Half-Man Half-Amazing Leaves An Impact Beyond Dunks

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Story by KL Chouinard
Twitter: @KLChouinard

Lloyd Pierce and Vince Carter agree that Carter has climbed as high as he is going to climb on one all-time NBA leaderboard.

"I don't know if he's going to catch anyone else," Pierce quipped.

Ray Allen. Reggie Miller. Jason Terry. Kyle Korver. Steph Curry. Jamal Crawford. These are the six players in NBA history with more three-pointers than Vince Carter, who slid into seventh place in the Hawks' win over the Wizards last week. 

"I'm satisfied with seventh," Carter said with a smile upon hearing the names. "Seventh is OK. I don't think I'm catching that group."

If you didn't realize that Carter was one of the NBA's all-time great three-point shooters, you're not alone. Sometimes the dunks get in the way.

To put it another way, if you're ever spoken with Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins about his game or heard him discuss it on TV, then you have probably also heard him say some version of, "It's hard to get 26,000 points on dunks." And obviously he didn't. Dominique scored on jump shots and floaters and turnarounds, too. He was probably the top practitioner of the bank shot in the 1980s. The Human Highlight Film dunks were the points replayed over and over again, but they weren't the only points. 

A similar thing happened for Vince and his threes. They were always there. But The Half-Man, Half-Amazing dunks embedded themselves deep in the cortex of our cumulative basketball brain. The fact that he scored 6450 of his 25,085 points on threes stayed secondary in our memories. 

"It's part of our human nature," head coach Lloyd Pierce said. "You remember what you remember. If you grew up just watching Dominique dunk, you're going to remember him as such. The same thing with Vince. You remember an ESPN highlight every night, just something new and different that you had never seen him doing in a game. That's what you remember him originally as."

Forgive the younger players on the roster, some of whom grew up with posters of Vince dunks on their walls, for not fully realizing where Carter stands among the ranks of the all-time great three-point shooters, having made 2150 career threes at a 37.3 percent clip.

"It makes sense now about why we rarely beat him," DeAndre' Bembry laughed. 

Bembry, Carter, and Kent Bazemore form the core of a group that holds a three-point shooting competition after most practices and shootarounds. The group shoots threes from six spots on the floor. When a player makes seven in a row from one spot, they move onto the next spot. The winner is the first to finish at all six spots. 

To this point in the season, Carter has won more than his fair share of games.

"You've got to get out to a good start against Vince because he gets hot," Bazemore said. We've seen him reel off 20 or 25 straight shots."

When Carter entered the NBA, the three-point shot wasn't at the forefront of his approach to the game.

"Everyone wanted to see the dunks," Carter said. "My mentality coming in was, 'I'm going to dunk it.' I didn't care about anything, really. I didn't have a fear." 

The fear belonged to those trying to guard him. They inched back toward the goal with the hope of preventing his drives, and correspondingly, his dunks. The adjustment set up his three-point shot. Carter converted over 40 percent of this threes in both his second and third NBA seasons.  

Over the years, Carter has become more of a technician and honed his shot with the help of experts, most notably Holger Geschwindner, the shot coach who has worked with Dirk Nowitzki for more than two decades. Carter studied with him during his three seasons in Dallas.

"(Geschwindner) said, 'Hey, can I show you something different?' Carter said. "And I was like, 'Absolutely.' Whenever he was around, I was listening."

(For the sake of reference, it's worth noting that both Nowitzki and Carter entered the NBA in 1998 and have played a comparable number of games. Vince has made 230 more threes than Dirk's prodigious total of 1920.)

Carter has shared his tips that he has picked up over the years with the Hawks' youngsters. His most frequent pupil this season has been rookie Omari Spellman. 

"He helped me with always going left-right, and holding my form," Spellman said. "Sometimes I get inconsistent with my form and inconsistent with my feet. He just helped me with the consistency of those things and it helped a lot."

Spellman tweaked his footwork pattern.

"I used to use inside foot coming to the ball, so if the ball was being passed to me from my left side, I would right-left it, but if the ball was being passed to me from my right, I would left-right it. They've been working with me on the footwork of always being left-right." 

Pierce is on board with Carter's work with his younger teammates. 

"He developed himself into a really good – an elite – shooter," Pierce said. "Now this is the payoff. But you can't take away that initial feeling, that initial response of who he was."

Basketball fans are always going to remember Vince for his dunks in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest and for his bound over Frederic Weis in the 2000 Summer Olympics. At the same time, he wouldn't mind you remembering him for his ability to shoot, too.

"It's a great accomplishment to even be in the conversation with the top shooters," Carter said. "I'm very thankful. It also shows that I can do more than dunk."

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