THE MIGHTY DUNKS
The 38-year-old Grizzlies forward can't soar as he used to—especially with his left-foot injury—but his flying feats in the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest and his Olympic jam that year are still considered among the greatest.
DAN PATRICK:Did you ever feel bad for somebody you dunked on?
VINCE CARTER: Former teammates and friends, maybe. When it comes to the legends of shot blocking, not at all. Those were like dreams come true for me. You watch them growing up, and then all of a sudden you're like, Man, I just dunked on Alonzo Mourning or Dikembe Mutombo.
DP:But when you're great at one thing, did you want to prove you could do more?
DP:Was that proving you could score in other ways?
VC: You first get in the NBA and you want to let the world see what you bring to the table. I had the ability to dunk. So a dream of mine was to be in the dunk contest and show all of the stuff I had stored in my head for many, many years. And then I was like, Oh, yeah, by the way, I can do some other things as well.
DP:Similar to Michael Jordan. He was a dunker and wanted to prove he had an all-around game.
VC: It was a little more for him. He wanted to show the world he was the greatest ever. [Laughs.]
DP:How did Dean Smith close you to come to North Carolina?
VC: "I'm Dean Smith and you're a good player and we'd like to offer you a scholarship." Anything besides that I didn't really hear.
DP:How was Dean Smith the person different from Dean Smith the coach?
VC: He was very shy. He didn't like people saying, "Dean Smith and the Tar Heels." He couldn't stand when you dunked the ball to try to pump the crowd up. He said it looks like you're saying, Cheer for me. My first year, that's one of the things he stopped me from doing.
DP:How did you jump over French center Frédéric Weis's head and dunk in the 2000 Olympics?
VC: I never thought I could jump over a man who was 6'4", much less 7'2". I get home a month later and tried to re-create that situation and jump over a 6'4" guy and couldn't do it. I almost hurt myself and him. It was just the moon and stars were lined up.
DP:But still, how did that happen?
VC: Every time I see it to this day, I shake my head and say, How? I look at me now and I don't know if I'm jumping over a 5'5" person.
DP:How much longer are you going to play?
VC: Going back to Coach Smith, he taught us to respect the game. When you lose the love and passion for going to work, that's when you start disrespecting the game.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. explained how drivers push the rules to the limits. "We have a rule book, and it's our job or the crew chief's job to bend that rule book as far as it'll go without breaking it," Earnhardt said. "To be competitive, you have to use every thousandth of a second and every measurement that NASCAR allows." ... James Worthy talked about how difficult it is for NBA stars to be patient with less talented players: "I remember pulling Magic Johnson to the side [when Johnson was the Lakers' coach]. I was like, You're Magic. Anthony Peeler might take three years to learn what you do in a week." ... I asked Michael Irvin about the best offer he got during his college recruiting process. "A recruiter was driving me home in a Camaro," Irvin said. "I said, 'This is a nice car.' He said, 'It's yours. All you gotta do is sign.' "
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PATRICK)
JOE MURPHY/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (CARTER)
ELSA/GETTY IMAGES (EARNHARDT)
DAVID DOW/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (WORTHY)
SIMON BRUTY/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (IRVIN)