Pressure on Vince Carter to Prove Doubters Wrong

Pressure on Vince Carter to Prove Doubters Wrong Vince Carter, a 12-year NBA veteran and eight-time All-Star, has long been known for his engaging, even magnetic personality. It's part of what's made him such a big star in this league.

But when asked on Tuesday night about the two huge free throws that he missed with 31 seconds left in Orlando's Game 2 loss to Boston, his response was short and surprisingly dismissive.

"Don't remind me," Carter told the media.

It was a pivotal spot for Carter and the Magic in that game, and in the series. The Magic were seconds away from dropping back-to-back games to open a playoff series on their home floor. They were down three, 95-92, but Paul Pierce had just fouled out for Boston, leaving Carter at the line with a chance to cut the lead to one. The Magic had a real chance.

Make the two shots, and you're in business. Get a stop, knock down a shot at the buzzer on the other end, and it's all over. The Magic win the game and salvage a split.

Miss them, and Carter's the goat.

He missed them, and now he's the goat. And it's not the first time.

For Carter, the frustration of that moment was 12 years in the making. To understand the broader picture of Carter's misery, you have to understand the journey that brought him here.

What does Carter mean when he says "don't remind me?" Directly, he's referring to the two crunch-time misses. But in the back of his mind, it's not hard to read what he's thinking.

He doesn't want a reminder of the six-plus seasons he wasted in Toronto, making the playoffs only twice and only once escaping from the first round.

He doesn't want a reminder of the public perception that's dogged him constantly, everywhere he's gone in the NBA — as a slacker, as a me-first player, as a guy somehow incapable of leading a team to a championship.

And he definitely doesn't want a reminder that a year ago, the Magic were well on their way to the NBA Finals, and Hedo Turkoglu was playing in his place.

The pressure is on Vince Carter right now, perhaps more so than on anyone else still in this postseason. It's up to him to prove all the doubters wrong, to let the world know that he can be a champion.

He doesn't really deserve all the criticism, to be fair. No one in their right mind expected him to win much in Toronto, with few notable teammates but briefly a too-young Tracy McGrady and briefly a too-old Hakeem Olajuwon. He had a couple of decent playoff runs in New Jersey, making it past the first round but running into better teams in the '06 Heat and '07 Cavaliers.

He's never been on a truly great team with a legitimate chance to win a championship.

Until now, that is.

This is the first time we've had a reason to expect greatness from Carter. He's on a team that won 59 games, finished the regular season with six straight wins, and swept its way through the first two rounds of the playoffs. This is his first conference finals, and he's got legions of fans expecting him to come through.

Compare Carter to Paul Pierce. Both emerged from the same draft class — Carter went fifth overall in the 1998 NBA draft out of North Carolina, while Pierce was selected at No. 10 out of Kansas.

Twelve years later, Pierce has a ring and a Finals MVP plaque. Carter's got nothing.

You think there's a lot riding on Vince Carter?

You'd think right.

If Carter doesn't win anything this year, there will be a lot of difficult questions for him to answer later. But don't remind him.

Yardbarker

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