Shepard: Vince Carter Deserves A Better Farewell

Vince Carter's send-off was cut short due to COVID-19, but David Shepard has an idea for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to consider

CBS Sports Radio Weekend
June 29, 2020 - 3:34 pm
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Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki are two future first-ballot Hall of Famers. Last season, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver added these two to the 2019 All-Star game. They were “special team roster additions.” It was the first time the NBA had ever done this. Wade could absolutely still play, but he didn’t quite have an All-Star season, and Nowitzki was on his absolute last legs. Silver realized the mark that both left on the game and he thought outside the box. He wanted these two NBA legends to go out the right way and celebrate their accomplishments and legacy. In covering the NBA last season, I don’t remember one fan, one media member or one player taking any issue with this. Silver wants the best for the game, and this made the All-Star game even better. Can we do something similar for Vince Carter?

There are only 22 teams going to Orlando to finish out the season. Carter and the Atlanta Hawks were not quite good enough to make that cut. As a result, Carter officially announced his retirement late last week. The Hawks still had 15 games left before the season was suspended due to COVID-19. As a result, Carter’s last season was cut short and he didn’t get the proper farewell that he deserved. I’d love to see the NBA figure out a way to give Carter that proper send-off. He didn’t get that at the All-Star Game this season. It’d be so cool to see him finish out his TWENTY TWO YEAR career by going out the right way. Even though it’s 15 games, when you put in the time he has into the NBA, he deserves every game possible in his final season.

I’m aware that in a typical NBA season, taking a player from another team at this point in the season and putting them on a playoff roster wouldn’t be fair to any team. With that being said, none of 2020 has been fair so far. When there is a pandemic that disrupts the world the way it did, can’t we make this one exception? It’s not like Vince Carter is the Carter of 2000 or even 2010. He won’t swing the pendulum of power in the NBA. How cool would it be to see Carter one last time dunking a basketball or even possibly reuniting with his old team, the Toronto Raptors. When he was a member of that franchise from 1998-2004, he ignited an entire country and inspired millions to fall in love with the game of basketball. He has played in the NBA for so long that we forget how good this guy was early on. 

Carter did something in his first eight seasons that LeBron and Kobe never did: made the All-Star Game every season. Scottie Pippen, Tracy McGrady and Walt “Clyde” Frazier made seven All-Star games for their entire careers. So much of the popularity that we saw emerge in Canada was because of Carter. The only 50-point game in Raptors postseason franchise history belongs to Carter. In 2000, we often forget he won a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Australia and most already considered him the greatest dunker to ever play the game. Please YouTube his dunk on Frederic Weis if you haven’t seen it. There was a lot more to come.

He was really good with the New Jersey Nets, too – his second stop. In the last 15 seasons, Carter has more 30-point games in the postseason for the Nets than the rest of the Nets players combined. He then thrived with the Mavericks when he got to his late-30s. There is one player in Mavs franchise history to score at least 28 points in the postseason at the age of 37 or older. That’s not Nowitzki or Jason Kidd; it’s Vince Carter. The only other player since then to score at least 28 points at the age of 37 or older is Tim Duncan. For 99.9% of NBA players, they are done being productive in their late-30s, but not Carter. In his 40s with the Memphis Grizzlies, he scored in doubles figures four times in a single playoff series. Only two other players have done that in their 40s: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. They are No. 1 and No. 2 on the all-time scoring list.
Carter became the first player in NBA history to play for 22 seasons. He also became the first player in NBA history to play in four different decades. He wasn’t just hanging on. From the age of 41 on, NOBODY ELSE in NBA history had more games scoring double digits. That includes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who was still playing at an All-Star level at age 41 and 42. Hawks teammate Trae Young was named an All-Star starter this season. Carter was already a member of the Toronto Raptors before Young was born.

As recently as 2019, it was Kobe Bryant who made a strong pitch for Carter to do the dunk contest at 42. Kobe’s position was there are players who, to this day, still can’t do what Carter did 20 years ago. Kobe understood what Carter meant to the game. Was Carter as good as Kobe or LeBron? No, but he is a top-50 player of all-time. It’d be truly special to see a 43-year-old come full circle and have one lost shot at a title. How fitting would it be if he finished his career with the Raptors competing for an NBA Championship, something that has eluded him for his entire career. 

Again, in any other season, I would never want to see a player get eliminated from playoff contention and join another squad because of the precedent it would set. This season is the most unique NBA season in its 74-year history and an NBA first-ballot Hall of Famer’s career was cut short to no fault of his own. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has shown the ability to be creative with honoring NBA legends, knowing it’s a tribute to both the players, fans and the game. I can’t think of a better tribute to Carter by giving him just one more chance, a chance taken from him unlike anything we have ever seen. Can the Raptors have one more small forward for a playoff run in Orlando? Commissioner Silver, what do you think?

CBS Sports Radio producer David Shepard is a former ESPN researcher, a former Division I college basketball practice player, and the host of The Good Shepard YouTube channel. Follow him on Twitter @TheGoodShepard_.