It’s not easy growing old in the NBA. Speed fades, joints ache, and legs that used to be able to jump out of the gym suddenly can’t get off the ground. Still, some athletes are able to change their games in order to increase their longevity, and Vince Carter is one of them.
At 40 he is the oldest player in the NBA, but he’s averaging nearly 24 minutes per game for the Memphis Grizzlies and still getting the job done. His high-flying days of rocking the rim are (mostly) behind him, and Carter took some time to reflect with Michael Lee of the Vertical on the days when he was considered to be the next Michael Jordan, and admitted that Lakers legend Kobe Bryant got the closest to Jordan’s level:
“I tried my damnedest to prove that I’m me. I’m not Michael Jordan,” Carter told The Vertical. “Kobe is probably the closest. I watched Michael Jordan. Studied him. Admired him. Super fan of him. I mean, Dr. J was my ultimate. Michael Jordan right there is a very close second. But when someone said, ‘He’s not Michael Jordan.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I know, thank you.’ ”
Carter grew up idolizing Jordan and is perhaps the only one of the heirs to the throne capable of out-dunking “His Airness”. That being the case, the admission that Lakers legend Bryant was the one to get closest to Jordan’s level is a meaningful one. While Carter wanted to be his own man, there was still that competition between the top swingmen in the league (Carter, Bryant, and Tracy McGrady top the list) to assume Jordan’s mantle.
Bryant and Carter had a number of duels over the years as the Lakers played Carter’s many teams, and they pushed each other to new heights. As his contemporaries have departed for retirement, Carter is still toiling away in the NBA, his superstar status lost long ago. Still, his passion for the game remains as strong as ever, and he is one of the last representatives of a generation of stars that spent so long thrilling us all.