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Vince Carter diary: Chapter 20, Part 1

‘Not many guys can say they played 20 years. There are only a select few.’


Twenty years ago, the NBA welcomed a high-flying young man who created a phenomenon known as “Vinsanity.” Nearly 25,000 points later at age 40, Vince Carter is the oldest player in the NBA and a member of the rebuilding Sacramento Kings. He’s still in love with the game.

Carter agreed to give The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears an exclusive look into his 20th NBA season on and off the court in a bimonthly diary. This is the first edition.

Chapter 20. Part 1. Carter scored six points and nailed two 3-pointers in 14 minutes off the bench in Sacramento’s 105-100 season-opening loss to the visiting Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.

Today for me, it was interesting. I’m not going to say I was overly excited. After you’ve played so many years, it’s coming to work like normal. It is kind of weird. A lot of my friends texted me, ‘Good luck this year and tonight in your 20th season.’ I know what it is. It’s 20 years. But I was able to sit back and say, ‘Hey, I was able to outlast a lot of great players and still play and still contribute.’

This is what I wanted going into free agency. I wanted to be able to play and compete. I am still going to be a team guy. I’m still going to mentor guys. I’m not going to say ‘coach’ guys, but I’m still going to [mentor]. At the same time, I want to play as well. That’s just who I am and what I do. Leading up to today, there was a calming excitement, if that makes sense. I was like, ‘Man, it’s another season.’ But at the same time, I was excited to be doing it again. Not many guys can say they played 20 years. There are only a select few. And some of the guys I’ve played against are some of the legends of the game.

I’m just going through my [game] day as normal. I’m just trying to get acclimated to this West Coast life. I’ve never been out here on the West Coast as far as playing [for a team]. My typical routine, I’m napping. And as soon as I get here, it was just business as usual. I put a lot of responsibility on myself because that’s who I am. I just want to make sure the young guys are comfortable, learn how this works, get their routine and help them slow this down. That was done for me. I’ll tell you what, it’s just great [to play] with some young guys like this who want to learn, want to figure it out, want to get better and ask questions. You can’t beat that.

It’s getting up to game time and they hand me a mic and ask me to talk. They said, ‘Yeah, we are getting ready to have you talk [to the crowd] before the game.’ I was like, ‘What?’ So I didn’t know what I was going to say or anything like that. Everything I said was what I meant, and it was more so from the heart. It was more so about the world today. We, as players, we come out here and lay it on the line and play. Everybody has their rights. And I just wanted everyone to understand, and this is what I say at home, I say my piece when I get my opportunity. One thing I wanted people to take from that was that we all worship what we worship, we all believe in what we believe, color, creed, whatever. None of that stuff matters as long as we support each other and respect each other.

That’s what I kind of wanted to get out of that. I hope everybody took from that. People come out here and everyone in this arena, if you want to break it down on who they voted for [for president of the United States], I don’t know if it would be split, but you’ll get 60-40, whatever the number is. But at the end of the day, that is just your opinion who you want to vote for. But I can still respect the person in front of me if you didn’t vote for who I voted for or you don’t believe in the same things I believe in. I still have respect for you until you, of course, show me otherwise.

But it’s time for that. With my opportunity, it just popped up in my head because I said, ‘What am I going to say?’ That is kind of what I felt, and I wanted to be heard. That is just my way of saying my piece. It was kind of cool to hear people appreciate that [with applause]. It was one of those gems you could put out there in the world, and you can say, ‘You know, you’re right. He doesn’t see things like this, but that’s his opinion. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.’

But we sit at home and we hear different things. Obviously, on social media people can say what they want to say. There are people that attack other people that say, ‘Stick to this. Stick to basketball. Stick to sports.’ But it’s OK for them, whoever they are, to have their opinion. We should say, ‘Hey, stick to what you do if you’re not into politics. Stick to what you do. Stick to your 9-to-5.’ That’s what I was trying to get out of there. It was cool.

Then, we get to game time. For me, I’m always locked in. I’m always ready to go and ready to play. It wasn’t nerves. It was just excitement. I’m excited for our young guys. Leading up to shootaround, I was asked what to expect from our young guys. I said, ‘I felt excited and confident for our young guys.’ They put a lot of work in. I asked our fans to be patient. We are going to make some mistakes. We’re young. But at the same, [the Kings fans] are going to appreciate the product we’re going to put on the floor. These young guys want to get it, they want to learn and they want to be good. That’s what it was, and they play hard. The fans are going to enjoy that, and they got to see it tonight.

Tough loss. But [fellow Kings newcomer] George Hill stepped in front of the group and was just like, ‘It was a pleasure playing with guys like this.’ We had a tough call that didn’t go our way near the end of the game. We could have gone five different ways. Everybody stuck together. They’re raw. The young guys are raw, so we can teach them the right way now. Everything will fall into place, hopefully, come February.

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.