Vince Carter to the Power Glove: Journey down the rabbit hole

It's not hard to get from Vince to the Power Glove. (USATSI/Nintendo)
It's not hard to get from Vince Carter to the Power Glove. (USATSI/Nintendo)

Some of the NBA training camps/media days start on Friday but the information about how players spent their summers, added or shed weight, and what they think their team can do this season won't start trickling out until this afternoon. Even then, we'll have to wait for most of the league's media days/training camps to occur on Monday before we're in the full swing of having the season back. You know what that means? 

We've got some time to kill during your workday on Friday and really throughout the weekend. Shall we journey down the rabbit hole?

First Stop: Vince Carter dunking as a Dallas Maverick

The YouTube mixtape is often a sacred thing in the NBA online world. Throw together some dramatic cuts of highlights, keep giving the viewer spectacular play after spectacular play, maybe even include a couple of lesser ones because you know the next big one will grab their attention again, throw on either a hilarious song or a banger that makes the viewer immerse themselves in the pageantry and rawness of the action, and be sure to grab players that are going to grab your audience and page views.

That's the formula for how to create a successful basketball mixtape. There are hundreds of great ones out there involving incredible players from past and present (maybe even future?). It's kind of an art to be able to pull it off over and over again, which is something that Patrys15 does over and over again while not exactly grabbing the most spectacular players.

Rodger Sherman at SB Nation put the spotlight on Patrys15 and his affinity for shining the spotlight on the lesser players around the league. We're not talking about him doing this for guys like Monta Ellis and O.J. Mayo, either. We're talking about mixtapes for P.J. Tucker, Ime Udoka, Garret Siler, Sean Marks, and many other small time role players.

Patrys15 also did something that I found fascinating: he put the mixtape magic to Vince Carter, which has been done hundreds of times before but never quite like this. He has several VC mixes that don't even touch on his transcendent days in Toronto or his pretty cool days in New Jersey (and even Orlando). He has one mix dedicated to the Phoenix Suns days and two mixes dedicated to the Dallas Mavericks days (which are still ongoing). This mix of the latest dunks from Vince during the 2012-13 season is really well done and has some surprisingly great highlights, even at the tender age of 36.

Carter doesn't fly through the air like he used to. He's not gearing up for rim rocking dunks and putting everybody on the edge of their seats as he gathers his steps, but he's still capable of surprising you here and there with power behind his dunks. It's just that you can't land from so high up and with so much ferocity behind your aerial assaults forever. 

It's the landings that get tougher when you get older, not the dunking

To hear Vince Carter talk about dunking in his mid-30s lets you in on almost a sheepish emotion he has. He knows he was legendary at this feat, but he never wanted it to define him or his career. He's scored over 20,000 points in the NBA -- something only 37 other players in league history have accomplished and yet he's really only defined by his dunking, which he did better than any NBA player in history. 

Steve McPherson writing over at the New York Times last season got a great quote from Carter about how dunking isn't the hard part anymore but it's the landing veteran players have to be careful of when they soar. 

Those early flashes of athletic transcendence, when he seemed to combine the grace and fluidity of Michael Jordan with the thunderous power of Dominique Wilkins, were not illusory so much as mismeasured. They were only snapshots.

Asked if dunking is as much fun as it looks, he grimaces. “Nowadays? I do it because I can, but sometimes, the landings suck. That takes the toll on your body. If it’s needed, it’s needed. But if I can make the two points by layup, I’m going to do that. You have to be smart about it.”

Smart isn’t always lauded in athletics, but Carter has learned the game lasts much longer than a dunk. “When you’re younger,” he said, “you don’t really care how you land when you come down.”

With the high-flyers, we always assume that the reason they lose their leaping ability is because the legs and core don't allow them to catapult themselves into the air like we were dazzled by in the early part of their careers. And yet, we still see video of Julius Erving throwing one down at the age of 63 or Michael Jordan getting up for a dunk in terrible jeans at the age of 50. Is it simply because they're still very tall individuals?

That's part of it but a lot of these transcendent high-flyers might just know the toll their bodies bemoan when they come down for the landing is just not always worth the spectacular highlight. The fast twitch muscles and powerful cores may have the leaping ability well past the age of declining athleticism (which could be affecting more of the quick step than the leap), but the force your body has to absorb coming down from the heavens time after time can be too much to continue to endure.

Of course I'm going to show the Olympic dunk

It would be unprofessional of me to start posting Vince Carter dunks without highlighting "The Dunk" that changed posters forever. We all know the story. Back in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Team USA was still running the world in basketball excellence and the distance (while definitely dwindling) between the US and the rest of the world was highlighted by this ultimate basketball feat. 

The entire thing is just a perfect storm of awesomeness. It's like if goose bumps tried PCP in a funhouse mirror. None of it makes sense and all of it makes sense at the same time.

As the French team is heading up the floor, Vince Carter intercepts a pass on the left wing and immediately has Frédéric Weis in front of him with three players flanking on the right side of the floor. Weis does what any upstanding basketball player would do in the situation; he stands there to give his body up for a charge. Instead, he gave up his body in the name of science.

Vince launches himself over the 7'2" giant and clears him in one bound like he's Superman. He throws down the one-handed dunk and the reactions are priceless. Vin Baker looks like he's walking away from the scene of a crime. Kevin Garnett can't feel his arms at this point and is just shoving Vince all over the place. And Vince lets out a scream of virility. It's still awesome every time.

The Windmill at Rucker Parker

There are plenty of legendary NBA moments that Vince has given us, both good and bad, but probably my second favorite moment of his didn't happen on an NBA court. It happened in the Entertainer's Basketball Classic at Rucker Park back during the time that Vince was probably at the height of his Vinsanity. At the time, streetball was on the rise and infiltrating young, impressionable basketball minds everywhere. 

YouTube didn't exist yet so you could either get lucky and find a message board that had uploaded videos from video cameras or you could go online and order VHS tapes of various streetball games from the summer leagues around the country. There was buzz about this unreal dunk that Carter had pulled off at a Rucker Park game (although the game had actually been moved into a gym because of rain) but there wasn't really an easy way to find what it was.

At the time, I remember trusting a website that looked like Geocities had birthed it. I submitted my credit card and for $16.95 plus shipping and handling, I received a VHS tape that claimed to have the game. When I first popped the tape in my VCR, I assumed I had been duped. This game was indoors and I didn't know that the game had to be moved because of rain. As far as I knew, I was supposed to be watching a game from Rucker.

But I powered through it and eventually got through dozens of minutes of streetball play for the moment that had flooded message boards.

Vince probably wasn't the first player to throw down a windmill dunk off an alley-oop and he certainly wasn't the last, but at the time, nothing like this was being seen. It was just another legendary moment to add to the highlight legacy of Carter that continues to make him one of my favorite players in NBA history. I get all of the flak he takes for his career and the injuries and Toronto, but he changed the way I wanted to watch basketball. Local and national games were not good enough. I needed to watch every game and consume as much basketball as possible.

I'm also convinced that YouTube was created because of what Vince Carter was doing. A 280-pixel by 280-pixel, grainy video download in 1999 of Vince Carter going baseline against the Pacers for an up-and-under, two-handed dunk next to Chris Mullin just wasn't good enough. We needed videos -- and lots of them -- at our fingertips.

(NSFW lyrics in the last verse of the song chosen for this mix)

Thank you, Vince.

What else does this Patrys15 have for us?

I know the allure of posting a lot of bad players' mixtapes on here is at an all-time high for me, but I couldn't ignore this long but extraordinary video Patrys15 did. It highlights the uniqueness that was Shaquille O'Neal's career by showing his touch, power, personality, and a lot of him falling. It's a 15-minute video so if you want to open it in a new window and save it for later, click this link.

Seriously, Shaq used to fall a lot, which makes sense because it would be next to impossible to keep 340 lbs distributed over a seven-foot frame upright all the time. But that's not all Patryst15 did for us.

Yes, he made a Walt Williams career mix and it's incredible. For those who don't quite remember, Walt Williams was a smooth scoring small forward out of Maryland that wore high socks and had a pretty decent career for the Kings, Heat, Raptors, Blazers, Rockets, and Mavericks. He was nicknamed "The Wizard" and he was a big-time crowd favorite in his early days in Sacramento.

When you hear the word Wizard, do you think of the team in Washington, British kids with wands at boarding school, Middle Earth, or do you think of the awesome Wiz commercials from the 1980s? 

Nobody beats the Wiz

Nobody beats the Wiz or The Wiz were stores in the Northeast part of the country that sold electronics to the masses. I have no idea if they had good deals on their products but I do know they had fantastically cheesy commercials that found their way to YouTube.

Yep, that's Joe Namath passing out Christmas gifts to loved ones and letting you know that there is a new superstore going up in Succasunna, New Jersey. 

The head of the Price Patrol may or may not be a private investigator. I am not quite sure why he's being so secretive and incognito about his job at first before spilling the beans on what it is he does. I can only assume he's the reason we've had that private eye investigating Arby's recently

The Wiz was so legendary in the northeast part of the country that Seinfeld even found a way to spoof it in an episode. 

I love the Power Glove... it's so bad

Some people may hear "The Wiz" and think of Diana Ross and Michael Jackson dancing around a New York-style Land of Oz, but I immediately think of the 1989 Fred Savage movie "The Wizard." It's about some kids traveling around the country, hustling people in video games, and trying to get to a big Nintendo tournament. 

It also contains the single greatest marketing tool for the Power Glove you could have ever imagined in the 1980s. 

I love the Power Glove... it's so bad.

CBS Sports Writer

Zach Harper likes basketball. Some would even say he loves it. He's also an enthusiast for everything Ricky Davis, Rasheed Wallace, Nic Cage, and has seen the movie Gigli almost three times. He's been... Full Bio

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