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Sunday, June 28, 2020

Vince Carter's Legacy: Excellent Peak Value, Extraordinary Longevity

The Atlanta Hawks will not be participating in the planned restart of the 2019-2020 NBA season, and Vince Carter has officially confirmed that this means he has played his last NBA game. Carter had announced prior to this season that this would be his final campaign, but the abrupt suspension of the season in March had created at least some uncertainty about Carter's plans.

The 43 year old Carter played in the NBA for 22 seasons, breaking the ABA/NBA record of 21 previously held by Moses Malone (19 NBA seasons, two ABA seasons), Robert Parish, Kevin Willis, and Dirk Nowitzki. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the first of eight players whose ABA/NBA careers lasted at least 20 seasons; in 1985-86, Abdul-Jabbar broke the long-standing record of 16 seasons, held by Dolph Schayes, John Havlicek, Paul Silas, and Elvin Hayes (Julius Erving joined the 16 season club in 1986-87). Abdul-Jabbar's record (20 seasons played) stood from 1989 until 1995, when Moses Malone logged his 21st professional season; Robert Parish broke Abdul-Jabbar's NBA-only record in 1997 after completing his 21st campaign. The other players who played for at least 20 seasons are Kevin Garnett (21) and Kobe Bryant (20). Bryant was the first player to play at least 20 seasons with the same team, and Nowitzki is the only other member of this club who spent his entire career with one team.

Carter won the 1999 Rookie of the Year award and the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. He made the All-Star team eight straight years (2000-07), and he earned All-NBA honors in 2000 (Third Team) and 2001 (Second Team). He never finished higher than 10th (2000) in regular season MVP voting. Carter ranked in the top 10 in regular season scoring average six times, including a career-high 27.6 ppg in 2000-01. He averaged at least 20 ppg in 10 straight seasons, including three seasons during which he scored at least 2000 points. Carter scored 25,728 regular season points, ranking 22nd on the ABA/NBA career scoring list. He joined Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, and LeBron James as the only players who amassed at least 25,000 points, at least 5000 rebounds, at least 4000 assists, and at least 500 three pointers made.

Carter averaged 16.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, and 3.1 apg in 1541 regular season games. Carter ranks third all-time in regular season games played. He averaged 18.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, and 3.4 apg in 88 playoff games. He reached the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010 with the Orlando Magic, averaging 13.7 ppg in a six game series loss to the Boston Celtics.

Will Carter be selected as a Hall of Famer? The answer is almost certainly, "Yes." Every eligible player who made the NBA All-Star team at least eight times has been inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame with the lone exception of Larry Foust, an eight-time All-Star who retired in 1962 and who never averaged more than 17.0 ppg in a season.

Should Carter be selected as a Hall of Famer? The answer to that question depends on how you think about the Hall of Fame. If you think that the Hall of Fame should only welcome the absolute best of the best, then you would likely think that Carter is not worthy. Carter is not one of the 50 greatest players of all-time, and may in fact not be one of the top 100 greatest players of all-time. However, if you think that the Hall of Fame should welcome players who played at a high level for an extended period even if they never reached MVP level then Carter easily meets that standard. Carter was no worse than a top 20-25 player for an eight to 10 year period, which is excellent peak value. He then spent an even longer period as a solid rotation player; those final seasons lowered his career per game averages, but should Carter's Hall of Fame resume be downgraded because he had great longevity compared to his peers whose bodies failed them at a younger age, or who were not able to adjust to a lesser role in order to stay in the league? Carter proved that he was a coachable player who was willing to help younger players, and he proved that there was more to his game than just eye-popping leaping ability. Carter's role in elevating (pun intended) pro basketball in Toronto, and his iconic dunks (both in games and in the Slam Dunk Contest) are intangibles that bolster his Hall of Fame candidacy.

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posted by David Friedman @ 2:45 AM



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