Originally published in SLAM 51

With a sigh of incredible relief, Vince Carter slid the cardkey into the lock and pushed open the door to his penthouse suite at the Grand Hyatt in downtown D.C. It was early morning on Friday, Feb. 9, and all he wanted to do was sleep. Only thing was, his king-sized Serta was blanketed Muggsy-deep with roses. Sunshine-yellow roses. At the foot of the bed was a plain white card, which read, simply: “Thanks in advance for Sunday.” Instead of a signature, there was just a numeral 8. Shaking his head, Carter kicked off his shoes, tossed the card in the trash and fell asleep on the couch.

Throughout the weekend, Vince found himself showered with gifts, all accompanied by the same card, all signed with that same “8”. On Saturday night, a gigantic steak was sent to his room with the note, “You’ll need energy for Sunday.” Sunday morning, a two-hour massage was accompanied by “You’re gonna need another one of these after the game.” Sunday afternoon, immediately before heading to the arena, he checked at the front desk for messages. He was handed a small, square box that contained two things. One was a Slinky. The other was one of those cards, inscribed with just one word. “Boing.”

Gametime. Not leaving anything to chance, Vince blanketed Kobe like a pashmina. “Damn, you’re gonna make me start going to the basket, man, cool up,” KB8 exclaimed. “I’m trying to rest.” Vince didn’t respond. Then, on the other end, with Kobe checking him, he saw it—a lane wide open along the left baseline. Driving, he unleashed a two-handed 360 that retroactively won the previous night’s Dunk Contest. Job done, he laid back in the cut, allowing the AI and Starbury Show to clean up.

The bottle of Cristal resting at his locker afterwards was a surprise. Attach to the neck was one of those cards. He opened it, to find one word. “Thanks.” Same handwriting. The only difference was no “8”. Just a Superman “S.”

Russ Bengtson