He no longer jumps over opponents and his emphatic dunks are more of a memory, but Atlanta Hawks swingman Vince Carter remains an NBA marvel.
Just ask 76ers coach Brett Brown.
Before Brown and the team left for a two-game road trip that began with Saturday’s 117-111 win over the Detroit Pistons, Brown was asked about facing Carter. The Sixers visit the Hawks on Monday in a game matching 2-0 teams.
Brown’s most vivid memory of Carter came in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, when Carter was on the U.S. gold medal-winning team. At the time, Brown was an assistant coach for the Australian national team.
“I remember him jumping over one of our players, and just think about it, how many years ago, that was 19 years ago, amazing,” Brown said.
The lasting impression of those Olympic games was Carter performing what has been called the greatest dunk of all time when he leaped over 7-foot-2 French center Frederic Weis and rammed it home. Weis, who never played in the NBA, was a first-round draft choice of the New York Knicks.
When the 6-6 Carter played in Atlanta’s opening 117-100 win over the Detroit Pistons, it was the beginning of his 22nd season, an NBA record.
He had been tied with Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Robert Parish, and Kevin Willis, who all played 21 seasons, according to NBA.com.
“Just his presence and his marketability, his profile, his electric way he has played basketball,” Brown said about what has stood out most about Carter.
Carter, who turns 43 on Jan. 26, was the NBA rookie of the year in 1999. He will become the first player in NBA history to appear in four decades if he plays a game in 2020.
Brown says his other vivid memory of Carter came when he saved the coach a little cash.
When Carter was playing for the Memphis Grizzlies against the Sixers one game, Brown was assessed a technical foul.
“I was yelling at [former Sixer] JaKarr [Sampson] and I believe the ref thought I was yelling at him and I got a technical,” Brown recalled. “Vince went way out of his way to tell the ref that [Brown] was yelling at his player and in mid-stream he flipped the technical.”
Then Brown expressed his gratitude toward Carter.
“I remember telling Vince that enabled me to afford the couch my wife wanted instead of spending the fine on the technical,” Brown said. “We both had a good laugh.”
While Carter is an eight-time all-star,
he last averaged double figures in the 2013-2014 season. These days, Carter is more of a mentor on a young Hawks team. In two games, he is averaging 11 minutes and just one point.
“He is a true leader and a veteran on the team,” Sixers forward Tobias Harris, 27, who is in his ninth NBA season. “He was one of my favorite players growing up, watching him play.”
And like Brown, Harris is amazed at how Carter has continued to be an NBA contributor.
“To see him still playing now, it takes a lot to really take care of your body for that number of years,” Harris said. “That is big-time.”