With less than 20 seconds left in the OT game between the Atlanta Hawks and the New York Knicks last March 12, 2020, Vince Carter checked into the game. He took a hand off from Trae Young and drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key.
After that the buzzer sounded, both for that game and for the on-going season.
With the NBA season in limbo, that might have been VC’s last game in the league. Or, he could be back, dunking like he always has been, when the season resumes.
Either way, it feels like a good time to celebrate a full career from Half-Man, Half-Amazing.
With a single motion, we can all be witness to the fusion of two contrasting qualities. At times, it feels impossible that we can be blessed with such a gift. But in the year 2000, we were given the opportunity to watch the marriage of grace and power in the church of Vince Carter.
With five dunks, Carter electrified the basketball world with a magical performance during the NBA Dunk Contest. He followed up that showcase in Oakland by bringing his act to Sydney, dunking on 7’2” French center Frederic Weis. That dunk on Weis triggered the birth of a fitting nickname for Carter in that moment: Half Man Half Amazing.
Nicknames are a very dicey topic in the world of basketball. They may seem irrelevant and tacky, even, but they hold great power in how we remember the legacy of these athletes. Black Mamba for Kobe. The King for LeBron James. His Airness for Michael Jordan. They all fit the narrative then when those names were given, and they still fit up to this very day. For Carter, it was Half Man Half Amazing. The question was, would it still stick years later?
A large reason as to why Carter was given that moniker was because of his otherworldly athleticism. That trait served as the Fusion Dance between grace and power. Others try to mimic this but only a select few perfectly have their fingers aligned to pull it off. Carter was a perfect example of those select few, and it could even be said that his version was the very best. The result of this combination was equally parts soothing and powerful.
But what about when that Fusion wears off? Father Time is undefeated and Carter’s ability to power down graceful dunks will eventually taper off. Is it still then fitting to call him Half Man Half Amazing?
On April 26, 2014, the Dallas Mavericks found themselves down 108-106 against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 3 of their first round series. A loss to the Spurs would have meant relinquishing the homecourt advantage they had stolen in the previous game. With only 1.7 seconds left on the clock, the Mavs needed either a catch and shoot or an alley-oop to still have a shot at winning the game. Who would they go to?
The easy pick was their franchise’s greatest player: Dirk Nowitzki. But the Spurs probably knew that, so another fine choice was electric guard Monta Ellis.
But off the inbound, almost instantly, the Mavericks went to Carter. They didn’t go for an alley-oop slam, a move Carter was known for. Instead, they had him flashing to the corner for a potential catch and shoot game winning three.
This didn’t exactly fit the bill of how we knew Carter. He’s always been praised for his exploits as an athlete, not as a shooter. But in reality, this moment, with a playoff game on the line, perfectly captured what makes Vince Carter Half Man Half Amazing. Not his dunks from the year 2000. Instead it’s a simple, yet pressure-packed Playoff three-point attempt.
Carter isn’t just a dunker. He also happens to be a very good basketball player. Remember, he converted that dunk on Weis in the Olympics, representing the United States. That’s an honor you don’t get for just dunking the basketball. You’re given the opportunity to play basketball for Team USA if you’re really good at the sport. Carter was in every sense of the word, good.
For 11 straight seasons with both the Toronto Raptors and the New Jersey Nets, Carter averaged more than 20 points per game. He was an offensive force who had the ability to drive to the rim thanks to his athleticism and power, while also being able to shoot efficiently from beyond the arc. Carter was also a more than capable passer for the teams he played for. Simply put, he was one of the best wingmen in the NBA during the 2000s.
Eventually, Carter’s production dipped. By the time he was playing for Orlando, he saw his minutes fall as well as the amount of points he scored per game. Fans saw less dunks and highlights from the man who electrified the basketball world with his power and grace. It was in this stage of Carter’s career when he looked more man than amazing.
Yet, despite that, Carter still produced. Often, players of Carter’s type suddenly find their numbers dipping dramatically. In his case, he remained consistent in helping his teams, despite whatever limitations he had at that point because of his age. There were less dunks, but more jumpers. Fans saw less electricity, but they were then witness to wisdom.
Carter was aging gracefully despite Father Time catching on. That in itself is amazing.
Which brings us back to this moment of Carter in the corner, about to attempt a game-winning three against the juggernaut San Antonio Spurs. As he caught the ball, he quickly faked first to elude Manu Ginobili. It wasn’t the best attempt, but Carter needed to shoot it. It looked uncomfortable. It didn’t look like it would go in. But somehow someway, he got it through.
Once again, the basketball world was electrified. It wasn’t with a dunk which Carter was known for, but instead with a game-winning jumper from the corner. He wasn’t just a dunker. He already proved that. He also proved that was still such a dangerous basketball player.
Carter tickled our imagination every time even as his athleticism dwindled. His legacy isn’t just with his windmills or 360s. It’s also with his excellence and willingness to adapt. It wasn’t easy but it was worth it. Because of that, we can safely call Vince Carter Half Man Half Amazing.