SPORTS Always nice to see Vince again
With retirement on the horizon, was Tuesday the last time Carter returned to Toronto?
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 living 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’s 41, 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 likeable veteran three-point shooter who can still uncork a dunk in the pre-game that set the internet ablaze in quiet, nostalgic ways. But Vince can’t stop.
“You know, I talk to Kevin Willis a lot and I apologize to Kevin a lot because I used to make fun of him when he was here,” said Carter. “I was like man, what are you doing? Why? And he was like, I love it, I love it. We talk about that every time. Just the love of the game. I always see a lot of people saying ‘Why, you’re older, you’re this, you’re that, you’ve seen it all, you’ve accomplished whatever. Why?’ And it’s just, I love it. I love it.
“I’m just not tired of it. It’s hard work and it’s a little tougher than it was 10 years go, 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 he’s almost survived long enough to outlast the argument over his departure. The argument, in emotion and duration, has always been proof Vince is the biggest star the franchise has ever had.
Demar Derozan was a fan of the Raptors growing up because of Vince. Tristan Thompson once told Vince that for Canadian kids, so many of whom are now in the NBA, he was their Michael Jordan. Vince, along with James Naismith and Steve Nash, is perhaps the most significant figure in Canadian basketball history.
But he left for what became a near-endless road. New Jersey was stranded in a swamp, and after he left the Nets moved to Brooklyn anyway. He never spent long anywhere else: a cameo on the Orlando team the year after they made the NBA final; three years in Dallas, where he became a backup. Three years in Memphis on also-ran teams. A year in the wilderness of Sacramento, and now one in the ashes of Atlanta.
He never found a home like Toronto. He once told me, “There was nothing better. I will say that.”
Vince Carter and his Atlanta Hawks faced the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday. Carter, who turns 42 later this month, is the NBA’S oldest player.