Prime Vince Carter astounded us with his leaping ability and highlight reel slam dunks. At age 39 he’s standing out in a different way.
Feb. 12, 2000, was the night of the first NBA Slam Dunk Contest in two seasons. A lockout-shortened season and league disinterest forced fans into two seasons without the historic competition. There was pressure for a good show.
Enter Vince Carter. The second-year shooting guard from the Toronto Raptors electrified the crowd in Oakland, California, with impressive highlight reel dunks that are the subject of discussion to this day.
Many people believe that with interest in the dunk contest dwindling, Carter saved it. Although he never competed again, he was always a benchmark for others to live up to.
Carter wasn’t done showing off. In Sept. he represented the United States in the Olympics. Carter helped his country win a gold medal, but that’s not what anyone remembers about his time with the Olympic team.
We remember another dunk.
In a game against France, Carter jumped over 7-foot-2 inch center Frédéric Weis. The French media even call it “le dunk de la mort” (“the dunk of death”) and Carter has gone so far as to apologize to his victim for any trouble the dunk may have caused.
Cut to this season. Carter’s the oldest man in the NBA; he turns 40-years-old in January, and he’s still making headlines. The achievements haven’t been flashy or eye opening, but they’re pretty damn impressive.
Don’t get the wrong idea. Carter hasn’t been a gimmick for fans to ogle five minutes at a time. Through 13 games he’s been one of Memphis’ most valuable players.
The Grizzlies are scoring 104.8 points per 100 possessions in Carter’s 353 minutes on the court, the highest of any Memphis, rotation player. In Carter’s 282 minutes off the court, that number dips to a putrid 92.9 (via NBA.com).
Injuries to Tony Allen and Chandler Parsons forced Carter into a prominent early-season role, and he’s responded well. The former high-flyer has played big minutes (27.3 MPG) right now, and it’s fueling him to produce more.
Carter’s already scored twenty points twice making him the oldest player to reach that number since the great Michael Jordan did it in 2003. He also became the oldest player in history to score 20 points off the bench.
It’s hard to believe that a player who once relied so heavily on athleticism is still playing at his age. Hard to believe and admirable.
Injuries hit V.C. like a ton of bricks, and he had to start taking his game to the ground a long time ago.
Carter had an incredible stretch where he was an All-Star for eight straight seasons from 1999-00 to 2006-07. During that time he took 11,533 shots, and just 2,437 were threes. That’s a percentage of 21.1%.
Since then he’s become much more perimeter oriented. From 2007-08 to 2016-17 Carter’s posted 7,590 attempts with 2,740 being threes. That’s a percentage of 36.1%.
Carter’s recent long-ball tendencies have become even more substantial in recent seasons. In the previous four, his three-point attempt rates have grown to .467 (’12-’13), .457 (’13-’14), .571 (’14-’15), and .493 (’15-’16).
The culmination of Carter’s three-point bonanza has been his performance so far this season. Of his 106 FGAs, 59 have been from downtown. A rate of almost 56%.
In the last five seasons nearly half (.487) of Carter’s FGAs have been from three-point range. It’s been an incredible change, to say the least.
Obviously, it was a big adjustment, but it’s one that’s paid off. Without that effort, he wouldn’t be an NBA rotation player right now.
Vince Carter saved the NBA Slam Dunk Contest 16 years ago with the same in-your-face attitude that he brings to the Memphis Grizzlies today. In a much lesser role of course.
Carter’s play evoking fond memories of the past has been one of the highlights of the season. Enjoy your Vinsanity fix. But while you’re doing that remember how impressive Vince Carter’s career is.
Basketball-Reference gives Carter a sufficient 94.6% chance at making the Hall of Fame. The soon to be retired Paul Pierce has better odds (99.7%) but it’d be a stunner if the man didn’t end up Springfield.
Chip Murphy covers the NBA for Elite Sports NY. You can find him on Twitter @ChipperMurphy.
*Note, I use Basketball-Reference.com for all stats.