A significant number of NBA fans have a negative opinion of Vince Carter for perfectly good reasons. In his last seasons with the Toronto Raptors, Carter was a malcontent. At various stops in his career, he's earned a reputation for not trying particularly hard, sitting out more games than necessary with injury, and generally not fulfilling the massive potential that earned him nicknames like "Vinsanity" and "Half-Man Half-Amazing" when he first entered the league in 1998.
Nevertheless, Carter has accomplished quite a bit in his career: eight All-Star selections (several of which were questionable fan votes, although he likely would have made those teams anyway), one All-NBA Second Team, one All-NBA Third Team, an Olympic gold medal, and the kinds of cumulative scoring stats that are hard to ignore. No matter a person's misgivings about his career, it's hard to ignore those facts.
Add everything up, and it's not crazy to see Carter as a Hall of Fame candidate. In fact, he thinks he deserves consideration. From Chris Tomasson for FoxSports.com (via SLAM):
“Of course, that’s a goal,’’ Carter, a Daytona Beach native who returns to his home state Sunday to face the Orlando Magic, one of his former teams. “You hope [Carter’s career is] good enough. It would be a definite honor to go down into history with the greatest. I would love to be considered for the Hall of Fame … but I’m still trying to finish my career.’’ [...]
“That’s a tough call,’’ said Dallas center Chris Kaman. “I lean toward yes, but then again, you never know. … The cons are he never won a ring, but the pros are he had some great seasons where he really played well, went to All-Star Games, and with the amount of points he’s scored.’’
ProBasketballReference.com, which has a Hall of Fame monitor, lists Carter’s chances of being enshrined at 78.6 percent. But that’s down from 79.1 at the start of this month, and likely will continue to fall as Carter’s stats drop.
Using history as a gauge, Carter probably will make it to Springfield. He’s made eight NBA All-Star Games. The only eligible player to have that many selections without a Hall of Fame call is Larry Foust, a center who played from 1950 to 1962 and averaged 13.7 points and 9.8 rebounds.
The knock against Carter, apart from his lack of postseason success, is that he doesn't have the grace and integrity we typically like to see in Hall of Fame members. It's the sport's ultimate honor, and by several opinions the inductees should reflect the values we want to impart via the sport. Carter doesn't fit the bill — he's never really ingratiated himself to any fan bases, and at this point in his career he's a journeyman looking for the best contract offer he can find. (Although, as this dunk from Friday night's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder attests, he's still pretty good.)
Of course, that approach to the Hall of Fame is largely bunk. Plenty of questionable figures have been inducted, including Nike boss Phil Knight, and lots of players make it despite overwhelming postseason success. Based purely on accomplishments, Carter is a better bet than Chris Mullin, a recent enshrinee. Carter's only really a tough call when judged against expectations, and that seems a bit unfair.
I'm not particularly invested in arguing for Carter — Zach Lowe has made a more in-depth case than I ever could, if you care to read a strong opinion on the subject. What's most interesting to me is how our impressions of Carter have changed over the years. After his worst moments in Toronto, VC was tagged as the sort of player who could never win titles because he didn't have the heart. And even though he hasn't won anything, opinion has softened considerably since, changing from something like a strong distaste into a more measured view of his career as a whole. In other words, Carter is now tolerated.
I don't think either of these opinions is especially more correct than the other, because they're both products of particular circumstances. As we've gotten farther away from Carter's worst moments, opinion has softened and coalesced into something more measured. Eventually, he'll become just another part of basketball history. 607 days
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