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The 2000 Slam Dunk Contest might be the most memorable in NBA history. It’s certainly the most revered, along with the 1988 duel between Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins. But 2000 is worshiped for one man. In fact, I challenge you to name another participant other than Vince Carter.
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After years of recycled dunks and two seasons without the contest at All-Star Weekend, including the 1999 lockout-shortened campaign, Carter revolutionized the event with each passing slam, until they awarded him the trophy everybody knew was his the moment he arrived at the Oakland Coliseum.
“Michael Jackson is my favorite artist of all time, and it was like the closest thing to a Michael Jackson concert to me on a basketball level,” Allen Iverson said in ESPN.com’s oral history of the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest. “I don’t think a dunk contest will ever be duplicated in that fashion ever again.”
And like that, he’s gone. Well, not exactly. It was just the second season in what’s now a 19-year career and the first of eight straight All-Star Game appearances, but Carter never entered the contest again.
“These days people say, ‘Oh, why didn’t you defend it?'” Carter said in Sportsnet’s oral history. “Yeah, I could have. But I didn’t want to make a career out of it — didn’t want people to expect me to be there every year. Now if I didn’t win it, that’s a completely different ball game. You know, looking back, I had two dunks I could’ve tried that I didn’t. And I can’t tell you [what they are]. Nope. Can’t tell anybody.”
First of all, what other event has two oral histories? That’s how big the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest was. Secondly, there are Vince Carter dunks out there we haven’t seen yet? That’s like knowing there’s an entire vault of previously unreleased Prince songs. We cannot rest until we experience this stuff.
Except, in 2013, a 36-year-old Carter told The New York Times of his dunking prowess, “Nowadays? I do it because I can, but sometimes, the landings suck. That takes the toll on your body. If it’s needed, it’s needed. But if I can make the two points by layup, I’m going to do that. You have be smart about it.”
Hopes dashed. Dreams obliterated. We’ll never see Vince Carter in another dunk contest. Or will we?
The fine folks at wedontbluff.net (via r/NBA) asked the important question: “Do you think that you could still compete in the dunk contest?” Carter’s response granted reprieve to all dunk-loving folk:
“It’s possible,” said Carter. “I don’t know if I’d win, but I think I’d make it interesting, to say the least.”
Carter’s inquisitor in the YouTube video cited photographic proof, from the P3 Sports Science center during training camp last summer, that the 38-year-old could still out-leap NBA players half his age.
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) September 30, 2015
For the record, Wiggins entered the 2014 NBA draft with a reported 44-inch vertical leap, higher than any other player at that year’s NBA Combine, including reigning Slam Dunk Contest champion Zach LaVine (41.5 inches) and 2016 runner-up Aaron Gordon (39 inches). So, yeah, Carter’s still got the ups, as he proved by dunking on Rudy Gobert 14 years after “le dunk de la mort” on another French center.
Oh, and just the other day, embarking on a season in which he’ll turn 40 on Jan. 26 as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies, Carter threw down this windmill and nailed the landing with Achilles intact:
The only way the NBA can top last season’s epic LaVine-Gordon battle would be to add a 40-year-old Carter into the mix in 2017. Make it happen, Adam Silver. And while you’re at it, open the Prince vault.
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