While Kyrie Irving's return from injury was the main story in Sunday's 108-86 Nets win over the Hawks, the star point guard's career-best shooting performance wasn't the only headline coming out of Barclays Center.
Against the Nets for the final time, Hawks small forward Vince Carter got his farewell. As he gets set to retire from the NBA after 22 seasons, the former New Jersey star from 2004-09 made one last appearance before Nets fans.
A fan of the team while growing up in West Orange, NJ, Irving idolized Carter and former star point guard Jason Kidd. Reflecting on Carter's impact, Irving did not mince words when asked about how the Nets should honor him.
"Any time you're a Nets' legend and give that much of your time (to the organization), and all the ups and downs he stuck through after J-Kidd left, he did all he could so I think he should (have his number retired)," Irving told Mike Mazzeo of Forbes. "Absolutely."
Carter, an eight-time All-Star selection with three coming as a Net across the 2004-07 seasons, admitted he looked up to the rafters before the game and thought about being in that honorary company alongside Kidd and legendary small forward Julius Erving.
"Whenever it's talked about, you're like, 'Hey, I'd never deny it,'" Carter said, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. "When you look up in the rafters here and see the group of people that's up there, if I one day get that opportunity or that honor I'm OK with going up there, be with guys who I looked up to like Doctor J and a great teammate like J-Kidd."
"I'm a die hard New Jersey Nets fan"
Longtime fan Kyrie Irving has nothing but good things to say about Vince Carter pic.twitter.com/5eHlSzcBAL
- SNY (@SNYtv) January 13, 2020
Carter came to the Nets, while they were still in New Jersey, from the Toronto Raptors (1998-04) in a blockbuster December 2004 trade.
The Nets sent center Alonzo Mourning, wing Eric Williams and a pair of first-round draft picks to the Raptors for Carter while he was coming off his first five All-Star selections.
While the Nets never made their way past the Eastern Conference Semifinals, getting bounced from the playoffs from 2005-07 before suffering consecutive 34-48 seasons, Carter's impact went beyond the numbers for kids like Irving.
"I was a kid in my room, watching VC and the New Jersey Nets," Irving said of Carter, who averaged 23.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game from 2004-09. "Like I said, I'm a die-hard New Jersey Nets fan, before I came to Brooklyn. Now that I've adjusted here, even though I love Brooklyn the same -- it's just that that was a kid's dream, to go see Vince Carter and Jason Kidd and the New Jersey Nets play.
"But specifically Vince Carter -- he used to do some amazing things, man, and it was incredible, as a kid, to watch. I don't want to take it for granted, how much he's given of his life, to sacrificing time with his family and his friends to be playing basketball for this long.
"To commit yourself to a craft like that is nothing short of amazing, so that's probably what his (nick)name comes from -- Half-Man/Half-Amazing. Big, big fan. Always will be. Got his jersey in my bookbag. Yeah, I'm a happy New Jersey Nets kid."