It's kind of easy to forget Vince Carter's story, especially if you're a relatively young NBA fan.
He has fit so seamlessly into the Mavericks rotation, that after the last three years, watching him you sometimes forget you're watching someone who used to be one of the best players in the game. You forget the turmoil that happened about a decade ago, the highs and the lows of Carter's career.
The history just sort of fades into the background, much like Carter's flashy game. When Carter was dominant in his prime, he was jumping over and through people to get to the basket. He was always a good three-point shooter and a clever passer but his game was so overshadowed by his highlight dunks and forays into the paint that people just sort of assumed once the highlights stopped, so would his career.
In 2001, Carter had taken the Toronto Raptors farther than ever into the postseason. They were in the Eastern Conference Finals, and it was Game 7, against the 76ers. Carter attended his graduation from North Carolina that morning, and that of course brought upon him many a hot sports take.
With two seconds left, Carter had a chance to win the game, but missed a long jumper at the buzzer. That miss was the beginning of the end for his time in Toronto and he was traded to the Nets a couple of years later in a messy exit.
He scored a lot of points with the Nets but didn't win a lot of playoff games. He was able to latch onto the Orlando Magic after their Finals defeat to the Lakers, a grasp at a title-push. The Magic failed. He was traded to Phoenix and by then, Carter was non-existent to the NBA world.
When he signed a somewhat meager three-year deal with Dallas, nothing was really said. "Oh an old, washed up guy just signed with an old, washed up team." We all yawned and moved on. Carter's career was over, in our minds.
Which makes Carter's transformation from superstar to bench role player even that more impressive. Carter turned into a sixth-man, bring his shooting and play-making off the bench for a Dallas team that desperately needed it. The Mavs really maximized Carter's shooting as a small-forward, swapping him in for Shawn Marion whenever the Mavs needed a more offensive-lineup with Dirk.
Carter's kept up his good passing and hell, he even started playing defense. He kept grabbing rebounds. He turned back into...a contributor? On a good team? Kind of amazing, considering where Carter was after his time in Phoenix.
Now Carter's back in everyone's minds. He's been mentioned in the Sixth Man of the Year conversation the past two seasons. He's 37 years old and still looking for that first ring. When the Mavs made their playoff push in 2011, a much talked-about storyline was all the individual stories that Mavs team had about coming up short for a ring. Shawn Marion couldn't get one with those great Suns teams, Jason Kidd lost in back-to-back Finals, Peja Stojakovic came oh-so-close with the Kings, Jason Terry and Dirk shared heartbreaks and Rick Carlisle couldn't find a ring despite coaching some pretty damned good teams before he came to Dallas.
So now it's Vince's turn. He seems to be making the most of it. This amazing video highlights how eerily similar his ultimate failure in 2001 was with his game-winner on Saturday.
Vincent Lamar Carter. Mega-star to washed up to role player. Quite the journey. Let's see where it's headed.
[VIDEO CREDIT: Max Frishberg, @MaxaMillion711]