While Vince Carter's decision to retire at the conclusion of the 2019-20 NBA season didn't come as much of a surprise, his final season in the NBA being cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic prevented the legend from having a proper send-off.
MORE: The five chapters of Carter's legendary career
Like all legends and future Hall of Famers, Carter's legacy is defined by a number of moments, performances and plays, but the first thing that often comes to mind when reflecting upon Carter's career is his legendary performance in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest.
Today, on the anniversary of the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest, we'll take a trip down memory lane to that iconic night in Oakland to analyze Carter's performance in a unique way.
Instead of reviewing that fateful night in the order with which things unfolded, we'll re-live the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest based on the different emotions Carter's dunks evoked among all of those in attendance. Carter's performance was unique in that it wasn't just the dunks we remember, but the fanfare and showmanship that went along with each one of his finishes.
Oftentimes, the best way to contextualize a historic performance from a player is by focusing on the impact made upon their peers. And that is exactly what we'll do first.
We'll begin at the end.
When the full crowd at The Arena in Oakland realized that Carter's plan was to dunk from the free throw line, the widespread anticipation was immediate. Could he do what Michael Jordan had once done years ago to defeat Dominique Wilkins?
After everything that Carter had done that night, most felt that if anyone could match Air Jordan, it would be Air Canada.
As the crowd rose to its feet, it was overcome with feelings of anxious anticipation.
His peers were also ready to erupt…
Here comes Vince!
With a somewhat anticlimactic finish, it was impossible for all to hide their disappointment.
In all honesty, Carter's final dunk wasn't quite up to par with what he had done throughout the night. But to be fair, he only needed 42 points and he went with a relatively safe bet to secure his title. Can't blame him for that.
MORE: Is Vince the best dunker ever?
By no means are we taking away from this dunk. It's just that everyone expected more. Look no further than the facial expressions of judges Cynthia Cooper, George Gervin and Isiah Thomas.
Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom - years before they would become teammates with the Los Angeles Lakers - didn't exactly appear too impressed, either.
Now that the disappointment is out of the way, it's time to shift our focus to the approval shown in response to Carter's second dunk of the night, a powerful 180 windmill from under the baseline.
Rightfully, this dunk earned a 49 from the judges.
The crowd did give its approval, but there was a noticeable lack of overflowing enthusiasm.
The approval was widespread, but we need more. The people wanted something unforgettable, something worthy of making history.
Amazingly, one of the most memorable dunks of the night was the first dunk of the night. It's hard to think of a much better way to start than this:
To this day, Carter's 360 windmill is remembered as one of the best dunks in Slam Dunk Contest history, leaving us with a number of unforgettable reactions in the crowd.
Who could forget the amount of "10s" displayed by entertained fans?
Shaquille O'Neal, a legend in his own right, couldn't believe what he had just captured on his camcorder.
Dikembe Mutombo! Pure joy!
Ray Allen was in disbelief.
More than anything, the desire to rewatch Carter's dunk over and over again drew all eyes to the jumbotron. Somehow, they tried to make sense of his unprecedented display of power and athleticism.
It's important that we specify the difference between astonishment and shock, because Carter's fourth dunk of the night brought about the latter.
When Carter - quite literally - put his arm in the rim, hanging from the rim by his elbow, not many immediately understood what he had just done.
Nope, not even the physically dominant Shaq…
...or highflying point guard Steve Francis, who was competing with Carter in the final round of the Dunk Contest.
Carter's dunk was so good, he caused his competitor's jaw to drop.
Now, it was time for Thomas' trademark smile that basketball fans know and love.
Even Michael Keaton, known for playing the role of the superhero Batman, was in awe of "Half-Man/Half-Amazing."
Of course, we must save the best for last. Are you ready? Fasten your seatbelts, because here we go.
In what would become Carter's most iconic dunk, he was aided by his cousin, Tracy McGrady, who also participated in this Dunk Contest and finished third. They were teammates and relatives, but to be assisted by a competitor is not something you see too often in situations like these.
MORE: Bring Carter's iconic dunk to life
Now that you understand the context, are you ready?
Pandemonium throughout the arena…
Even the judges were in a frenzy!
Isiah Thomas' reaction says it all.
Kenny Smith, who was also a judge, bowed to Carter, in awe of what he had just done.
Unbridled joy could be found on the faces of those in attendance, even once the initial moment had passed.
Smith, who in addition to serving as a judge was on the TNT broadcast crew, offered perhaps the most accurate assessment in the history of broadcasting: "Ladies and gentlemen, it's over."
It was definitely over.
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.