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An ode to Vince Carter

As the NBA playoffs start, let’s remember VC.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Vince Carter is not human.

If he was, he would be joining the rest of his draft class in various post-basketball ventures (Dirk Nowitzki is the only other 1998 draft class alum to still be playing). Tyronn Lue was taken 18 picks after Carter, and he is now the head coach of the defending NBA Champions. His college teammate, Antawn Jamison, taken one pick before him, is out of the league.

Yet Vince Carter is a consistent contributor for the Memphis Grizzlies, who open up their first round playoff series tonight against the San Antonio Spurs (Nowitzki’s Mavericks stunk out loud this year).

Last month he did this. He is 38 years old allegedly. I say allegedly, because there is a 90% chance that he is a 5000-year-old alien.

At Carolina, Vince Carter was single-handedly responsible for not destroying the Dean Dome, a benevolent dictator who takes his finger off the demolition button instead of making this dunk and destroying the house that Dean built.

And 18 seasons later he is still doing it. He was long known as a guy who got by on athleticism, and for years it worked. He built a Hall of Fame career as a human highlight reel.

But in later years, as the slow march of Father Time eroded some of his skills (and I use the phrase erode very loosely; his athleticism went from out of this world to slightly above average for a NBA player) he expanded his game. He became a complete player who relied on experience and intuition as much as he did athleticism. He became the veteran presence that he was missing as a young player in Toronto. He even did this three years ago:

He did all of this while still bleeding Carolina blue. Who can forget him joyfully asking “Where’s Dook?” at the 2009 title game? He “controversially” flew to Chapel Hill for graduation the morning before a playoff game. Never mind that he put up a 20/9/7 in the Game 7 thriller that night. He missed the shot to win so it had to be his fault. Years later, he says he still would make the same decision. Finishing what he started at Carolina was that important. (4:45 mark)

So tomorrow, a true Tar Heel will take the court yet again in an NBA playoff series, long after he was supposed to have retired and awaited his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. You may not be an NBA fan, but it is worth your admiration and appreciation.

Rooting for aliens like Vince Carter can be fun.