RJ Barrett, Vince Carter
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Vince Carter’s legacy will live on in the next generation of NBA players like New York Knicks rookie RJ Barrett.

Danny Small

NEW YORK, NY—Vince Carter’s final appearance in Madison Square Garden was a bit understated. Although the Atlanta Hawks didn’t put up much of a fight against the New York Knicks, Carter was one of the few bright spots.

The NBA legend is retiring after his 22nd season, a league record, and the MSG crowd showed its appreciation for the future Hall of Famer on his way to the bench.

Hawks point guard Trae Young fouled RJ Barrett to stop the game and give Carter an opportunity at one last ovation in the Garden.

“It’s a great feeling and to come here and get an ovation, especially in this building with all of the history and great memories, good and bad here. It’s always a truly, special moment and I’m very thankful for it,” Carter said after the game.

The foul also gave Barrett two free throws and the chance to secure a new career-high in points. He drained both shots and finished with 27 points, thanks in part to Carter’s ovation.

While public beefs and squabbles litter the NBA, players generally tend to look out for one another. This is true for Carter, who always makes a point to mentor young players coming up in the league. Barrett was the recipient of some of that Half-Man/Half-Amazing knowledge on Tuesday.

“I just try to help all of the young guys and give them as many gems and drops of knowledge,” Carter told reporters after the game. “If they ask, I just want to see all these guys succeed. This is a great opportunity. The NBA provides a lot of opportunities for us to fulfill dreams each year.

“I had a chance to sit with RJ this summer. I know his dad very well. I just told him I’m always available as I’ve told many guys throughout the years, that’s what I enjoy doing, is seeing guys succeed.”

As Carter mentioned, his connection with the rookie stretches back to Rowan Barrett, RJ’s father. This is the part of the story where we must note that Carter was playing in the NBA before the younger Barrett was even born.

“He’s a great person to talk to and he’s just always really positive,” Barrett explained. “And he’s still killing it, he’s still killing so he’s not letting up.”

Carter finished with 15 points, including four made threes that titillated the Garden crowd. He might not be the same high-flying player he was in his younger days, but Carter’s transformation can serve as a blueprint for future players. He’s coming up on his fourth decade in the NBA which is going to be a trivia question until the end of time.

“To be able to do it, I’m very thankful for the opportunity to play this game for so long and to be able to accomplish something like that going through my career,” Carter said of his four decades in the league. “Even my last two to three years I never thought about playing four decades and it being possible. I don’t talk about it much, so when I hear it and think about it, it’s truly amazing. I’m just very thankful just to still be able to play the game at this age.”

Carter was an eight-time All-Star and a bonafide megastar at one point in his career. It’s not easy to take on a diminished role after having that much success, but that’s exactly what Carter did when he seamlessly transitioned to the bench later in his career.

Without that transition, Barrett would have never found himself on the court with Carter in the first place. The legend is approaching the last huzzah of his playing career, but his imprint on the game will last long after his playing days are over.

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