All week long here on NBA.com we're celebrating the amazing accomplishments and enduring legacy of Vince Carter who decided to call it a career after an awe-inspiring career that spanned a record 22 seasons. For more never-before-seen Carter content, check out ThankYouVince.com which features an interactive look back through the defining moments including never-before-seen content.
When trying to name the greatest players in NBA history to never play in an NBA Finals series, you won't have to go to long before you say the name Vince Carter.
In his 22 year career, Carter never stepped foot on the floor for a Finals game. In fact, Carter only made it to the Conference Finals once, when his Orlando Magic lost to the Big 3 Celtics in the 2010 playoffs.
Following his 2010 playoff exit, Carter played for five different teams in 10 seasons but never became a ring chaser. Ah yes, the dreaded ring chaser, the player trying to steal one on the way out. The veteran who gave it his all many times but wanted one last chance at hoisting Larry O'Brien - that was never Carter, he actually did the opposite.
Carter had multiple chances to jump on a championship team over the last 10 years of his career, but instead, he went out on his terms.
After the failed Finals run with the Magic, Orlando traded Carter to the Phoenix Suns the next season, a team that was a far cry from the run and gun squad that had changed the game as we knew it in the late 2000s. Carter finished the 2010-11 season with the Suns and was waived which gave VC the power to chose his own destiny going forward.
At 35, Carter was no longer as explosive as he once was but he was still more than capable of being a contributor to a team with championship aspirations. He would sign with the Dallas Mavericks on a three-year deal at the league's mini-midlevel exception.
Although the Mavs were reigning champions that had just upset the LeBron James-led Miami Heat the season before, not many excepted them to repeat as champions. Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson, who all played a big part in the championship run, were no longer on the roster. And while Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry were still there, they lacked the toughness that the three departing players provided. In the three seasons Carter spent with Dallas, they never made it out of the first round of the playoffs, which left him now heading into his age-38 season still ringless with another opportunity to jump on a championship ready team. Except he didn't.
Instead, Carter took his talents to Memphis, signing a multi-year deal with the Grizzlies, a team that at the start of the 2014-15 season held the 11th best odds of winning the NBA title. The Grizz made the playoffs during each year of Carter's time in Memphis but they failed to make any significant noise, making the second round just once.
By his age-40 season, Carter was once again a free agent with the option of joining a Finals-bound team. Instead, he inked a one-year deal with the Sacramento Kings, the team that at that point hadn't been to the playoffs in 11 seasons. The streak rose to 12 in Carter's lone season there, and his final two seasons with Atlanta were also playoff-less.
Carter's situation toward the end of his career is unique. He had opportunities to join championship contenders and chose not to. He could've helped a number of teams that were looking to add an extra floor spacer or veteran playmaker but he was comfortable being the mentor on lesser teams.
Carter will no doubt enter the Hall of Famer, ring or not. Basketball-Reference gives him a 94.5% probability of being inducted. So maybe he didn't need a ring to complete his career. But you do have to wonder how a championship series could have helped the legacy of Vincesanity.
I also wonder whether or not the way he left Toronto played a part in how he chose to close his career. Carter didn't leave on great terms with the Raptors, and it haunted him for many years. Did he overthink it when it came to his free agency decisions? Was he concerned with how people would have viewed him if he was ring chasing?
Only he knows.
But one thing is for sure, Vince Carter did it his way, and his way is still good enough for the Hall of Fame.
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.