Cover image for Drive : how Vince Carter conquered the NBA
Drive : how Vince Carter conquered the NBA
Young, Chris.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
[Toronto] : Doubleday Canada, [2001]

Physical Description:
259 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : color portraits ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV884.C39 Y68 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The first in-depth book on Vince Carter,Drivecaptures the magic of the young superstar and charts the latest transformation of the NBA. Without a doubt, Vince Carter is the best thing to come along since Michael Jordan took basketball to a new level in the 1990s. Here in Canada, Vince Carter is The Franchise. Veteran sports writer Chris Young tracks Vince Carter over the entire 2000--2001 NBA season. By charting the trajectory of Carter's career from his origins in a Florida high school league, he reveals how one star can transform not only a team, but the entire NBA. The Raptors were in their fourth season and at the bottom of the league when Carter joined as a rookie -- now, three years later, he's thrilling fans with his trademark levitations, breath-taking body control, and the power of his slam-dunks. His unique skills have turned him into one of pro sports' rarest of performers: the charismatic superstar. After the bitter labour dispute that delayed the 1998--1999 season and Michael Jordan's retirement in February 1999, the NBA fell into a slump -- TV ratings began to slide and attendance flatlined. It was at this point in NBA history that Vince Carter first attracted notice. His transcendent talent soon led media commentators to name Carter the most exciting young superstar in the NBA. Carter led the U.S. team in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, and has been the leading vote-getter for the last two NBA All Star Games -- a clear reflection of his intense popularity with the fans.

Author Notes

Chris Young, a sports columnist at the Toronto Star, has followed Vince Carter's career closely since Carter joined the Raptors in 1999



Vince Carter was ready to howl at the world. Back at Chapel Hill for two final summer school courses toward his degree in African American studies, Carter closed the book on his university education only to find another kind of learning curve ahead. His cousin Tracy McGrady had left Toronto for good, the coup de grâce coming in an ESPN magazine article in August in which McGrady had called their relationship overrated. Carter could understand McGrady's departure. He could even understand McGrady feeling confident, freshened and emboldened by his new-found independence and a $93-million contract. But these shots at him in the media came from nowhere. He was hurt and confused. The business side -- which he tried to keep at arm's length; his mother, Michelle, in charge down in Florida -- was going no better. In July, Carter had been hit with a $13.5-million judgment for breach of contract with Puma, the shoe company he had signed with before his rookie season. And just a few months before that, the Tank Black situation had reached its depressing conclusion, Carter being the last pro athlete to abandon his agent's rapidly sinking ship. Finally, he had watched from afar as another man he trusted, his first pro coach, Butch Carter, was fired. Then there were the Raptors, swinging and missing in their free-agent search, including his buddy Cuttino Mobley. With the Olympics on the horizon, Carter's closest friend on the Raptors, Muggsy Bogues, was telling him he didn't think he'd get a deal to be back in Toronto for the coming season. Just thinking about that, and the nightmare finish to the previous season, made Carter gulp. Bogues's talks with the Raptors had bogged down by early August, and there was concern that the team wouldn't have enough money left in the budget to accommodate him. In town for his annual fantasy camp, Carter pitched a unique offer at Glen Grunwald: he would pay Bogues's salary, or at least $1 million a year of it, if it would help get the five-foot-three guard back into a Raptors uniform. Carter was feeling a little desperate, and Grunwald, normally an unflappable sort, was feeling a little stunned. On the home front, there was more bad news. Just before Vince set off for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, his mother told him that she and her husband, Carter's stepfather Harry Robinson, were filing for divorce after 16 years of marriage. And while he was away, his brother Chris was charged with possession of cocaine for the second time. "It got to be so bad, I would wonder -- did I step in something bad here? Did I do something wrong?" he said. "It was like there was a string of things going on, one after the other, right in a row. After I'd try to get over one thing, there was something else, then something else, it was just ongoing and never-ending. "I was trying to leave it hanging, so to speak. But I don't care how far you go, it's always going to be there, right behind you, closing in on you." In the unofficial Vince Carter Olympic scrapbook, two pictures catch the eye. One is astounding; the other merely confounds. Study them closely and it's hard to believe that the fellow in both photos is the Vince Carter we've come to know here in North America, the one who is equal parts style and smile. Study them closely and you begin to understand exactly what Carter is talking about. Picture no. 1 in that scrapbook is Carter's dunk over French centre Frederic Weis, which looks like a triumph of man over matter, or at least a suspension of physics. The photo that was carried in more than 200 newspapers and magazines around the world catches him frozen at the apex of his ascent. Weis is seven foot three inches tall, and there's Carter -- a mere six foot six -- dunking over him as if he were some giant Gallic vaulting horse, a mere prop for the act. On the American bench, coach Rudy Tomjanovich thought Carter had left the ground too early. "And he just kept going and going and going higher," Tomjanovich marvelled. For Carter, whose toughest audience is at times himself, even this one was nothing special. "It was just reaction," he insisted. "I was just playing the game." And then he continued, almost apologizing. "I don't do them for my enjoyment, believe me, I don't. I just do them because that's what happens." "Le facial," drawled one French reporter. "That was probably the greatest play in basketball I've ever seen," said Jason Kidd, Carter's teammate who dubbed him "the Next Coming" during the Americans' brief training camp. This had certainly been something of a welcome party for Carter. He was not even among the originals selected for the Dream Team, as the assemblage of U.S. talent had always been called. In truth, it was a group that represented an abrupt shift for the Americans, with not one NBA championship ring adorning the 12 pairs of hands on the roster. Instead of elders, youth defined them, and none was younger than the 23-year-old Carter. Perhaps it was inevitable, then, that instead of a grizzled benevolence, their most marked characteristic was a grim sense of their own importance. They arrived in Melbourne a week before the Games began, nothing on their schedule other than a final exhibition game with the host country, some practice, a little acclimatization and lots of quiet time before the flame was lit and the real work began. Instead, their downtown Crown Casino hotel was the venue for the World Economic Forum in the coming days. As such, it had become the focus for ten thousand protestors. The hotel was barricaded from the outside world, security at each checkpoint, and inside the lobby a "bizarre and at times frightening scene," according to U.S. player Allan Houston. "We were prisoners in our own hotel," said Carter. "It was like clearing customs every time you wanted to get on a bus to get out of there. They were talking about putting us on boats, with big sheets on the side to hide us so we could just get out of there and go to practice." But first there was a game to be played, a game that carried its own sense of foreboding. The United States was playing Australia, which was feeling very good about itself as a medal hopeful after winning a tournament in Hong Kong. The Melbourne Park arena sold out in 55 minutes for the game, 15,114 watching and cheering Carter and Kevin Garnett's thunderous warm-up dunks. Such matches are called "friendlies" overseas, but that didn't fit the U.S. team's mood. Out of public view, in the tunnel between the locker room and the floor, they met up for the usual pregame huddle. "Let's bury these mother-------!" one of them cried. This zeal for what was actually a rather meaningless game came from the most unlikely of sources. When they had arrived at Sydney airport in transit to Melbourne, a copy of The Australian newspaper had been passed around, its cover story about this U.S. team carrying the headline "Dream On: Basketball's New Generation of Nobodies." Thirty-six seconds into a game that had begun with passion and intensity and plenty of X-rated yakking, Australia's Andrew Gaze put up a three-point shot that missed, and suddenly Carter was headed the other way to receive a breakaway pass. Gaze hooked him down by the arm. They rolled on top of each other, Gaze grabbing with his hands, Carter headlocking Gaze. Picture No.2: Vince Carter standing over Andrew Gaze, snarling down at the ancient Aussie like a young Ali. And just like that, Carter had gone from lightning to lightning rod, the very face of the Ugly American cliché. "You can be physical and intense without having a blue with someone," Gaze told Australian reporters later. "There's a certain Olympic spirit you have that doesn't include going out and hitting someone." Carter was incensed. "It was a dirty play," he said. "What bugged me the most was the way he was saying one thing to one person after and another to someone else. If I had let him pull me all the way down, I was going face first into the floor. It would've broken my nose. There were no punches thrown. I'd forgotten about it pretty quickly." Carter was clearly rattled. He missed two free throws badly and was held without a point in the first half. Worse, the audience got on his case early in the second half, unveiling a "Carter is a wanker" chant reserved for the opponents Australians truly regard as poor sports or overblown posers. "Vince never had any crowd on him like that before," said assistant coach Larry Brown. "He'd never been considered a bad guy. The immediate effect really bothered him. He was really shook up." This was new for Carter. For the rest of the time in Australia, he didn't really care about what the crowd was doing. He ignored the media critics that were castigating him, and there were many. "As far as I was concerned, I thought I handled it pretty well," he said later. "When things like that happened, like the Gaze situation, for all that was built up inside me, I could have very easily thrown a punch. I had this great chance to let all that frustration go. But I didn't. I stayed under control." When it came to the basketball tournament, perhaps it was no surprise that the Americans developed a tiresome us-against-them mentality, much like Carter already had. They were winning, which was expected. But the margins were closer than they'd ever been before. The world was catching up and almost beating them, but all they could do was grouse about the international game (different than the NBA, therefore not as good as the NBA), their opponents (different, therefore not as good), the rules and referees (different, therefore not as good), and so on. "The best games to play in were the ones we had in practice," said Carter. "Those games we played against those national teams, they'd look at us like we're NBA superstars and it was like we had a target on our backs." Now and then, though, whenever something new would appear in the way of Vinsanity, his teammates assessed Carter. Take him away from this team, and it's hard to imagine how dreary it would have been. This was a basketball butterfly emerging with new brightness and flair and, yes, the preening and look-at-me posing to go with it. All Carter wanted to talk about, though, was playing defence and fitting into the team. Making big shots when he wanted to, when he was asked to. Even playing some defence. He led the tournament in scoring at 14.8 points a game. There were dunks and jumpers, and shots when they counted -- including an impossible-looking floater over two seven-foot Lithuanian defenders to seal a tight first-round victory, and a reverse dunk to wrap up the gold-medal game. That was also Carter, locking up his opposite, France's top player, Antoine Rigaudeau, in the final. Carter and Garnett teamed up to short-circuit France's pick-and-roll plays after Gary Payton wanted no part of the assignment, and that made all the difference for the U.S. And finally, that was Carter going after a Russian opponent, snarling and angry after he had been undercut on a drive to the basket. Dunking, shooting, defending, talking trash to the Lithuanians after the final buzzer of a razor-close game, and blowing a taunting kiss to the crowd after dunking the last dunk of the gold-medal final, Carter ran up and down the scale from incandescent to infuriating. In the end, this American team would be known as the ones who nearly lost, a four-point win over Lithuania in the semis the tightest fit in Dream Team history. That gold-medal game had a 10-point margin; it was never in doubt, but it wasn't entirely comfortable either. They were in something of a no-win situation -- damned if they did win, damned if they didn't -- but sure of one thing: they didn't want to lose. At the final buzzer, after Carter had made his reverse dunk and blown that kiss for the exclamation point, after they received their gold medals, he found his mother in the stands at Sydney's Superdome and climbed up the rows to get to her. The medal hung from his neck. They cried as they embraced, appreciating the moment and its weight like no one else in the arena could ever imagine. "I never told anybody about what was going on inside me," said Carter. "Finally, something good had happened that I was proud of and I appreciated. All through the Olympics -- the boos, the people giving us a hard time because we weren't the Dream Team, the idea that we might actually be the first [U.S.] team to lose a game -- and then we had the gold medal. I was just happy to be a part of something I'd seen on TV for years ... something that, when I have kids, I can show them and they'll be proud of me for it. "I felt on top of the world. Winning washed a lot of the pain away, a lot of the aggravation. It helped the situation." From the sublime to Buffalo, Carter would return to the Raptors and their training camp just across the Canada-U.S. border five days later. In his hotel room, he shot the breeze with Muggsy Bogues and Dell Curry while he unpacked. Then it was down to the first order of business: Bogues got out his razor and shaved Carter's head. It was a calculated move that Carter had thought through beforehand, as if the Australia persona -- the brass that had at times eclipsed the brash -- would end up with the cuttings on the floor, ready to be swept away. In at least one sense, it sure looked like Vince Carter had changed. Heading into his third NBA season, he had proved a rather large point in Australia, grown a thicker skin, showed a side of himself he had never shown before -- and perhaps that he had never known was there. Excerpted from Drive: How Vince Carter Conquered the NBA by Chris Young All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Vinsanityp. 1
Chapter 1 June 2000: The Storm Before the Calmp. 15
Chapter 2 July 2000: Goodbye, Tracyp. 33
Chapter 3 September 2000: Wizard of Ozp. 53
Chapter 4 October 2000: Say It Ain't Sop. 77
Chapter 5 November 2000: Selling Productp. 103
Chapter 6 December 2000: Getting Youngerp. 127
Chapter 7 January 2001: Escape to Floridap. 149
Chapter 8 February 2001: Making a Pointp. 171
Chapter 9 March 2001: Bland Is Beautifulp. 199
Chapter 10 April 2001: In the Meccap. 227
Epilogue Time and Distancep. 245
Acknowledgmentsp. 257