The Ambivalence & Realization of Vince Carter
Will VC finally champion the hearts of his fans and followers?
The below conversation is a brief dialogue that my best friend Aaron and I engaged in recently, as we are wont to do on occasion and having spent much of boyhood analyzing the details of NBA basketball, it’s not such a random occurrence. To be concise, Vince Carter was a significant person of interest in our growing-up, as he was the salve of seeming healing while Michael Jordan was busy pouring salt in our wounds while retiring, un-retiring, retiring and so on.
Aaron: “First the Fat Boys break up, and Vince Carter wanna layup….” It seems like Vince Carter’s career should be divided up like Lil Wayne’s discography. “Tha Carter,” “Tha Carter II” and “Tha Carter III.”
Me: VC needs a time machine, a la “Back To The Future”–maybe he could change places with the Vince who wore Puma shoes and lifted weights like his life depended on.
(In fact, his game did depend on it…the minute he quit lifting for real, he got that stupid jumper’s knee…he’s the reverse Griffey!)
Aaron: I hate Vince now! Even though he puts up “good” numbers, he is still overrated and in many ways he failed to reach his true potential. I may have to add him to the NC guys that should have either stayed in school or were draft busts. Joseph Forte, Rashad McCants, Sean May, Shammond Williams, JR Reid and Brendan Haywood.
Me: I won’t say Sean May is a bust yet. I have to wait this year and the next to see, because he’s been injured so much. Having said that, VC is just a tragedy. There’s no reason that he should be anything less than a surefire Hall of Famer, but he’s hellbent on coming up short. If he has a triumphant ending to his career with the Magic…who knows. He’s what Dominique would’ve been had ‘Nique stopped trying in the 90s, lol. And McCants? He’s just… I mean, I know he had that microfracture surgery a little while ago, but dang, man, he doesn’t have any more excuses. Shammond Williams, on the contrary, I believe he did what he was going to do. He fell somewhat short of being a star, but in reality, his UNC teams made him seem more talented than he was, and he was 24 in his senior year! He should’ve been ballin’, haha! Brendan Haywood was a goon who should’ve worked on his game in college…now’s he a 30-year-old goon who hasn’t improved.
By the way, North Carolina is going to be a serious problem this year. John Henson is going to be something real special.
And so the conversation went on like this. And it’s an interesting subject, Vince Carter is. I mean, this is a guy who was thought to be what, in many ways, Kobe and LeBron have become, over a sustained period of time, and the reality is really that his first three years were the ones that really showed signs of great impact from the Vince Carter stamp. It’s a difficult thing to consider, too.
Having watched Vince since he was a freshman at North Carolina and having used the Dean Smith school to build himself as a complete player, I expected greatness—we expected greatness. Yes, the hops and the body were signs that he’d be really good, but it was the skill set that he used in tandem with the athleticism to fabricate the amazing results of having scored two or three points on any given possession.
Those that have been paying even the slightest bit of attention to Vince over the past decade knows the whole story about Vince, and we need not delve into the brilliance and nonsense that became of his excursion in Toronto. There, “Air Canada” was a shooting star for some nebulous reason unknown to most people not playing the game with him. Was he depressed? Bored? Selfish? Uninterested? Preoccupied? Frustrated? Probably a little bit of all of those, at least. We that watched the 20-year old VC couldn’t help but wonder why the 25- and 26-year-old wasn’t himself. What about New Jersey? OK, that was a truer, more mature “Vinsanity,” but even then, the insanity about his game was nearly all lost. I understood him wanting to play a smarter floor game and ya-ya-ya. It’s not like that fadeaway three-pointer wasn’t actually falling, because he was hitting. He was hitting most nights when he wanted to exploit his opponents, but it’s just unsettling that he still wasn’t the revolutionary character I imagined on the hardwood battlefield.
And so now, VC is back and already home like Hov and Cudi, and he’s already 11 seasons deep into his famed professional basketball career. After dunking over and on grown men, headlining the Swoosh for high performance sneakers and raising his 6-6, 225-pound body in the air repeatedly on national television for 15 years, Carter is ready to contribute to a title contender for the Orlando Magic. It’s fitting that he’d come home to finally try and do damage, because it was his outstanding prep career in Daytona Beach, FL that gave observers the insight into the boy wonder’s magic.
How do we judge Vince today? Knowing the past, seeing the present, and pondering the future, what do we make of Vincent Lamar Carter? Is he a failure in some way? Is he a Hall of Famer? Is his early Toronto flameout proportional to his seemingly decreasing weight-training activity (I’m only half-joking)? Is he actually Dwayne Carter’s NBA double?
Ultimately, how Vince Carter is judged is by what he does today. Yesterday’s insight into a somewhat-unfulfilled future is what partly made his ball-playing person the enigma he has been seen as today. For this, seeing VC in black and blue is just one of the things that I’ll look forward to in the ’09-10 NBA season. The Magic marriage could be the sound-off to horns that I’ve been waiting to see for all of my b-ball viewing life.
If he has a triumphant ending to his career with the Magic…who knows.
Sandy Dover is a novelist/writer, artist, fitness enthusiast, as well as an unrepentant Prince fan (for real). You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline, as well as at Associated Content and Twitter.