By now, you’ve almost certainly seen the announcement: Vince Carter is “officially done playing basketball professionally.”
A bizarre end to a 22-season career that saw Carter become the first player in NBA history play in four decades and that, through it all, saw him reach incredibly high peaks and some of the lowest valleys.
For many, Carter’s enduring legacy will always be what he did for Canadian hoops. It’s undeniable that he helped establish basketball in Toronto and Canada more broadly thanks to his high-flying dunks and magnetic personality, and because he was able to help the Toronto Raptors taste their first bit of success.
His play inspired an entire generation of young Canadian athletes to take up the game, and you can see that playing out in the NBA today in the likes of Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, Andrew Wiggins, and other Canadian hoopers playing at the game’s highest level.
This coupled with the fact Carter played 22 seasons and, as a result, racked up huge career numbers will all be included in his case for the Hall of Fame when his name comes up on the ballot four years from now.
And even if he isn’t a first-ballot selection, his case does appear strong enough to make it into Springfield’s hallowed halls.
After all, Carter can boast that he’s:
• third on the all-time games played list with 1,541 to his name
• sixth all-time in made three-pointers (2,290)
• 19th on the all-time scoring list with 25,728 career points
That last one is perhaps most significant because, of the 23 players below Carter on the all-time list, all are Hall of Famers with the exception of the recently retired Dwyane Wade, and still active players Kevin Durant, Pau Gasol and James Harden.
Additionally, Carter was the 1998–99 NBA Rookie of the Year, an Olympic gold medallist, a two-time All-NBA selection and an eight-time all-star. According to Basketball Reference’s Hall of Fame probability tracker, he has a 94.5 per cent chance to get in.
So, yeah, Carter will become a Hall of Famer.
As mentioned before, Carter was a dynamo at the beginning of his career, but thanks to a combination of injuries and the loss of some of his signature athleticism as time went on he changed his game from a high-flying slasher into more of a spot-up shooter.
A smart career move for someone who was looking to play as long as Carter did, but in terms of his Hall of Fame candidacy there are holes to be found in it which could delay the process for him.
For one, Carter was named an all-star in every one of his first nine seasons with the exception of his rookie campaign, but he never got another all-star nod again. Also, after his last season with the New Jersey Nets, he never averaged 20 or more points per game again for the rest of his career, not even cracking double digits in any of his last six campaigns.
In fact, he averaged only 9.8 points per game in the last 11 seasons of his career, something that tanked his overall scoring average to 16.7 per game, good for just 174th all-time.
Granted, during this second half of his career, Carter took on a much greater role as a mentor to younger players and wasn’t counted on as a primary scoring option,. That’s a legitimate feather in his Hall of Fame candidacy cap, but you have to wonder if past mistakes he made led him to wanting to go down the mentor road.
For everything that Carter did for the Raptors, few will forget — even if they’ve forgiven — how he ended his days in Toronto by demanding a trade and then going on national television to admit he didn’t give it his all for the franchise.
The Hall of Fame rewards excellence both on and off the court, and while Carter managed to rehabilitate his image over the 15 seasons after that infamous incident, it can’t be erased from the record completely.
But because of longevity, the stats he racked up and the supernova start to his career, Carter will become a Hall of Famer. If that happens, he will become just the second player drafted by the Toronto Raptors (or, at least, acquired on draft night) to do so, after Tracy McGrady went in in 2017.
But just because his candidacy is rock solid doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed he’ll get in as a first-ballot candidate as past transgressions can, and just might, delay the proceedings.