BOSTON -- We’re more than halfway through the season and the Vince Carter farewell tour made one last stop in Boston.
And the Celtics fans that for years jeered him on incessantly, were now giving him a standing ovation in what was one last curtain call at The Garden.
Carter, who will retire after this season - his 20th in the NBA, acknowledged that the reality that he’s entering a new phase of life is slowly but surely setting in.
There will surely be a number of things he’ll miss about being an NBA player, including the Celtics fans.
“For most of my time here I was the enemy,” Carter said following Boston’s 112-107 win over Carter and the Atlanta Hawks. “So many battles here, ‘boos’, ‘you sucks … to receive a standing ovation from a great sports town like this, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
He added, “It’s a great feeling to be appreciated.”
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Prior to the game, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge presented Carter with a piece of the iconic parquet floor from the original Boston Garden.
“Vince, you’ve had an unbelievable career,” Ainge told Carter. “And we wanted to honor you, from the Boston Celtics, and thank you for what you’ve done for Boston, the entire NBA, 22 years of service, four decades. Not just longevity, but quality.”
Indeed, Carter’s place among the all-time great players of his generation is well cemented, having added 10 points on Friday to his career total of 25,674 points which ranks 19th on the NBA’s all-time leaders list.
Having played more than 20 years in the NBA, there are few contemporaries who know what Carter has been through as a player and the challenge that lies in walking away from playing at the highest level for more than 20 years.
Dirk Nowitzki and the late Kobe Bryant, two of the more recent members of the 20-years-and-over club, were among those whose advice Carter had sought out recently.
The NBA is still reeling from the death of Kobe Bryant who was involved in a helicopter accident that killed him along with eight others which included his 13-year-old daughter Gigi.
For Carter, Bryant’s death really hit home because the accident happened on Jan. 26 - Carter’s birthday.
“I couldn’t celebrate,” said the 43-year-old Carter. “I accepted the happy birthday wishes the next day. I feel like it should be his time.”
As far as becoming comfortable with the idea of retiring, Carter said Bryant was among the more influential people he had talked to about the matter prior to the start of this season.
“Kobe, he helped me feel comfortable, and with one with the ovations, being last time in different arenas,” Carter said. “Seeing how happy he was in retirement, it made me feel, ‘OK, it’s not going to be that bad. Couple weeks later, I talked to Dirk (Nowitzki); he said the same thing. Two guys I respect who understand what I’m doing and what I’m going through. I value their opinions.”
And while some players have reconsidered retirement, Carter says that’s not going to happen with him.
“I’m one with it now,” Carter said. “I’m becoming ready for phase two, slowly.”