Dallas guard Vince Carter is widely considered to be the best dunker in NBA history. He won the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest championship and garnered the nickname “Half-Man-Half-Amazing” for his aerial feats. He was the 1999 Rookie of the Year, an eight-time All-Star and a gold medalist in the 2000 Olympics with USA Basketball. Now 35, Carter is on the tail end of his career and seeking his first NBA championship with the Mavericks.
Question: How does it feel to be widely considered the best dunker of all time?
Vince Carter: “Oh man, I don't know. That's says a lot. I just think of all the players who've electrified the NBA for years. Dominique (Wilkins), M.J., Larry Nance, Kenny Walker. I mean, it's always a great feeling. But it's always a debate. Even with my friends I argue back and forth.
Which dunkers were you a fan of?
“I was a Dominique fan. I'm a Dr. J fan No. 1. But I studied the art of the dunk for so long. I still have VHS tapes of dunk contests from back in the day that I used to watch to understand the thinking behind every dunk that they were doing. That's how I approached it, like what was Dominique trying to get out of the two-hand windmill dunk? Was he just doing it to say, ‘Hey, I can do a two-hand windmill dunk?' Or was he showing technique? I'm more into the technical side. I feel like you understand more about the move that he was trying to do. You have more of an appreciation for it.”
Which dunk of yours was your favorite?
“I think the most spectacular, and to this day I still can't believe I did it, was jumping over Frederic Weiss, for sure. I don't know what player comes into a game and says, ‘You know what? If I get a chance, I'm going to try to jump over this guy.' I didn't think that way. I've said I'll try to dunk on a guy. But I've never said I was going to try to jump over a 7-footer. Maybe a little guard who tries to take a charge. But I never ever said I'm going to try to jump over a 7-foot-2 guy. Even to this day when I see it I'm just like, ‘I don't know how that happened.'”
How tough is it when you start aging and no longer can do the things you once were able to do?
“I still can do a lot of the dunks that I used to do. Maybe not as hard or as high. But if it came down to it, I can still probably do the 360-windmill. It just probably wouldn't be as spectacular, at least in my mind. Maybe to some people because they'll say, ‘Oh, he's 35. He can still put his arm in the rim.' But it's just I probably wouldn't be able to put as much arm in the rim anymore. I'll probably break my arm now. The only thing I probably don't think I can do it probably the free throw line. Everything else, I think I can do.”
Who are some guys you remember that never made it but could jump out the gym?
“Ronnie Fields. Melvin Levett. If people got a chance to see Ronnie Fields and Melvin Levett, they used to call Melvin the helicopter and Ronnie was unreal. He played with Kevin Garnett (in high school). James White also. That guy had unbelievable bounce. Those are the three that I can think off right now that are blessed with that ability.”