The summer of 1998 was the start of something special, the start of a new era in basketball. At the time the NBA was riding the coattails of aging NBA superstars Karl Malone, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan in the hopes that some new young talent would take the league by storm once they retired.
Up and coming superstars in Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal would help pave the way for a new brand of basketball in the NBA, but as the 1998 draft approached no one knew how influential these set of draft picks would be.
With Mike Bibby (2nd overall pick), Jason Williams (7th overall pick), Dirk Nowitzki (9th overall pick in 1998), Paul Pierce (10th overall pick), and Rashard Lewis (32nd overall pick) all coming out of this draft no one knew what kind of careers these players would go on to have but to say the least, the NBA was left in good hands after the dominant Chicago Bulls championship run of the 90’s.
One player we didn’t mention who also came out of that 1998 NBA draft, maybe you know him, drafted by the Golden State Warriors 5th overall, Mr. Vince Carter.
A man still playing in the league to this day, Carter’s 20-year hall of fame career has been nothing short of spectacular and someone you know is going to lay his body on the line for the betterment of the team.
An absolute pro’s pro that has learned over the course of two decades how to adapt to the ever-changing style of how the NBA game is played.
For Carter, as a part of a draft day trade in 1998, the Warriors sent him to the Toronto Raptors for Antawn Jamison.
Considered some of the best years of Carter’s career, he would go on to win Rookie of the Year in 1999 helping lead the Toronto Raptors to their first ever playoff appearance in 2000 and an eventual 1st round playoff series win in 2001.
Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Spud Webb, and Michael Jordan, all players in their respective eras that helped pave the way for extraordinary dunks in the NBA, and now it was Carter’s turn to take the reins.
Enter the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk contest in front of a national audience glued to their television, “Vinsanity” was born, as they soon discovered the man known for his high flying 360 degree through the leg dunks, notably dunking an entire arm into the rim.
Carter would go to lead the Raptors to three playoff appearances in five years with the team before being traded to the Nets (2004-2009), Orlando Magic (2009-2010), Phoenix Suns (2010-2011), Dallas Mavericks (2011-2014), Memphis Grizzlies (2014-2017), and now your Sacramento Kings here in 2018.
As leg injuries lingered for Carter in the summer of 2002 and talents that he had taken for granted in his first few years in the league before the injuries, he realized the work and dedication to his craft had to be put in for him to sustain the rigors of an 82 game season each year.
Unfairly known as a fragile player after his injuries began to pile up, missing 30-40 games a year time after time, Carter knew something had to be done.
After the trade to the Nets, Carter spoke about his work ethic to the media and it really opened eyes around the league.
“In years past, no. I was fortunate to have the talent…you get spoiled when you’re able to do a lot of things, “ Carter said. “You see that you don’t have to work at it. Now, with injuries, I have to work harder. I’m a little hungrier. Getting a fresh start has made me want to attack the basket.”
Carter went on to do just that with the Nets, posting averages of 23.6 points in his 5 seasons with the team besting his 23.4 points back with the Raptors.
After more than a decade in the NBA, Carter began to move around team to team but memorably with the Dallas Mavericks re-uniting with his former Net teammate Jason Kidd in 2011.
The times were changing and the game was evolving to how we know it today, no more passing it down low to your big fella for an easy two-points as Carter had come to be accustomed to, rather electing to shoot the 3-pointer more often than not.
Forcing defenses out of the paint to the top of the key became the norm and Carter knew he needed to adapt with his aging body, extinct skill set, and unpolished 3-point potential.
In Vince Carter fashion, he improved his long-range by shooting 36 percent from downtown in 2011, to 40 percent in 2012 and 2013 with the Dallas Mavericks showing teams around the league that he may be aging but as the league adapts so can he.
After Carter’s final stint with the Memphis Grizzlies and becoming the first person at the age of 40 to make 3 or more 3-pointers in a playoff game against the Spurs, he knew he still had something left in the tank.
Carter signed a one-year, $8 million contract with the Sacramento Kings on July 10, 2017 knowing that not only would he get to play but be tasked with mentoring and sharing his experiences and knowledge to the youth movement here in Sacramento.
Through 50 games with the team you can already see a noticeable impact on how Kings players are adjusting to their 40-year-old teammate, as Carter continues to work with Harry Giles and Skal Labissiere in private sessions prior to games and practices.
While also helping coach the youth from both the sidelines and on the court, he has provided a strong veteran presence that this team has dearly needed all season.
“I think they value my opinion,” Carter said. “They’ve allowed me to kind of be in their ear, even when times are tough…It’s always tough, especially when a guy hasn’t been through it before, and when you tell them something, they hear it.”
Carter has seen the ups and downs on each team that he has been on and although he never won a championship ring in his 20 seasons he has provided the youth movement here in Sacramento with a plethora of in-game knowledge and a better understanding on how to be a professional basketball player in the NBA.
Recently, Kings fans got to witness vintage Vince Carter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Golden One Center, as he outscored LeBron James for the first time in a decade at the age of 40.
The Kings went on to win 109-95 behind Vinsanity’s 24 points, 4-of-5 from beyond the arc in one of Carter’s most memorable games of his career.
“He made some bombs…He’s a Hall of Famer for a reason, let’s not take that for granted,” James said. “Once he got going, we couldn’t slow him down.”
For his career up to this point, Carter is an 8-time NBA All-Star, NBA Rookie of the year, All-NBA Second Team (2001) and Third-Team (2000), and 1-time Gold Medalist in the Olympics for sure measure. And to top it off, Carter is only 1 of 6 players in league history to accumulate 24,000 points, 6,000 rebounds, 2,500 assists, 1,000 steals, and 1,000 3-point field goals.
All-in-all to do what he is doing at age 41 is incredible and while he has come and gone as an opposing player to each of his respective teams throughout the past few years and heard tribute after tribute thinking that would be his last game in their arena, he continues to impress and drink from the fountain of youth.
We as spectators don’t know what the future holds for Carter and how much he has left in the tank as a player, but one thing is for certain, coaching in the NBA will most likely be where we see him flourish next.