Creating his own legend: Vince Carter's role continues to evolve
In his 20th season, former Raptors star is positive influence for young teammates
TORONTO — Vince Carter doesn't know when he'll walk away from basketball, but he's adamant that he still wants to play next season — whether it's with the Sacramento Kings or not.
"I'm just not ready for that. It's easy to sit on the side — you could yell out coverages or help a young guy in a situation but it's another thing actually showing him. I think that's what I still enjoy," Carter said.
In his annual visit to Toronto, the eight-time all-star was relatively quiet, with just four points, three blocks and two assists in 25 minutes played.
It was a far cry from his heyday, when the man once known as "half man, half amazing" electrified crowds across the league with his athleticism and jaw-dropping dunks.
Carter was at the height of his career 16 years ago — fresh off leading the Raptors to their first playoff series win — and he was asked, "how do you feel about being compared to Michael Jordan?"
"Every day I step on the court, I try to create my own legend," Carter responded.
When asked how he'd assess that legend after the Kings' 108-93 loss to the Toronto Raptors, Carter says that hasn't changed.
"I still just try to be me and enjoy who I am, what I bring to the table and what I try to do for young guys who aspire to be professional athletes or are in this league now. It was a true statement and answer," Carter said.
'I've done it my way'
"When I step on the court, I play the game because I love it. I've done it my way. This is who I am, this is how I've done it, and it's been very good to me."
Kings' head coach Dave Joerger knows how important it is to have selfless guys like Carter in such a young locker room.
Joerger previously coached him in Memphis for three seasons and commended the former Raptors star for his class and professionalism.
"He's a guy that young guys can learn from. Vince always loves being in the gym, helping guys — he loves playing. Those are guys that you like being around as a coach," Joerger said.
Ask any of the young Kings' players and they'll have a favourite memory of Carter.
From his memorable performance in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 2000 to the "dunk of death" over Frederic Weis that summer at the Sydney Olympics, Carter has left an impression beyond Canada.
"He's a walking legend. I just remember when he was here with T-Mac [Tracy McGrady]. It's just crazy being in the presence with him in practice and picking his brain," said Kings centre Willie Cauley-Stein.
As the season progresses, rookie Harry Giles says it's been eye-opening to see firsthand the impact Carter has had on people.
He knows how lucky he is to have a resource like Carter, who has 20 seasons worth of experience, and is soaking in every moment alongside him.
"If you ask him something after the game, he'll chat with us about it. That's what vets do, especially him — a future Hall of Famer. He's feeding us the info he knows and trying to help us be the best player that we can be," Giles said.
Fellow first-year player Justin Jackson says the most important thing he's taken from the 40-year-old Carter is "to control what you can control" because things aren't always going to go your way and it's about sticking with it.
"Tip the hat to the guy (<a href="https://twitter.com/mrvincecarter15?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@mrvincecarter15</a>) that pretty much changed the game of basketball for a whole country." - <a href="https://twitter.com/Klow7?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Klow7</a> <br><br>Full Clips: <a href="https://t.co/GGh48Mxdh9">https://t.co/GGh48Mxdh9</a> <a href="https://t.co/FYH7WoRqY3">pic.twitter.com/FYH7WoRqY3</a>—@Raptors
"He gives us a great example of what to try and be like," Jackson said.
Kings guard Frank Mason III hopes to keep bringing the same effort and intensity that Carter brings daily.
While he can't speak for all of his teammates, the 2017 national college player of the year believes there's no excuse to lack that same fire.
"Just watching how he approaches everyday, he comes in ready to work. This is his 20th season, so it amazes me to see how much energy he still brings to the gym," Mason said.
As for season No. 21, Carter knows he still has a role in the league and says as long as that remains the case, he's going to have a job and is going to keep doing it.
He's open to all possibilities, including a return to the Raptors, to which he teased after Sunday's game
"It'll happen, I'm sure. Whether it's one day or something, it'll happen. It's supposed to happen, I think. I can say that now. I've had a lot of people say it's supposed to happen, so now I guess I have to believe," Carter said.