Friday, 29 July 2011
The feelings may be sour yet they still milk him for all he's worth.
BY TIM DAVID HARVEY
Let's look back to last seasons NBA All-Star weekend and most notably, the Slam Dunk contest. Now that was quite a homage piece right? Recognise a couple of dunks? Like when Blake Griffin reached into the jar of honey? Or when a young Toronto Raptor dunking stud by the name of DeRozen put it between his legs? Sound familiar? They look even more so. Hey, I know the contest is clutching for some more creativity and a homage to history is a true gesture to the heroes, but minus the props this looked like the year 2000.
The year the dunk contest returned after a two year hiatus and even longer of a lull hit back Vinsanely by dunk after dunk from above the rim legend Vince Carter. Still these days there is more hate then love for Vince. Sure, it gets even colder when you go up further North to Ontario but still throughout the league words like 'over' and 'finished' are often whispered, but why? As the seasons change in basketball so do the hot and cold perceptions put on certain players by critics and fans alike. Sure Blake Griffin's the man right now and that's terrific, but what of next year? If people start to turn on him then that would just be terrible. This is what happened to Vince, sure he made some ill-advised decisions but he can still play and has been one of the most exciting players and electric scores the league has seen since Michael Jordan.
Sure, sure his cousin Tracy McGrady may have left and eclipsed him and Carter may for years have been living in the shadow of the dawn of the LeBron and 'Melo era, still his time in the sun is far from done. From his incredible Rookie Season, to the revolutionary way he dunked, to his second grounded more focused wind of his career, Vince has been the prince to many Kings throne. Still his place in NBA royalty is shamed by critics. Why is everyone so adamant to get Carter?
Can we not forgive and forget by now? Besides the same Toronto fans who hate claimed they where better off without him, when Chris Bosh was courting in Canada. Another situation that ended similair. So he's a quitter right? Well this same guy hasn't given up one bit over the last few years even after being unfairly bounced around the league as of late. So he's a cry baby then? Well, I see no tears but the reign of dunks he's dropped on the league season after season, from the Youtube's to the playground reenactments. From the windmill to the one handers with all their artistic creativity and athletic craftmanship. This is his legend but his legacy has much more to it then a dunk. Vince Carter can really play.
Sure when Air Canada departed for Newark, New Jersey all that Dr. J, M.J. hype died down. Still that did not mean this player was done. Jumpers knee or not, Vince was still down for the game in a matrimony of talent and desire. Just because people stopped being devoted to him didn't change that. Sure in his last 15.9 point season with the Raptors fans believed his effort was extinct. Sure it wasn't roaring but it was far from fossilised. Besides Carter was injured, plus he was being benched and left out of fourth quarters. What must that do to a franchise guys ego, confidence and motivation. Three things arguably a teams go to guy need to turn that killer instinct into a dead-eye victory (just see Bryant, Kobe).
While the Toronto Raptors where dreaming of an all Canadian, Steve Nash/Jaamal Magloire dynasty Vince felt shut out of the plans. It all seems that the love began to be lost in Carter's dubbed 'Graduation Game'. During the 2001 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the eventual East champion, the Philadelphia 76ers, the same day as a crucial Game 7 Vince attended his College graduation. Then at the game with 2.0 seconds left he missed a shot that could of iced the game. There was hell to play, but why so much heat? I know it's frustrating and maybe he could have handled himself better, but a missed shot is just another missed shot and his graduation attendance didn't effect his effort in game. Two seconds are just two seconds after all, what about the other 47 minutes and 58 seconds where he went hard? People don't talk about that. That's the thing about clutch shots no matter who's taking them (even Horry or Mike) you can never be sure until leather twinges twine. Everyone misses shots (see Bryant, Kobe).
As a Jersey boy Vince went through the four seasons as his team went from good to bad in the Meadowlands of the Nets. I witnessed a game against the Wizards in 2007 where Vince went bucket for bucket with Antwan Jamison, (the guy Toronto traded his right for in his Rookie of The Year season). Both guys looked like they could go for career nights as by the half they both had final game like totals. Carter (40+) and the Nets prevailed in the end, 96-92 and although this game was one that was passed over by ones featuring the LeBron's or Kobe's, it just went to prove that great players can always play like themselves of old if you give them half a chance, or half a possession. Carter formed a nice union with Jason Kidd out in the Garden State of New Jersey and although this duo wasn't to last it was one of V.C.'s more steady relationships in his career so far. One that saw a classic couple that with a few more years and team-mates on their side could of flipped the coin and dropped dimes all over the league.
Still just like with Toronto, things must come to an end and as they did Vince saw some time in Dwight's Magic Kingdom. Sure Air Disney's trip wasn't a long haul one, but it still featured some memorable moments and high-scoring games like his 48 point performance. Besides the Nets went 17-20 without Carter, dropping bricks without their sharp scorer. Vince still averaged a decent 16.6 point per game for the Magic and he wasn't even the second trick out their bag. That's top, you have to take your hats off to that.
Still by way of another trade last season Vince has found himself in new territory. Out in Phoenix, Carter is playing on a shaken up Suns team and is sporting a Rick Ross beard. Perhaps he didn't pack his shaver because this team looks to chop and change further, so Vince could be moving on yet again. It would be a shame if this star players career takes more of a journeyman role because with all due respect to valuable veterans, Vince deserves more. No one wants to see 'Air Freight'. If he gets shipped off again he will struggle to find an identity with a team and with all the hate and disregard he's received in his career, identity and familiarity to a ball-club has been something that's plagued him throughout.
It's no matter that he responded to Toronto fans shots, with killer, clutch ones of his own. No matter if he still averages 13.5 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists across the board (with 22.9, 5.3 and 4.2 for his career). No matter is he's shown he's one of the best scorers in the L, especially from behind the arc (he's got a playoff record 9 to prove it, he's pure). The doubt and the disregard continues. Sure people can write him off all they like, but the writing is not on the wall, whatever this basketball child's destiny. What's engraved in history is what can't be denied, not what's scrawled in blogs (I know, I know). An eight time All-Star, two times All-NBA. The statistics, the records, the ground-breaking moments, 'Le dunk de la mort'. It's all there, no matter how many people want to brush it aside.
So even if Vince doesn't burn his brightest in Phoenix. Or no one ever bounces a dunk between their legs or puts the ball right through the jar like Winnie the Pooh ever again, Carter's legacy is still apparent...air apparant. It's one of everlasting talent that withstands all the neglect, criticism and hate over the years to show a loyalty, acclaim and love for the game that will never give up or quit. Laugh at him now, but cry later when you miss him and see what he's really achieved, despite what people may say. Yeah he could have been a lot better to Toronto I admit, but a lot of people could have been a hell of a lot better to him, but still it's not too late...yet.