NEW YORK — The man who once famously proclaimed, “it’s over!” isn’t done yet.
You won’t find Vince Carter jumping over 7-footers these days, but V.C. has reinvented his game, and he can still run with the young bloods.
At 41, Carter was the NBA’s oldest player this year. The eight-time All-Star and 20-year veteran averaged 17.7 minutes and 5.4 points per game with Sacramento. He also claimed the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) Most Respected Award, as voted on by his peers. He’s now a free agent and mulling over options for next season.
With Vinsanity’s career winding down, he sat down with GetMoreSports.com in New York on Thursday for an exclusive interview. Carter was onsite at the NBPA training facility, where he hosted nine Verizon Up rewards members and led a dunk clinic — who better for the job? — on the day of the NBA Draft.
We discussed his future, LeBron James’s free agency, Kawhi Leonard’s situation with the Spurs, The Carter Effect and more.
Vince Carter Q&A
1. Tell me about what you’re doing with Verizon today.
I guess they thought I had some ups, so I went along with the gig. Verizon Up brought me in to be a teacher. I always say I don’t want to coach, but at the same time I enjoy teaching, and this is an opportunity to give people an inside view of what I think when it comes to dunking.
It’s also another opportunity for Verizon Up to thank their loyal customers by giving them experiences like this, to meet athletes and come in and have a hands-on experience. I think it’s a really cool concept and opportunity, not only for them, but for me, too. I get to do something that I’ve always wanted to do. People always talk about, ‘teach me how to dunk,’ and I’m like, ‘how could I teach someone how to dunk?’ I have to take a guy who didn’t have an approach to dunking and teach him how to approach it, and he was like, ‘oh man, that made it easier.’ That was really cool.
2. At this point in your career, you’re teaching people, being a mentor of sorts. You received the Most Respected Player Award, and the The Carter Effect , which was a fantastic documentary, was released recently. What it was like for you to step back and watch that?
It was just more clarity for fans. They could see and hear the story from different organization members. People were like, ‘oh, I didn’t understand this, and now I know.’ And I was like, ‘that’s what I was trying to say 20 years ago or 10 years ago.’ It’s just cool for a lot of not only Raptors fans, but NBA fans, to see what it was like. When I say Raptors fans, I mean more so the younger generation who weren’t old enough to understand it or weren’t even born (laughs). They could just see what it was like back in the day, and how it took off and got to where it is now. And for those fans who were there back in that time, they got the chance to relive the moment and understand how it all went down and, like I said, it just provided clarity.
3. So, I’m going to fire a couple Jump-style questions at you, the first being the elephant in the room: Where should and where will LeBron go this summer?
It’s a tough question to answer because initially, when he left the first time, you kind of understood it. Obviously if you’re a fan of the Cavaliers, then you hate to see one of the best players leave, but for him, he was leaving to learn how to be a champion. When he came back, what’s the first thing he said? ‘I want to bring a championship to Cleveland.’ He was able to accomplish that, and I don’t think he had as good of a team — well, he had a pretty darn good team with Kyrie — but I think playing with Dwyane, that team he had in Miami was pretty darn special. But he took a team (in Cleveland) that maybe wasn’t as good, and he was still able to win a championship.
I think now, it’s just: what makes him happy at this point? Obviously going to another team and winning another championship, obviously going to the Finals yet again, a 10th time, those things are I’m sure very important to him. And that adds to his legacy, because people are talking about, ‘oh, his record is 3-6 (in the Finals).’ I’m like, he’s been there nine times! Can we count how many players in this league have been there nine times? There are only a few, and one of them is my good friend Bill Russell.
Obviously you want to have the best record in the Finals, and Michael Jordan has been there six times and won six — I get it. But LeBron has been there nine times. He’s unbelievable to me. So I think at this point, it’s what makes him happy? What makes his family happy? It’s been hard to decipher because I try to put the pieces together in my own conversations with friends. If you put him in Philly — some people say that would be a great fit, but I personally find that tough to believe. I don’t know if that would be a great fit, because what happens to Ben Simmons?
He’d probably have to play off the ball…
Yeah, and is he a shooter? No. Is he a post-up guy? No. Their post-up guy is (Joel) Embiid. Same thing if you bring LeBron over to the Lakers — what do you do with Lonzo Ball? Where do you put him, off the ball? You’d have to find time for him to play point, obviously, but I don’t know. I just have so many questions. So I think at the end of the day for LeBron, it’s just whatever is right him and his family, because he’s accomplished everything else. I think now it’s just, when his career is done, where does he fall as far as the greatest player, where does he fall as far as points scored, triple-doubles? That’s what he’s playing for now.
Vince Carter says he's playing one more season. No more. 😂 pic.twitter.com/l122GrMa79
— NBA TV (@NBATV) June 22, 2018
4. That’s one thing everyone around the NBA is talking about, and the other is Kawhi Leonard. I know you gave Kawhi some advice during this past season, and even as of a month ago, when you were on The Jump, it seemed like he could work things out with the Spurs.
I really believed that. It was a shock to hear (he wanted to be traded), and sometimes guys have just had enough. That just told me that there’s something more, maybe something with this injury. Maybe he felt it was a major injury, and maybe he felt they didn’t do all they could to get the second and third opinions, I don’t know. Obviously they keep it pretty sealed over there (in San Antonio), they don’t let a lot of information get out. I guess in due time it will all come to light, but I kind of hate to see him go because he did some special things, and to not see the Spurs have a dominant team will be tough — even though they were pretty darn good without him.
Where do you see Kawhi going?
He probably could end up in L.A. as well. I think he’s a better fit — he doesn’t need the ball, he doesn’t dominate the ball as much as LeBron, I think he can play off the ball, of course he’s a great two-way player. So for him, he could go anywhere and fit perfectly, just because of what he’s come from. And he knows how to sacrifice for the good of the team, and I think sometimes when you bring players together, they have to learn how to sacrifice. Like K.D. had to come to Golden State and learn how to sacrifice for them to be what they are now. You don’t have to worry about that with Kawhi because he’s done it and understands it. So he’ll be fine. As far as a true landing spot? See, I think he could fit with Philadelphia better than LeBron at the end of the day. And that would be unreal.
5. I’m curious, too, about your own free agency.
So am I (laughs).
I know you said you’re going to chill and see what happens around the league.
And that’s the truth. I’m a realist, and I know the pecking order of the league and how it works, and you want to take care of your top free agents, like I said, once the LeBrons of the world and the Kawhi Leonards land where they land, then come your next-tier free agents, and that’s where I fall in.
I just have to be patient. I take calls, and I would tell no team “no” at this point. I just like to weigh all my options and see what’s out there for me. I’m just basically looking at my watch like, ‘Come on, LeBron. What’s the decision, where are we taking our talents (laughs)? Where are you going so I can go somewhere?’ I’m thankful I can still play and thankful to know that come September, I’ll have a job of some sort somewhere, so I’m just making sure I’m ready.
6. Any chance of a Raptors reunion?
I don’t know, like I said, I don’t know what’s what. I’m willing to take calls from anybody, all teams, and I just want an opportunity to play and compete for a championship. That’s it. If we don’t make it to the championship, that’s fine, but I just want to compete for it. I don’t want to play an 82-game season just to play it, not when it’s my last few seasons, so I’m just looking for any opportunity just to make a difference.
7. You had said there were 90 percent odds next season is your last. Are you still feeling that way?
Yeah, 90 percent odds. There would have to be something dramatic for me to come back for 22 (seasons). I mean, what would I get out of it? Playing another year, being the longest-tenured player ever? Yeah, that is a great accomplishment, obviously, it shows endurance, but I don’t know. I’ve pretty much said one more year, and it would take a lot to bring me back for 22. I don’t know, though, that’s looking too far ahead.
8. Is this Puma stuff feeling like deja vu for you, relaunching its basketball division with these top college prospects?
For me, it was just a great opportunity at the time, because coming out of the lockout, a lot of brands weren’t looking to sign guys to big money, so they were like, ‘Hey, we’re trying to start a division, and we’d love to have you.’ It was a great opportunity and I took advantage of it, so I hope it works out for those guys as well.
9. Last question: what’s the ballpark percentage of how many NBA players you can still outjump? Where do you stack up?
(Laughs) Oh, gosh. I’m probably in the middle.
— NBA UK (@NBAUK) June 17, 2018
That’s pretty amazing at 41 years old.
Oh, I’m not complaining. Probably somewhere in the middle, yeah. People are surprised when they see I can still do it, I just choose not to. It’s better for my body. Right now, it’s like, ‘less landing, more games,’ you know what I’m saying? But every now and then, like last year in practice, I just kind of remind these guys like, ‘hey, don’t forget what I can do.’ I just choose not to. And then sometimes in a game, too, it’s a business decision — like, what makes sense for the business at that moment? Lay it up (laughs). That’s the right decision. And sometimes I’m like, ‘Ahh, just go for it! You’re probably going to come out of the game in a minute anyway.’ So it just depends on how I’m feeling.