Vince Carter's place in NBA history is probably best discussed when he's done playing, but at this point the 41-year-old has no plans to retire.
Still, in his 20th season, Carter continues to solidify his name among NBA legends, moving into 22nd place in scoring in NBA history during the Kings' 106-90 loss to the Detroit Pistons Monday night at Golden 1 Center.
Carter passed Patrick Ewing with a 3-pointer with 29.5 seconds to play in the third quarter, giving him 24,817 points for his career, two more than Ewing. Jerry West is 21st with 25,192 points.
"When you're talking about Jerry West, Patrick Ewing, these are staples of the NBA," Carter said. "These are names, I don't care what generation you talk to in this game, they know who these guys are. To say that you passed them in scoring, it doesn't get any better than that."
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Now Carter is sandwiched between the two legends on the all-time scoring list.
Carter said it's hard to discuss himself as being in the company of legends, especially while he's still playing. Even then, he'll let other figure out if he's earned legendary status.
"I leave that for other people to argue about," Carter said. "Some people maybe yes, some people, maybe no. That's fine. Anytime I'm able to pass a Patrick Ewing, to be in the conversation to potentially pass Jerry West, I'm very thankful. I don't take any of this for granted."
Carter has evolved from one of the league's stars, a seven-time All-Star who now is a reserve on a rebuilding team that perhaps relies on his knowledge and mentorship more than his play.
Carter said as his role changed as a player, he stopped monitoring his place on the scoring list. Carter jokes that if you play as long as he has, some records are bound to come with it. He appreciates having a place in NBA history, but does not worry about where he ranks on all-time lists. He actually prefers not to know.
"I don't look at that stuff anymore," Carter said. "I think when you do that, you naturally put the pressure on yourself where you press instead of just playing. At this point I just play basketball and I let those milestones, records happen, if they happen. And I think that's been good for me."
Still, the significance of the moment wasn't lost on Carter.
"I know how special this is, and this is a dream for every basketball player who plays, that you can pass the legends of legends of the game," Carter said. "I don't care if you consider me a legend or not. If I don't play another game I can always say I was 200 points away from passing Jerry West, who was one of the greatest, and passed Patrick Ewing, who was one of the five best big men all-time."
Carter, who scored seven points against Detroit, passed Ewing on a 3-pointer. But in the second quarter, Carter had a steal that he turned into a breakaway dunk.
Carter, the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk champion and a renowned in-game dunker, still likes to get above the rim, even at 41.
"It's always fun," Carter said of dunking. "It's fun for everyone, just to show I can still do it. I think I've proven I can but it's still fun. I told (Detroit's) James Ennis on the way, I said stay back, don't foul me. "
That the milestone came against the Pistons was important to Carter, because of his relationship with Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy, whom he played for when he was with the Orlando Magic.
"Usually after the game he walks off," Carter said. "He made it his business to come over and shake my hand, thank me, give me a hug and all of that. I have the utmost respect for Stan for that. I'm just very thankful he was there to witness that."
Van Gundy said the Pistons "didn't rotate properly," which allowed Carter to be able to hit the 3 to pass Ewing.
"Vince can give us credit for that and Pat’s probably (mad) at me right now," Van Gundy said. "But Vince’s career has been amazing. He’s slowed down a little bit but he’s still playing at a pretty damn high level for a guy that’s been in the league this long. He’s not jumping over buildings now. He’s just playing the game on intelligence, toughness and everything else. One of my favorites."
Carter missed the previous two games because he was away from the team for personal reasons. If not, he would have probably passed Ewing sooner.
Carter said every time he plays he's thankful and he loves the game too much to disrespect it.
So if more milestones come, he'll be ready.
"I always say if you play long enough things like this happen, but at the same time you've still got to put the ball in the basket for it to happen," Carter said. "I'm very thankful."