As one of the NBA’s elder statesmen and oldest players, Vince Carter takes his role as a mentor seriously. And that goes for not only the youngsters on the Sacramento Kings’ roster but young players around the league who grew up watching him in his prime.The big wins, like Friday night’s triumph over an injury-ravaged Golden State Warriors team in Oakland, still resonate with Carter. As do the lessons learned from the good times and the tougher times for a lottery-bound crew.
That’s why Carter is spending as much time these days putting the finishing touches on what will likely be a Hall of Fame career, as he is teaching lessons about how to manage an extended career in a league that taxes your body and mind in ways you cannot imagine. Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee details Carter’s teaching role with the young Kings and what keeps him going:
In the closing weeks of his 24th season, he is committed to passing along his most valuable lessons to his young teammates, not the least of which is cautioning De’Aaron Fox and Frank Mason III against unnecessarily “reckless” drives to the basket that threaten to shorten their careers.
The veteran swingman’s own extensive, decades-old portfolio of Hall of Fame-worthy accomplishments include these: Elevated the Toronto Raptors from infancy to NBA relevance; captured an Olympic gold medal; named Rookie of the Year and to eight All-Star teams; won the slam dunk contest and earned the nicknames of “Air Canada,” “Half-Man, Half-Amazing,” “Vinsanity,” to name just a few, and not necessarily to his delight.
“For a long time I just had to remain patient,” Carter said. “I remember being asked, ‘Does that bother you? To be known mostly as a dunker?’ At first it really did. That’s all I heard. But I continued working on my game, and as I got older, you didn’t see so much dunking. It was more like, ‘Man, you shoot the ball well, you pass well.’ Make the ball move, make the right play, no matter who I am playing for.”
For someone of his stature, Carter has played for a surprising number of teams (seven) and has not always arrived at an ideal time. He has only one conference finals appearance – with the Orlando Magic in 2010 – and joined the New Jersey Nets and Dallas Mavericks the season after they appeared in the NBA Finals.
Yet each season has been an encore, an experiment and a curiosity, and at an age when most of his peers are long retired, the obvious question hovers: What makes Vince run?