The last time Vince Carter was a Toronto Raptor YouTube hadn’t been invented yet, among other things, which is a little like Dorothy Parker existing before Twitter. On Tuesday, Vince returned to Toronto again, on a seventh different team since he left his greatest and only enduring NBA home. He is 41 years old, all of a sudden. Is this the last time he comes back? Will he finally retire, 15 years after he left in search of a happier place to be?
“I honestly don’t know,” said Carter in a morning scrum before his …Atlanta Hawks? ... played the Raptors. “I’m so up and down with it … I would like to come back and play, and then next month, I’ll probably say, this is it. It’s just one of those things, when you get close to the end, doing something you love for so long: for me it’s one of those final decisions that’s tough to make until the last minute.”
If he plays 36 of the 42 games left in Atlanta’s nowhere season he will pass Moses Malone, Kevin Garnett and Karl Malone for fifth in career NBA games. Asked if there was anything new left for him, Carter remembered to mention a championship before talking about being tied with Robert Parish, Garnett and Vince’s one-time Raptors teammate Kevin Willis with a record 21 seasons played. It sounds like he’d like to break that record.
He’s mostly a body now, a veteran three-point shooter who people like, who can still uncork a dunk in the pre-game that set the internet ablaze in quiet, nostalgic ways. But Vince can’t stop.
“I’m just not tired of it. It’s hard work and it’s a little tougher than it was 10 years ago, but I still enjoy the grind. I don’t mind flying late on the plane, or four games in five nights. I can’t imagine not doing it.”
So he keeps going. He has never admitted he quit on Toronto, regardless of whether he was right to. Nobody was ever booed more here. But now he’s almost survived almost long enough to outlast the argument over his departure here. That the argument never fully died has always been proof Vince is still the biggest star the franchise has ever had.
“For me, when I first got here 5 1/2 years ago and you’d bump into people on the street and they’d say ‘Oh you’re with the Raptors? Oh, we love Vince Carter’ would be the next sentence out of their mind,” says Raptors coach Nick Nurse. “His name is synonymous with Toronto Raptors basketball. He left an impression. I mean, seriously, he left an impression.”