After 22 seasons in the NBA, Vince Carter has called it a career.
In an interview on the “Winging It with Vince Carter” podcast via The Ringer Network, the former eight-time All-Star and Rookie of the Year winner left no doubt about his playing days being over.
“I’m officially finished playing basketball,” Carter said. “I’m officially done playing basketball professionally.”
The announcement was largely a formality because the 43-year-old Carter had said many times over the course of this season that this would be his last in the NBA. His 22 seasons are the most in league history, and he became the first NBA player to appear in four different decades.
Atlanta is one of eight teams whose COVID-19-interrupted season ended when the league decided to resume play with 22 teams in Florida next month. The Hawks played their final game of 2019-20 on March 11, a 136-131 loss to the New York Knicks in which Carter got in the game and sank a 3-pointer with 13.4 seconds left in overtime.
Carter said making that last shot helped make his NBA exit a little easier to swallow.
“Making my last shot helped the situation. I think if I didn’t make my last shot, it’d have been a little different. It’d have felt a little different. I’d have been itching to, at least get back and just play one minute and just make one shot — I don’t care what it would be: free throw, layup, I don’t care,” Carter said. “As a player playing your last game — whether you know it or not — you always want to say, ‘well, at least I made the last shot of my career.’ And I can actually say that, so I’m happy.”
The coronavirus pandemic also played a big part in Carter’s decision to retire, particularly how it was affecting the United States and world at large.
“I’m not going to say since March 11 (I knew I was going to retire), I’m not going to say since that day, but pretty close,” Carter said. “Since the end of March — we’ve talked about it — I felt that it was pretty much over. That’s kind of how I’ve handled it. It made for, if there was any disappointment because of the season or any of that, it was easier to put it aside and handle it that way. It’s something bigger than my career.
“With the coronavirus, it was taking people’s lives rapidly — that’s the big picture in my mind. I was able to put the weird ending, the abrupt stoppage of play to an ending, aside for the bigger picture. Obviously you’re worried about family, friends … as you go further on, there’s always going to be somebody close to you or pretty close by way of somebody that’s been affected by it.”
Since being away from the game, Carter said he has had more time to play golf, which he says has helped ease his transition from being an active player to retirement.
When Carter began his NBA career with the Toronto Raptors in 1998, the NBA was in the midst of a bitter labor dispute that wiped out most of the first half of his rookie season. The NBA is restarting its season on July 30 in Orlando, but neither Carter nor the Hawks will be a part of that.
Still, Carter said he was able to appreciate the sort of symmetry his career has in starting his career in a shortened season and ending it in a similar fashion.
“It is official. It wasn’t like a shocking blow [to be left out of the 22-team field]. It wasn’t like a painful blow hearing it or reading it, because I kind of was already there,” Carter said. “It’s awkward, but it’s kind of a cool situation for me because I came into the league in a shortened season and I walk away from the league on a shortened season. For me, it was just kind of a unique situation.”
The Hawks quickly lauded Carter for what he’s done, not just in two years with Atlanta but over the totality of his career.
“Throughout his historic 22-year journey covering an unprecedented four different decades, his evolving career arc was perhaps like none other in league history — from Top 5 Draft Pick to Rookie of the Year to Slam Dunk Champion to superstar and eight-time All-Star to Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year and valuable role player,” the Hawks said in a statement.
In January, Carter became the first player in NBA history to appear in a game in four different decades. Although he is perhaps best known for his seasons with the Raptors, Carter also played for the New Jersey Nets, Orlando Magic, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings before spending the final two seasons of his career with the Hawks.
A two-time All-NBA team selection in his career, Carter leaves the NBA ranked No. 19 on the all-time scoring list. He is also in the top 10 in virtually every category in Raptors history, including points scored (4th), assists (6th), steals (5th), blocks (4th), field goals made (3rd) and 3-pointers made (5th).