a productive scorer, he didn't discover a leadership role until he became a member of the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. Carter was relegated to the bench during the season after starting several games, but there was no anger. He instead developed into a key sixth man for the team.
Carter also evolved into a good teammate, going out of his way to spread his knowledge of basketball. He was a terrific presence in the locker for the younger players that were trying to integrate into the team’s system.
The former Tar Heel continued to mentor the NBA’s youth as his playing time decreased. His final two seasons have been with an Atlanta Hawks team with an extremely young core. He was brought in to be a veteran voice and help prepare the team to be better positioned to make a championship run in future seasons.
He did not want to chase a championship in the twilight of his career, like so many players before him. He decided instead to be a role model for a team still in a building phase. It was a rough season for the Hawks, but he remained on the bench supporting his teammates.
Carter may have never gotten his ring, but he got the respect from players, coaches and owners across the league that was lost after his time in Toronto.
He never asked for the league-wide celebration that other recently-retired legends such as Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki received. That’s not his style.
Perhaps the unceremonious ending to Carter’s career is fitting for the eight-time All Star. It was never about him as an individual, but about the success of his team. He put in the work every night to help them win, even when the intensities of the game started to take a toll on his aging body.
His impact goes way beyond the highlight dunks seen all over television. He has inspired generations of players through his exceptional character and knowledge of basketball.
Vince Carter may be out of the league, but his presence will be felt in the NBA for years to come.
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