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Vince Carter headlines Class of 2024 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

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Then-UNC basketball player Vince Carter celebrating after UNC’s win in the 1998 ACC men’s basketball tournament championship game in Greensboro. Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics.

It's called the "Dunk of Death."

Rewind about 24 years. Team USA is up 69-54 over France in the 2000 Olympic Games  with sixteen minutes left in the second half. Vince Carter, 6-foot-6 small forward wearing No. 9, swipes a sloppy behind-the-back outlet pass from France's Yann Bonato.

One dribble. Another. Two steps and... liftoff.

“I'm not easily impressed by things, but some of the things that he did on the court, I'm thinking to myself, ‘Wow, that's incredible,’” said Phil Ford, who was a three-time All-American, the 1978 National Player of the Year and former UNC assistant coach.

Carter, most known for his electric dunks, will headline the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class of 2024 inductees, an honor only a dozen other Tar Heels — player or coach — have received. He will join fellow UNC basketball standout Walter Davis, who will be honored posthumously.

Alongside legends like Chauncey Billups and Jerry West, Carter will be enshrined in Springfield, Mass. on Aug. 17, with 12 others. Carter and Davis will be the seventh and eighth players from UNC to be selected into the Hall of Fame, more than any other school. The two played under former UNC head coach Dean Smith, marking Smith's ninth and 10th players to reach the Hall — the most of any coach in college basketball history.

"To see the things that Vince accomplished at Carolina — the fans, he did something that was never seen before," former UNC teammate Antawn Jamison said

Speaking to ESPN's Jay Bilas and Rece Davis, Carter was taken aback by the honor when he received the call he would be in the hall. 

“To just be on the finalist list is top-notch itself,” he said. “To get the call on April Fools' Day, I needed a moment just to process it to make sure it was real. It’s a wonderful moment. To get to be a part of it is just so surreal.” 

In college, Carter was most known for helping lead the Tar Heels to back-to-back Final Four appearances. He was a first-team All-ACC pick and All-American in 1998, averaging 15.6 points and leading the ACC in field goal shooting.

Jamison, 1998 National Player of the Year and retired NBA player, was there to witness Carter’s growth from the beginning. As suitemates, the two became like brothers. Their close relationship off the court helped explain their success on it.

“It was one of those situations where we were very inseparable," Jamison said, "and we learned not only how to be student-athletes together, but just defining what kind of men we were going to become together as well."

After college, Carter was drafted fifth overall in 1998 by the Golden State Warriors, but he was traded immediately to the Toronto Raptors, where he would make his largest mark. The all-time record holder for NBA seasons played with 22, Carter won the NBA Rookie of the Year award in 1999 and the Slam Dunk Contest in 2000.

He is one of only five players to reach both the 25,000-point and 2,000 3-pointer milestones. In addition, he was named to the all-star team eight times and was an All-NBA selection twice.

“He was able to take coaching, but with the God-given athleticism that he had, he just became a great, great player,” Ford said. “By the time he left Carolina, he was just an all-around skilled player that was extremely athletic.”

Not only did Carter cement himself as one of the greatest dunkers to ever play in the NBA, but he also helped lead Team USA to Olympic gold in 2000 in Australia, where he made one of the most memorable dunks in basketball history with his "Dunk of Death" leap over 7-foot-2 French center Frederic Weis.

“He would be dancing after a dunk,” Jamison said. “[It was just] so enjoyable, just watching the acrobatic moves and the hanging in the air. It was unbelievable as a teammate to watch. I can only imagine [watching] as a fan.”

Now a dream that Carter could have never imagined is going to become a reality later this year.

“Last time we talked, I said, ‘Man, did you ever envision yourself going into the Basketball Hall of Fame?’ Jamison said. “He was just like, ‘I never thought it would be possible.’ I can just remember that first day as teammates at Carolina to looking at him now."

Carter said this moment is emotional because he has a great appreciation for the honor.

“I think that’s where the emotions come for me because yes, I played the game, but until you receive that call, the reality was bliss for me," he told ESPN. "I just needed to hear it to believe it."

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