The NBA has never seen a 40-year-old like Vince Carter – Yahoo Sports

Heading into that rookie year, though, Carter was third on the depth chart. Golden State’s Antawn Jamison, the former North Carolina teammate Vince Carter was dealt for, was assumed by many to be the league’s most NBA-ready Rookie of the Year candidate. A month into the season, it was the seasoned Paul Pierce (drafted into Boston after three years in Kansas, a rarity even by the fie de siècle) who roared to the ROY lead. Pierce averaged 20.3 points in his first 12 games as a Celtic, even slightly outplaying him in the first career game for both.

Vince would go on to take that Rookie trophy by the season’s end, averaging 18.3 points for the Raps. A year later, and especially around this time a year later in Y2K, Carter had developed into a revelation, dotting the months of January and February

… with brilliance performances, hitting a game-winner (the first in Raptors franchise history) in March against the Clippers to cap a seven-game Raptors winning streak. Toronto was on its way to a playoff berth. This came after, of course, his century-saving work during the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest. And just prior to, of course, the time he turned all of us into early adapters in the internet’s bootleg video world, making Frederic Weis look like a prop during the 2000 Olympics.

Michael Jordan, Carter’s North Carolina predecessor, never dominated a dunk contest like that – and it wasn’t (with Tracy McGrady and Steve Francis throwing down 50s in 2000) as if Carter was working on an island. And though Jordan made Mel “Dinner Bell” Turpin look small once, he never dunked over a guy. Completely over him.

Vince Carter did, though. And we have the grainy video, downloaded at 56.6k, to prove it.

If that seems ever so long ago, it’s because it is.

Before Carter spent his final seasons in Toronto, starting with the desultory 2000-01 campaign, shying away from the paint, trying to prove that he was more than a dunker. Before he became downright treasonous – and that isn’t overstating things – with the 2004-05 Toronto Raptors before forcing a trade to New Jersey, while we angrily watched as his stats went from wildly disappointing to MVP-level in a week’s time.

Carter apparently knew what we needed during that season’s winter as well. A heel to mind, what with Canadian Steve Nash turning the league on its ear that season.

The Nets worked for Vince, and then they didn’t. Dealt to Orlando as the missing piece following that team’s 2009 Finals trip, that relationship flamed out as quickly as a springtime Sunday extinguishes itself. Phoenix, solid. Dallas, professional. Memphis? Old.

But still … that:

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You have to know that going baseline – the territory usually stalked by those that can still hit their elbows on the rim – is still an option at age 39 and 365 days. That attempting a reverse is still an option. That attempting to spin 360 degrees in midair, at the same age that some people sadly switch to caffeine-free Diet Coke, is somehow a good idea.

Jordan never tried that.

Here’s what Michael Jordan did, upon returning to the NBA in 2001 at age 38: in Washington he averaged 21.2 points on 43 percent shooting, with 5.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists and a rather remarkable 1.5 steals a contest in his advanced years. He dropped 40 points seven times and, two months before his 39th birthday, dropped 51 on Baron Davis’ Charlotte Hornets.

In Jordan’s second game as 40-year old, he scored 43 and pulled in 11 rebounds in a win over the pre-Carter Nets, then on their way to a second straight Finals appearance. MJ would also top 30 points three other times and would only score in single-digits once (against Carter’s Raptors, of course) in 30 games as a 40-year old. Jordan’s legs, you’ll recall, even had the benefit of rest between 1993 and 1995, and again between 1998 and 2001. Vince kept churning along, with no retirements to name.

Vince Carter probably won’t drop 43 points against the Utah Jazz on Saturday, in his second game as a 40-year old. He hasn’t scored 30 in a game in nearly six years, and he’s topped 20 points just twice in two and a half seasons with the Grizzlies. The slide, for a player who scored 27.6 a night in 2000-01, is real. And understandable – the man is 40.

No man has ever 40’d like this in the NBA, though.

Yes, he’s achieved Jesse Orosco-status, screwballing his way toward contributing points in wily ways and with superior touch, but yet every so often he brings out a style of heat unrecognizable for players his own age. It’s true that Michael Jordan used to screwball his way toward 40-point games as a member of the Washington Wizards, but despite one obvious highlight he was hardly known for gliding through the air at that age.

And for good reason. He’s somewhat mortal, in spots.

Vince Carter doesn’t appear to have that, which is why rumors of an appearance in the 2017 Slam Dunk Contest weren’t immediately laughed off. Which is why this happens:

Which is why this exists:

Jordan couldn’t do that at 38, or 40. Dominique Wilkins had been retired for a year by age 40, after playing during Carter’s rookie season in 1999 with the Orlando Magic. Tracy McGrady hasn’t gotten rim for years. Kobe Bryant, the man who didn’t have the onions (to use the Toronto parlance of the day) to defend his 1997 Dunk Contest title in Carter’s presence, never got up this high during his final season. Dr. J. was a statesman at this point.

Vince Carter is something else entirely, as has been the case since the last century. The NBA will never again see a “40” like this.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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