After 22 seasons, Vince Carter officially announced his retirement Thursday.
"I'm officially done playing basketball professionally," Carter said on The Ringer's Winging It podcast.
"As a player, I still feel like I could play another year," said Carter, who finished his career with the Atlanta Hawks. "I understand how the NBA works and sometimes it gets frustrating for the older players in the league, if you would, when you still feel like you can compete."
Carter's career was bookended by shortened NBA seasons. He came into the league in 1998-99 with the Toronto Raptors, a year truncated by an NBA lockout. Now, he exits a little premature, with COIVD-19 forcing the NBA to end his season a little early.
He played his final game on March 11, nailing his last shot, an above-the-break 3-pointer against the New York Knicks.
"Making my last shot helped the situation," Carter said on the podcast. "I think if I didn't make my last shot it would have been different, I would have felt a little different, I would have been itching to just get back and just play one minute."
Carter spent six and a half seasons with the Toronto Raptors, where he brought the team to new heights. He averaged 23.4 points per game in Toronto, but it was his highlight-reel dunks that brought him international attention and raised the profile of basketball in Canada marking the beginning of a new wave of Canadian basketball.
While his Toronto tenure did not end gracefully, Raptors fans seemed to forgive him as his career began to wind down. By 2020, 74% of Raptors fans said they would like to see Carter's jersey retired by the franchise, according to The Athletic.
In April, he was supposed to take one more trip to Toronto to say goodbye to Raptors fans, but the NBA's stoppage prevented that from happening and cut his a little short.
"I could never picture it, imagine it, as much as I tried, I could never put the story together and it got to the point where I was going to let it happen however it happens," Carter said of his final game and his final Toronto game. "I knew both games would be super, super emotional for a lot of people. So that's why as I thought about it I knew it would be emotional, I would be thankful, every corner of the arena, every spot on the floor, every spot on the bench, walking down the hallway, I'd just reminisce the entire game and I would have been fighting taking the trip down memory lane for 48 minutes and still try to play the game the way I've wanted to play all year. I was kind of looking forward to it but dreading it at the same time because, yes, it would have been a celebration, the good old times, the good old boys are getting back together to reminisce, but my approach was yes, it's fun but I still want to play the game the right way."
In an interview with Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix, Carter said he had no hard feelings about the way things ended in Toronto.
“It's an unbelievable feeling,” Carter said of his healed relationship with the city he started in. “It's really impossible to explain. But it's refreshing, satisfying, and makes the walk out of the door satisfying and peaceful, when that door closes. Just because, Like I say, I played the game because I love it. And I want everyone to understand it, see it and appreciate it. And I prided myself on it since I walked into this game. Be a good guy, enjoy the game, and just play the game that I love, my way. And that's all I ever wanted to do. And I think people are understanding that now at this age, more than ever, that I just love playing basketball. And I want to play basketball. And as a young guy I didn't think about, the impact I would have on people.”
Carter finished his career with the third-most games played in NBA history, averaging 16.7 points per game and he retires 19th all-time in NBA scoring, immediately behind Kevin Garnett
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- Aaron Rose covers the Toronto Raptors and Canadian basketball for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter @aaronbenrose or on Facebook @AllRaptors.