It’s official. Vince Carter will be suiting up for his 22nd and final season in the National Basketball Association. He had, of course, already signified his intent to burn rubber for yet another year and, in the process, break a record he currently shares with just-retired Dirk Nowitzki, Robert Parish, Kevin Garnett, and Kevin Willis for the most number of campaigns played in a career. The Hawks bringing him back for the minimum $2.56 million thereby ensures his place in history. No doubt, they were pleased with the numbers he put up — norms of 7.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.1 assists through 17.5 minutes of play — in 76 games for them, not to mention with his locker-room leadership as they strove to rebuild.
For a while, it appeared that Carter would have trouble making any roster given his advanced age and the influx of new talent. That the Hawks ultimately decided to re-sign him speaks volumes of his worth. He’s certainly a bargain at the figure he was inked to, which translates to a cap hit of just $1.62 million. Meanwhile, he is slated to provide veteran smarts and guidance crucial to the development of their youthful talents. It’s also to their benefit that he will be getting media exposure as he goes through an unprecedented run and makes his protracted valedictory; he’s still far from being a candidate for the rocking chair, never mind that he will be turning 43 in January.
Admittedly, Carter is long past the time when he will directly affect set-tos. While he did grace the court at the end of a handful of meaningful contests last season, his role will likely be more reduced under the klieg lights as the Hawks enter the next phase of their development. That said, he looks to be an important cog behind the scenes. Their would-be stars stand to gain from seeing up close and on display the unfailing dedication and work ethic of a future Hall of Famer. No value can be placed on his mentorship and consistent effort to stay ready.
Ironically, Carter was, for a time, accused of giving less than a hundred percent in matches. He was then at the height of his powers, but not-so-subtly forcing the Raptors to trade him, leading to significant backlash. At one point, Charles Barkley was even moved to term him “half man, half a season” in reference to his “half man, half amazing” appellation. Wisely, he has apologized for his misstep and rebuilt his reputation with words and deeds. He has nothing left to prove now, and if he continues to toil, it’s precisely because he wants to give back and underscore his sheer love of the game.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.