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Vince Carter Reflects on His Career and Final Season in Atlanta

The 22-year NBA veteran looks back on the final years of his career and the way it ended on a strange night in Atlanta.

While the circumstances surrounding Vince Carter's final NBA game were strange and unforeseen, Carter is perfectly fine with the way his career ended -- even if they weren't entirely on his own terms. 

If the NBA season -- currently suspended due to COVID-19 -- is over, Carter will retire with more than 1500 professional games and 25,700 points under his belt, with 10 All-Star appearances to boot. He appears likely to make the Hall of Fame, if not in his first year of eligibility then shortly thereafter. 

Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix spoke with Carter in a piece published on Tuesday about the 43-year-old's winding career as an All Star, journeyman, veteran leader, and everything in between. Carter discusses his role with the Hawks the last two years, his final game in Toronto this season, and how he wants to be remembered by NBA fans. 

"It's just I wanted people to see that ‘Hey, I was blessed with this ability to play basketball,’" Carter said. "And 20 something years later it’s the same approach—I love playing basketball. So to really see and be appreciated and everybody just on the same page now. It's a great feeling. And it just makes it easier to walk out of the door."

When Carter was a younger player in the league, his goal was to play at least 15 seasons in the NBA. So many of the players he considered all-time greats had reached that threshold, and he felt that if he could last that long in the NBA, he'd have played a satisfying career. But when the 15-year mark came, Carter wasn't ready to go, and told himself he'd play another two seasons, and just continued to tack on miles until last summer, when he decided 2020 would be his final year in the NBA. 

"I said, if I can make it to 15 years, playing at least a year longer than some of the greatest of all time that played the game, I'm doing something, I've accomplished something," Carter said. "At that point, once I got to 17 years, I didn't want to put a cap on what it was." 

Carter had the opportunity to latch onto a championship contender for his final two seasons, but instead chose to come to Atlanta, where the Hawks were still in the early stages of a rebuild. Few people could have blamed Carter -- who never won an NBA title -- for trying to chase a ring before he retired, but he relished the role of mentoring younger players and contributing on the floor, even if it cost him a chance to win games. 

"It just wasn't my thing. It's just something that I wasn't interested in doing. I mean to be a part of a team where I feel like I can help out, and play some minutes, is what I wanted to do. I just wanted to play," he told Mannix. "I would be miserable as a player. Just because I love competing. I mean, anybody who watches me play, I can't just sit down and just watch the game."

Read Carter's full conversation with SI here