21 stories from 21 years of Vinsanity

At 43, Vince Carter announced his retirement from the NBA on Thursday after 22 seasons. Ahead of Atlanta’s lone visit of the season to Toronto in 2019, TSN’s Josh Lewenberg spoke with 21 players who have been part of Carter’s remarkable journey in the NBA, which was then at 21 years and counting. Whether they remember him before he was Half-Man Half-Amazing, or whether they’re half his age, they all have something in common: Carter has had a profound impact on their lives.

By Josh Lewenberg

With the Atlanta Hawks making their lone visit of the season on Tuesday, Vince Carter will play his 227th career game in Toronto (playoffs included). It could also be his last.

At nearly 42 years of age, Carter is nearing the end of an illustrious career that is likely to land him in the Hall of Fame when he does walk away. After signing a one-year deal with the rebuilding Hawks over the summer, the league’s oldest player has indicated that there’s a “90-something per cent” chance he will retire following this, his 21st NBA season.

Carter remains a polarizing figure in Toronto and throughout Canada. Some fans see the guy who put the Raptors on the basketball map with his jaw-dropping slam dunks. Others see the disgruntled player that forced his way out of the city.

Carter has played at least one game with 244 different teammates – the most in league history, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Twenty-one of them were interviewed for this story – one for each season Carter’s been in the NBA.

From tales of his instant fame to his athletic feats in practice, down-to-earth personality, veteran leadership and generous heart, they all brought interesting and unique perspectives on Carter’s legacy.

Alvin Williams

(teammates with the Toronto Raptors from 1998-2004)

“I remember when Vince first got drafted in 1998. That was my second year. But we were both sitting out because it was the lockout year and neither one of us had physically signed our contract [yet], so we really couldn’t practice at that time. So we were both riding the bike and stuff together and we would have little conversations.

But I also remember going to the mall early on with Vince and nobody knew who he was. And then about three weeks later I couldn’t go anywhere with Vince. Like, his fanfare and his recognition and his popularity just grew overnight. I’ve never seen anything like that. From going to the Eaton Centre with Vince, getting PlayStation [games], and like no one knew who he was, and then three weeks later I couldn’t even go anywhere with him.

So I just remember that transition of him being a normal person to a megastar. It started being like that in Toronto and then it went like that everywhere we went – Minnesota, Indiana, L.A., New York. It was just the craziest thing to be around. I was there pretty much when he was nothing – well, I won’t say nothing, but not popular – to one of the most popular people in the world.

A lot of people around the United States really took notice of him after the dunk contest, but in Canada it came pretty quickly. Once we started hitting the road, I remember seeing fans cry just to meet him. I mean he was a rock star. He was a rock star. It was unbelievable.”

Dee Brown

(teammates with the Toronto Raptors from 1998-2000)

“I’ve been around some great players. I played with Larry Bird, who was the best player I ever played with, no question, hands down. People would flock to him because he was Larry Bird, the basketball player.

But with Vince it was different just because of the time. I don’t think social media was around yet, but that was the age where people were following [players], like hordes of people. I think it was me, Tracy [McGrady], [Charles Oakley] and Kevin Willis, we went out for dinner and then we went out as a team to a nightclub in Toronto. We walked in the club and I promise you, it was Vince and everybody else. The whole club basically turned around and faced Vince the whole night. It was amazing.

We had guys who were great players there with him and everybody’s just standing around having a good time, and there had to be 1,000 people in the club and the whole club turned around and just watched him all night. No dancing, no nothing. I thought, ‘Wow, this kid is special.’ It was amazing to see the impact he had, not just on the basketball court, but people in Toronto just gravitated to him. It was almost like he was born here.”

Antonio Davis

(teammates with the Toronto Raptors from 1999-2004)

“Vince was still looking to learn how to lead. I was there with Charles Oakley and Kevin Willis and some of those other guys, and I think our thing was this guy has all the talent in the world and you know he wants to win, so let’s teach him that it’s more than just his talent. He was always willing to listen to us and try to go out and just do whatever he could to help us win ballgames and at the same time learn what it was to be a leader.

At the beginning of [my first] season [in Toronto], Charles Oakley or Muggsy Bogues were doing a lot of talking during meetings. Towards the end of the season, Vince was speaking up more and saying more of what we saw and what he thought could help us and just being more vocal.”

Muggsy Bogues

(teammates with the Toronto Raptors from 1999-2001)

“I loved playing with Vince. I caught him at the earliest stage of his career. He was very impressionable, hungry for the game, hungry for knowledge on and off the court. He was our guy. I just loved him, his momma, his attitude, his approach. He wanted to get better and that’s what you really appreciated about him. But then he just had an unbelievable heart, a kind heart. He loved his teammates, he went to war for his teammates, and that was something that always stood out to me.”

Jerome Williams

(teammates with the Toronto Raptors from 2001-2003)

“I just remember us really looking forward to our pre-game layup line dunk contests between myself, Vince and Keon Clark. We used to have some pretty exciting pre-game dunks. The fans really got a treat every night when they came to watch us early because our warmups were like dunk contests. Of course, Vince would always shut us down with his ultimate 360 windmills or between-the-legs dunks. We had a chance every night – we could do 360s as well and we had some tricks up our sleeves – but those were the dunks he needed to get us. We’d always talk some trash. You had to have a little subtle trash talk just to get the juices flowing.”

Jalen Rose

(teammates with the Toronto Raptors from 2003-2004)

“It was really refreshing to get a chance to play with a guy who could walk into practice five minutes before it started and do a reverse 360 just after he finished eating a sandwich.

He got a steal when we were at Houston and he did a 360 dunk in the game. Like, as somebody who is a basketball lifer, I said that night and I welcome people to correct me if I’m wrong, but I think he was the first person to do that. That was always something that was fascinating to me.”

Donyell Marshall

(teammates with the Toronto Raptors from 2003-2004)

“I think people haven’t even seen some of his best dunks. I think a lot of his best dunks were in practice. Unfortunately, [one of his best dunks in practice] involved me, basically. It was fast break. You’ve seen Vince dunk on the fast break, so you pretty much are not going to jump with him or anything like that. You say, ‘You’re not going to dunk on me,’ and stuff like that. So I get back and somehow it becomes him and I one-on-one on the fast break. So I kinda slow down and stop near the free throw line, like, you can go around me and dunk. I’m not going to [try to block the shot]. He ends up seeing that. So he throws the ball off the backboard, goes around me and basically windmill dunks in the air.”

Jason Kidd

(teammates with the New Jersey Nets from 2004-2008)

“His bowling skills are incredible. You’d always want to be on his team for bowling. He could bowl with both hands. He’s very talented. He can shoot with both hands and he can bowl with both hands. He’s a competitor when it comes to any sport. I [bowled] with him in Jersey when I was with him. I think he joined a league and I went with him a couple times. Everything comes extremely easy [to him] from looking at it, but I know he puts in a lot of time. He’s just so talented.”​

Ryan Anderson

(teammates with the NJ Nets from 2008-09 & the Orlando Magic from 2009-10)

“That guy has made a huge impact on my life and my career. He was my veteran. Coming into New Jersey, getting drafted, I was a young guy, just turned 20-years-old and he’s kinda the guy that I modeled myself after. You obviously look up to the best player on the team, but what he did for me as a rookie – just asking me to sit next to him on the bus, he talked to me a ton, we lived near each other – he just showed me a level of appreciation. You could come in as a rookie and be treated like a rookie, but he treated me with complete respect and made me feel so comfortable – almost like a big brother. He’s just a great guy, a great human being. One time, I didn’t have a car. My car was in the shop. This was long before Uber and all that, and Vince lent me one of his cars, no questions asked. [It was] just very generous. I’d say [he was] the best teammate I’ve had in the NBA and the best veteran I’ve ever been around.”

Dwight Howard

(teammates with the Orlando Magic from 2009-2010)

“He was in New Jersey [at the time]. It was like my first year in the league, or second year. He was standing backdoor and then he just went to the rim. Jason Kidd threw him a lob and he caught it, dunked it, went down and just threw it in – didn’t even look at the basketball. And I forgot he was not on my team, so I was like ‘Oooooooo.’ And then I was like, ‘Oh, s***, you’re on the other team.’ It was something that I always remembered, that crazy dunk he had. Then I had to remember I was playing against him.”

“Me and Vince together was just two guys that love to have fun. We had a couple dunk contests in practice [when we were in Orlando together]. I’m not going to tell you who won because he might get mad. We had a lot of fun together, man. He’s a great guy. I loved being around him.”

J.J. Redick

(teammates with the Orlando Magic from 2009-2010)

“I was his backup in 2009-10 and the beginning of 2010-11. Playing with him at times together and times coming off the bench for him, I always felt like he was a great encourager for me. He gave me a lot of confidence.”

“Vince is a great guy. I thought he was an unbelievable teammate. He was a good vet and he could play still, so it was fun to have him around. Him and I had gotten to know each other a little bit before that, and anytime I’ve seen him over the last nine years it’s all love between us. I’ve been fortunate to have some good teammates, and he’s up there.”

Channing Frye

(teammates with the Phoenix Suns from 2010-2011)

“One time Vince, I think, was kinda just going with the motions one day in practice and coach [Alvin Gentry] was like, ‘Well, Vince, if you could do a 360 windmill [dunk] we’ll get out of here. We’ll be done for the day.’ And Vince was kinda like, 'Ah, all right,’ and out of nowhere just does it. And we’re like, ‘Hold on, what? Like, you’ve got this in your bag all the time?’ And he literally just went up there and in one instance went from a guy who didn’t want to practice to the guy doing a 360 windmill higher than everybody could [jump]. It was amazing. The guy just oozes talent.”

Robin Lopez

(teammates with the Phoenix Suns from 2010-2011)

“He just always had a smile on his face. I had some rough times in my young career and he was always there with a smile to boost me up. I really appreciate that about Vince. I really enjoyed playing with him. It was a pleasure to have him as a vet on that team. When it was time to get to work he knew he to get a work, but as a young player it was great having him to encourage you when you had some down times.”

Ian Mahinmi

(teammates with the Dallas Mavericks from 2011-2012)

“VC is one of the great teammates. He’s very positive. He’s a vet that’s not afraid to lead and say what he has to say. I very much enjoyed my time with VC. He is an amazing player, as we all know, but he’s an even better person. He’s always joking. For the younger guys it’s always like, okay, we’ve seen VC in so many highlights and you wonder how he is as a person. He’s a very humble guy. For me it was very refreshing to spend that year in Dallas with him.”

Wayne Ellington

(teammates with the Dallas Mavericks from 2012-2013)

“It was my rookie year in the league. He was in Orlando, I was in Minnesota. We had an off day and he hit me up and invited me over to his crib. He actually came to pick me up and we just hung out at his house, I mean, his estate for the day. He didn’t have to do that. That’s one story I always tell about Vince. That just shows the type of dude that he is.”

Darren Collison

(teammates with the Dallas Mavericks from 2012-2013)

“His house is crazy. His house is ridiculous. I remember going to his crib – the elevator, the gym and stuff like that, and just him having the posters of when he was with Toronto. That was pretty cool. For all the accolades that he had, he’s extremely humble. He’s real humble. He doesn’t really mention it or talk about all the stuff that he did. I used to always talk about the dunk he had over [Frederic Weis at the Olympics] but he never talked about it. He’d never mention it. He’d just never mention any of that stuff.”

Marc Gasol

(teammates with the Memphis Grizzlies from 2014-2017)

“I remember how generous and how low-key he is. You might think he would have a big head or a certain way about him, but he’s not that way at all. He’s super close, engaging with everyone. I loved how he engaged with the fans here in Memphis, and not just on the court, but also fans when nobody’s watching. I love that because that means that he really meant those interactions and they meant a lot to him too. That was really good to see.”

Mike Conley

(teammates with the Memphis Grizzlies from 2014-2017)

“Every practice we would do a shooting drill where we had to shoot five threes from five spots and whoever made the most out of 25 won the day. I never could beat him. It got to the point where I’m like, ‘Man, I’m done trying to shoot against you, teach me some stuff, teach me a move, teach me this and that.’ So he taught me a few of his vet moves that he does in the paint when he’s trying to get shot off, or finish, or he’s posting somebody up. For me, I was like a kid in a candy store, man. I look up to him, and we were just newly teammates. That experience itself was a kid’s dream, to learn from somebody that is a Hall of Famer.”

Jeff Green

(teammates with the Memphis Grizzlies from 2015-2016)

“The one thing that really stands out was when I first got traded to Memphis. I remember our first road trip was to Orlando and we had practice at his house. I grew up watching Vince. You see all the YouTube clips, you see him dunking, and I remember thinking, ‘Damn, can he do it for real?’ I remember we had practice. We walked in his house and no warm-up, no nothing, somebody asked him to [do a] windmill [dunk]. And he said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t know. Not right now.’ Two seconds later he takes one dribble and just windmills. I was like, ‘Wow.’ He didn’t even warm-up, he didn’t stretch. It was just like, all right, boom, windmill. I was like, damn, he really does that. No warm-up, no nothing. That’s half-man, half-amazing.”

Malachi Richardson

(teammates with the Sacramento Kings from 2017-2018)

“I’ll always remember the first time I met him. Me and him, we had lockers right next to each other. When I first met him, it was crazy. I didn’t have any expectations, I was just like, man, I’m about to meet Vince Carter. I was excited. He was great. He was a great vet, very open, always was trying to help as much as he could, on and off the floor.”

Trae Young

(teammates with the Atlanta Hawks from 2018-present)

“Vince is a great leader for our team and an amazing mentor for me. My locker is right next to his at home and a lot of times on the road, and I think I drive him crazy sometimes with all the questions I ask. But I’m going to keep asking them because he’s done and seen it all, and he’s said since our first day together that he wants to help me and every one of my teammates be the best players we can be. I know he’s an NBA legend, but he’s always unselfish with his time and his advice.”​