Unique look at final shot of Vince Carter’s NBA career

Vince Carter
Vince Carter warms up during the Atlanta Hawks pregame routine . Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

It is a regular day in March. Sports leagues worldwide are hosting games, selling tickets with athletes performing like any other day of the week. But everything is about to change, redefining the term ‘unprecedented’ forever.

In what can only be quantified as a meaningless game, the Atlanta Hawks play the New York Knicks at the State Farm Arena. Both teams are far from playoff contention, and as the season continues and the hype for the playoffs builds, the NBA world has its eyes elsewhere, buckling up for the much-anticipated playoffs in April. 

For Atlanta, the night was going like most did throughout the 2020 season: poorly. 

Sometime between halftime and the start of the third quarter, fans across the stadium heard the news that the NBA season was going to be suspended due to the coronavirus reaching the association. 

A state of panic and confusion followed, leaving most wondering what it would be like without professional basketball. For one man, however, so much more was going to change. 

Vince Carter had already announced his retirement before the season started, bringing an end to his 22-year-old career, the only one in league history to stretch throughout four decades (1990s, 2000s, 2010s, 2020s).

Carter, a distinguished basketball legend and future NBA Hall of Famer, was facing the possibility of ending his career the same way it started, in a shortened season

But before any of that could happen, the Hawks had to finish their not-so-relevant game.  A late resurgence saw the team battle their way into an overtime fiasco, one that was heightened by the recent news the NBA season suspension. 

Ultimately, however, Atlanta found itself down by eight points heading towards the end of the first overtime period. Carter was on the bench, watching his team suffer another defeat and contemplating if he would ever play another game of basketball again. 

Suddenly, chants for Carter to enter the game illuminated the air, eventually growing into a full-on outroar.

The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner, beat writer for the Hawks, recalled the final moments of the game and the impact that the fans had on getting Carter onto the court.

“I don’t think Vince actually wanted to go into the game,” Kirscher said. “I think the fans did a really good job of trying to get Lloyd [Pierce] to put Vince into the game. The players on the bench were trying to push Vince towards the scorer’s table to check-in. It was a really cool moment because at the time we didn’t know if that was going to be the last game or not.”

Pierce eventually caved to the pressure and substituted Carter into the game with less than 30 seconds to go. Carter inbounded the ball before trouting down the court and hitting a perfect 3-pointer. While it may have been a meaningless play in a meaningless game, the last shot of Carter’s career was a perfect embodiment of the consistency and poise that the Florida native provided for so long. 

Carter later revealed that the final shot reassured himself that it was time to call it quits.

“I think if I didn’t make my last shot, it’d have been a little different. I’d have been itching to at least get back and just play one minute and just make one shot,” Carter said when discussing his final moments on the court.

Throughout his career, Carter was known for a myriad of admirable traits, from glorious slam dunks to a kind and personable mentor to his younger teammates. Carter was able to leave an imprint on each of the eight teams he played for.

For Atlanta, it was Trae Young. The 21-year-old gained an immense amount of knowledge from Carter, even calling him Yoda at times to reference his wisdom. 

But, what some may have forgotten about Carter amid his hammering dunks and longevity in the league, was his 3-point shot.

“I don’t know if people realize that he is one of the better 3-point shooters in league history, he is in the top ten for all-time 3-point makes. I don’t know if fans realize that,” Kirschner said.

While some fans may have forgotten about Carter’s ability to knock down threes, the record books certainly have not. Carter ranks sixth all-time in made three-pointers with 2,290, just behind Houston Rockets guard James Harden. 

Whatever the category was, whether on the court or off, Carter excelled, leaving a lasting legacy that just about anyone that interacted with him remarks about. While his career concluded somewhat awkwardly, his legacy remains the same.