Vince Carter Never stops
In celebration of the global partnership between the NBA and Maison HENNESSY, Vince Carter—one of the sport’s most storied and influential players—sits down for an exclusive chat. The Olympic gold medalist, eight-time NBA All-Star, and dunking icon reflects on his appreciation of cognac, his philosophy of the game, and his world-famous le dunk de la mort.
“Straight up,” proclaims Vince Carter, one of basketball’s most storied and influential players. No, it’s not a nickname for one of his signature slam-dunks, but rather how the longtime cognac connoisseur takes his cognac Hennessy (along with two ice cubes, of course).
“I’m a cognac connoisseur, and that’s just what it is,” says Carter, the retired NBA Icon who joined ESPN as a broadcaster and analyst last fall. “I’m busy now more than ever, but after a long day, I tend to come home to a quiet house late at night, and I’m either watching highlights or replays or just catching up on the world. On my bar, there is always a Hennessy bottle.”
Postgame celebrations have punctuated the unprecedented 22-season NBA run of Carter’s life, making him the only player to appear in a game in four different decades.
“It’s not anything sexy. The answer may not blow your mind, but it’s the truth,” says Vince Carter. The 6’6”, 44-year-old, who officially retired from the game last year, attributes his success to old-fashioned dedication and perseverance.
“The reason why I was able to last was my willingness to do whatever it took to stay the course and to stay in the league as long as I could and know there is no ‘shortcut,’” says Carter, who is best known on the court as a shooting guard. “The greatest players have the body of work they do because they realized what was important and what needed to be done. They stuck to the script. We talk about wanting to be the best, but it doesn’t just happen overnight. They had to dedicate and humble themselves.”
The Daytona Beach native was a top-five draft pick in 1998 by the Toronto Raptors, where he was named Rookie of the Year (1999), NBA All-Rookie first team (1999), and All-NBA third team (2000), all on the heels of an illustrious college career at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His inquisitive nature and willingness to check his ego at the door set him up for success once he began his career in the NBA. “I got to know a lot of players. I came in and asked questions and had conversations with the great veterans. I observed them succeed and make mistakes.” says Carter, who played for a total of eight teams. “I made it my business once I started to become the elder statesman in the league to use my voice a little more and give these young guys the lay of the land and give them something to think about.”
In 2000, he won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest with one of the most explosive performances in the event’s history. It was a prolific benchmark in his career and a lifelong manifestation for Carter as a player. “I had dreams of winning the dunk contest since I was seven or eight years old,” recalls Carter, who dunked a basketball for the first time in sixth grade. “I used to record and watch them over and over, like I was watching cartoons. I studied and practiced how I would shake the commissioner’s hand and hold up the trophy.”
In the wake of his Slam Dunk victory, Carter achieved further glory—this time on the world stage. At the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia Carter leaped over a 7’2” opposing French player, a move that the French media dubbed le dunk de la mort (“the Dunk of Death”) and that induced worldwide “Vinsanity.” As the game’s scoring leader, he was pivotal in the U.S. Men’s Basketball Team’s win over France, resulting in USA’s twelfth Olympic gold in men’s basketball. “I was in attack mode, and the moon and stars were lined up correctly for it all to happen that night.”
For Carter, the spirit of basketball is very much an emotional roller coaster—and that’s exactly why so many people love it. “For as much as the game can be victorious and triumphant, there are bad days too,” explains the 2020 NBA Sportsmanship Award recipient. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. People handle that differently. Emotions of the game are good, and sometimes they can be bad. This just brings the competitive spirit of the game to the audience. Out of 450 players in the league, you can find and relate to a player with your personality and who embodies your spirit, dedication, competitive nature, and appreciation of the game.”
Carving a name for himself seemingly came easily for Carter, but he acknowledges that it can be a mental challenge for young players. “Some guys come into this league who had the physical ability but will go down fighting for the fame of it,” says Carter, who has always taken the off-court flashiness of athletic stardom with a grain of salt. “We all want to be considered amongst the greatest, and we want people to utter our name. People go down making that their end-all-be-all. When you do that, you tend to forget about the reason you’re here: to play basketball and [to understand that] if you just play the game and be the best player you can be, they’re going to find you, and they’re going to recognize you because you’re scoring, and your play is going to stand tall.”
Carter is also quick to acknowledge the freedom today’s athletes have off the court and the social responsibilities that come with it. “I have a great appreciation for the activism [within the NBA]. They understand that some of the conversations and the feelings will be uncomfortable, and that’s okay. Getting people to step outside of the box brings change,” he says. “We hear people say, ‘You’re an athlete, just play basketball,’ but there’s no person who is just one thing. You’re allowed to have opinions and use your voice.”
In 1998, Carter established the Embassy of Hope Foundation, which helps underprivileged children, their families. He also created the Vince Carter Youth Basketball Academy, using the pillars of success instilled in him as a young boy—vision, balance, hard work, teamwork, and perseverance—that continue to fuel him today.
In addition to his appreciation of sipping cognac Hennessy on the rocks, Carter’s personal ethos echoes the brand’s “Never stop. Never settle” mantra. “It truly aligns with my philosophy. It’s something I live by and have hung on to,” he says. “I never gave up. I never wanted to quit. I never got discouraged when people second-guessed me or asked, ‘Why are you still playing this game?’ I played it because I loved it, and I never stopped when people thought I should. I wasn’t going to stop until I wanted to. I didn’t settle for mediocrity, and I still don’t.”
Fans around the world will be able to toast with the new exclusive Hennessy V.S Limited Edition bottle, specially designed to commemorate the partnership between Hennessy and the NBA.
Hennessy Very Special (V.S) is one of the most popular cognacs in the world. Matured in new oak barrels, Hennessy V.S is bold and fragrant. Its beguiling character is uniquely Hennessy, a timeless choice with an intensity all its own. Hennessy V.S offers toasted and fruit notes, with a rich, clearly defined palate and a welcoming exuberance.
Hennessy V.S expresses its vibrant and dynamic personality through unique artist partnerships and annual limited editions. Easy to enjoy, it’s a perfect cognac for high-energy occasions and sharing the moment.
The round and robust flavors of Hennessy V.S make it very versatile and ideal for any cocktail possibility, from classic recipes and sophisticated cocktail creations to easy mixed drinks.
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