The other day I was reading an article about the “freakish” talent of one Tracy McGrady, and how, in the opinion of some, it actually worked to the detriment of his career. The argument was simple: The game simply came too easy to T-Mac. His crazy leaps and bird-like wingspan, and – as McGrady’s former coach Jeff Van Gundy stated – his terrifically high basketball IQ, made him so much better than his contemporaries, so much more physically gifted, that he was able to thrive in spite of his lackluster work ethic. In other words, there was little to no incentive to work on other parts of his game, the finer skills if you will, because in the end he could always fall back on his unfairly superior gifts from God. Thus, he never became the player that he could’ve been.
Okay. I can buy that. Sort of. But remember, the guy was still pretty freakin’ good. Apparently, Hall of Fame good. And that’s the part of the article that interested me most, as toward the end there was a reference to this thing called “Hall of Fame Probability Rankings.” Basically, all active players were assigned a Hall of Fame probability. Kobe Bryant was No 1. Shaq was No. 2. Duncan 3. Garnett 4. LeBron 5. McGrady, as it turns out, is sitting nicely at No. 11, right behind Chris Paul.
And who’s sitting directly in front of Chris Paul?
Nope. It’s Phoenix’s own Vince Carter, meaning Carter (who has recently been on a scoring tear for the Suns, although he netted only six points in their loss to the Nuggets on Thursday) is the eleventh-most likely active player to make th Hall of Fame, putting him well ahead of not only all the guys I just named, but also ahead of guys like Deron Williams, Tony Parker, and Amare Stoudemire. In fact, he’s ahead of a whole slew of legitimate ballers. And I’m wondering . . . what did I miss?
Apparently a lot. Apparently I’ve forgotten that Vince Carter has been one of the league’s premier scorers for a long time. But has he? Really? I’m not even going to take the time to look up his career statistics because I’m sure they’re fantastic. But that’s not the point. The point is perception. When I think of Vince Carter, I think of a guy like T-Mac, a guy with alien-like talent, a guy who authored the craziest slam-dunk-contest performance in the history of mankind. But I don’t think of him as a Hall of Fame player. At least not – pun half intended – a “slam-dunk” Hall of Famer.
Now, his statistics say I’m a total moron for saying that. But in baseball, guys are always saying that the most important criteria when evaluating a player’s Hall of Fame candidacy is your first instinct. Put another way, when someone says a name, do you immediately, absolutely immediately think Hall of Fame? For instance: Derek Jeter? Hall of Fame. Cal Ripken? Hall of Fame. Gary Sheffield? Eh … I’m not sure. Yeah, he had loads of ability, bat-speed that could break barriers, and his statistics, steroid-enhanced or otherwise, are seriously serious. But is he a Hall of Famer? Eh … I’m not sure.
And that’s where I’m at with Vince Carter. I’m just not sure. Maybe it’s because he played in Toronto all those years, suffering from the same borderline irrelevancy that most hockey players suffer from in America. Maybe it’s because his dunk-contest performance was so superhumanly unforgettable that I have been unable all these years to detach from it, to see him as an actual basketball superstar. I don’t know. But the eleventh-most likely active player to make the Hall of Fame? Ahead of Steve Nash?
If you say so.
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Written by Brad Botkin