In 2017, in his 19th year in the NBA, Vince Carter admitted that he was not willing "to sell his soul" to win an NBA Championship. His remarks went unnoticed. But it goes against the ring culture that has pervaded the NBA over the last few years. In an interview with hip-hop star T.I. in 2020, Carter clarified his rather unorthodox take.
"I won't sell my soul"
Carter was with the Memphis Grizzlies when he dropped those comments. He was not the team's franchise star or prized role player but still played significant minutes. Carter knew what was happening in the league where players were taking their talents to legitimate contenders. He wasn't keen on following suit, knowing that his minutes might be jeopardized.
"I'm not gonna quote-unquote sell my soul to get [a ring]. What I mean by that is, I feel like at this age—being 43 on the court and still being able to compete and play and do what I can do on the court. ... My thing is that if I go to another team out there that's primed and ready to win a championship, it's not guaranteed that I'm going to play, play a lot. And I can't handle that, brother. I love the game too much to just sit there and use my voice but can't use my skill on the court," Carter said.
This is the main reason why Carter stayed on for 22 years. He just loves the game so much. And unlike most veterans, Carter wasn't just a locker room voice. The man played 15-20 minutes even in his late 30s. This sounds like a laughing matter compared to LeBron James, who, at 37 years old, is pouring in over 30 minutes per contest. But James is an aberration, so it's useless to compare him to others.
Cracks at the title
Carter actually had several legitimate chances at winning a title. In 2001, he led the Toronto Raptors to the Conference Semis, where they bowed down in a classic duel with Allen Iverson's Philadelphia 76ers. Carter also guided the New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets to two Conference Semis appearances. 2010 was the closest Carter got to an NBA Championship as the Orlando Magic made it to the Conference Finals but were booted out in six games by the Boston Celtics.
In 2012, fresh off their championship year, the Dallas Mavericks acquired Carter. Lo and behold, injuries prevented Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd from keeping up the momentum. They recorded a mediocre regular season and were swept by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round.
Yes, Carter will join the likes of Karl Malone, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, and many others on the list of elite players who have never won a title. But based on how he justified his decisions, particularly where he chose to play. Carter has no regrets. He called his shots, played his game, and never fell to the lure of the trend.