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Atlanta Hawks

Vince Carter on what could have been the final game of his NBA career: 'If this is it, it's all good'

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Vince Carter (NBA Getty Images)

Before the NBA announced that the 2019-20 had been suspended in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Atlanta Hawks faced the New York Knicks in one of the four games played on Thursday.

In that game, Hawks forward Vince Carter came off the bench for 13 minutes and scored five points. He checked into the game for the final time with 19.5 seconds remaining in overtime and hit the last shot of the contest.

With so much uncertainty about when the NBA will resume following the suspension of the regular season, Carter talked to the media afterwards on the possibility that he's played his final game in the NBA, his time in Atlanta, how he wants to be remembered, his next step in life and much more.

On "we want Vince" chants from the State Farm Arena crowd

"At first, I didn't want to hear it. I was just like, 'let me go back to the locker room.' I was like, 'we still have some more games to play, once two weeks is here,' but you never know, so I was just like 'hey, whatever.' (Coach) gave me that look and I was like 'you know what, what the heck?' Let's go do it. I'm glad I did, it was fun. Like I said, if it ended today - and this day, this end of the season, these last 16 games will be talked about for a very long time and that's something I'll always remember - at least I scored my last basket and it will be a weird, but cool memory."

On if the moment is surreal

"It's a weird way to say 'I'm calling it a career,' it really is. You're used to (it being) when you don't have any more games left, instead, I technically have what I would consider eligibility - I have 15 games left. Technically, but, if not, I'm one with it. It's just weird. As we were being briefed on everything - what's going on and what (the media) has been seeing during the second half. I just sit there like: 'This is it. It ended like that.'"

"Probably tonight, I'll reflect, like 'Gollee, this is weird.' I didn't foresee (this). I went from the hesitation of starting the season and going through the season to not really saying the word 'retirement' to having a conversation with Kobe, which gave me the confidence and comfort to talk about retirement to this point, where the season's over when in my mind I know there (are) 15 games left but we're not sure yet. It's cool, though, basketball's been good to me, I've enjoyed each and every moment of it - good and bad - so, if this is it, it's all good. At least I made my last basket."

On if he knew it could be his last game

"If it is (the end), I'm okay with it, it's just weird how it ended. When you know it's the last game, you have that drive here, like 'well, this is the last one'. I didn't have that thought or that drive today. It was kind of like, 'it's possible' because of everything else that's transpired - the NCAA, Golden State with fanless games and all of those thoughts. I had a conversation with my friends about it, kind of updating them, texting this stuff and thinking 'it's going to happen to us soon' and when you actually think about it that way, it could be the end, because we talked about it a couple of days ago. You never know, but, I'll be around somewhere. The golf course, probably."

On not having a ceremony or fanfare

"I'm not one for the whole thing anyway. You ask a lot of people around me, they'll tell you. I'm appreciative but, I do my time and just walk out the door, it's okay with me, believe it or not but it's cool. The game's been good."

On the NBA's decision to suspend play

"That's what it's all about - safety. You feel for (Rudy) Gobert and being in this situation. It's a lot of things at stake when you think about this, I think even worrying about 'I didn't get to play my last 15 games' - that's selfish because I think safety and everybody's health is more important, for me.

"That's why I think it feels weird but I'm okay with it because I understand what's the bigger picture is the safety. Not even for us as players but as you move forward, our parents, our grandparents, who we get around. That's where it gets a little sketchy. It is what it is - it was meant to be this way. I was thinking, I came in on a half a season, in the lockout now I walk away from the game with unfinished business, which is okay."

On his time in Atlanta and not winning a title

"It's been great, they've given an opportunity to kind of be me. All I wanted to do was just come out and play and compete, still be a mentor and an outlet for these guys but, a championship isn't end all be all for me, a ring of course - what that goal was, just like any other athlete - and sometimes, you don't reach it but I was one with it all."

"I think more than anything, I worked so hard to be in shape and play this game and to compete against young guys half my age, so I wanted to go out playing the game, so when you say, 'how old is he again? He looks like he can still play.' That feeling is like a championship. Because I think each and every night when you're playing against another young guy like, 'man you look like you can play a couple (more) years.' That's like winning a championship in my mind."

"Some people probably don't see it that way and they're like 'you should go for it,' and I appreciate that but I think sitting on the end of the bench, not being able to be a part of this would kill me more than anything. I'd be a bitter old man, for real. It's been a great ride."

On how he wants to be remembered

"That I still love to play. I'd say, for any person, who wakes up every morning at the tender age of 35 or older I'll give you that. Or even in your 40s, and you try to go do something - some type of activity or just being active - and you see how hard it is and then you think 'this man is trying to play in the NBA at the highest level at 43. He must love it.' … you're gonna organically and naturally think of all the highlights and plays and cool moments to you or whoever, but I just think my love for the game at this age, my ability to still compete and play is what I want people to really cherish and understand - it's not easy, believe me. There have been days where I've come in practice and said 'hey coach, I'm probably gonna retire today'…I find a way every day because I love it. That's what made it so tough in the beginning of the year to talk about because it's still in me - competing and being in the atmosphere… but once it's over, it's over. Unless I become a coach, and we know that's not happening."

On what he'll miss most

"(I'll miss) the locker room. Just being around, being a player. Sitting out there, witnessing or being a part of comebacks like this when probably everybody in the building didn't think we had a chance."

On his next step in life

"Broadcasting is something I wanna do. Maybe down the line, if I can be a part of an organization, maybe not coaching but player development - I enjoy that type of stuff. Maybe part ownership one of these days, just being around the game, I wanna help be the middle man to help both sides to bring them all together and make it one finely-tuned organization one day."

On Toronto

"Obviously, as a player, as a young guy, just trying to establish myself as an NBA player and wanting to be the best player I could possibly be. I learned a lot, I grew up there as a young man, not knowing the impact that I would have because I was just that young kid trying to establish myself and figure this game out. I had all these veterans, obviously, in my corner. But I was playing the game that I love and somebody's giving me the opportunity to do so and go for it.

"Playing there now - that last game in Toronto - it's always fun. It went from all the boos to cheers, so that's refreshing and heartwarming. And to play in that game to hear the cheers, it was kinda surreal and just a fun moment to be a part of. I couldn't imagine what the last time would've been (like)."

"Absolutely. I understand it all in safety first but it would've been like a practice day but you're playing against the Raptors. When you look up there and see nobody but friends and family, so it's unfortunate, it was kinda one of those things that I was kinda looking forward to but it is what it is."

On the potential of a comeback

"No. Not that I know of. The money is different these days, though. I'll make sure I'm in shape, just because."

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