Nearing 40, Duncan and Carter still starring
Posted April 28
The oldest NBA player in history was a chap named Matthew Hickey, who finally ended his career with the Providence Steamrollers on Jan. 28, 1948 - a couple of days shy of his 46th birthday.
Watching San Antonio’s Tim Duncan work against Dallas in the current first-round playoff set makes me believe old “Nat” Hickey’s record could be in jeopardy and that Ponce de Leon was looking for the fountain of youth on the wrong side of the Caribbean.
Duncan, who turned 38 on April 25, still has a lot of the same graceful game that he brought to Wake Forest from his native Virgin Islands more than 20 years ago.
Entering the fourth game of the playoff set tonight in Dallas, Duncan is doing just about what he’s always done - 20 points per game, 8.5 rebounds over the three games.
Thanks to a sensational game-winning 3-point shot by 37-year-old former UNC star Vince Carter on Saturday, the Mavericks won 109-108 to take a 2-1 series lead.
Carter finished with 11 points in 23 minutes.
Duncan went 36 minutes and finished with 22 points, five rebounds, two assists and blocked three shots.
The entire game and Carter’s heroics were reminders of a time when the ACC was the NBA’s most important talent incubator, in part because the players stayed in school long enough to mature on and off the court.
Duncan stayed four seasons at Wake. Carter stayed three at Carolina, as did his Tar Heel teammate Antawn Jamison.
The ACC’s most durable NBA players ever followed much the same route.
Maryland’s Buck Williams (Rocky Mount High) left school after his third season and went only to play in 1,307 NBA regular-season games.
Carolina’s Sam Perkins, who stayed four years, is second on the ACC alumni list with 1,286 NBA games, followed by Duncan (1,255), Clemson’s Horace Grant (1,165), Carter (1,148), Rasheed Wallace (UNC, 1,109), Jamison (1,083), Michael Jordan (UNC, 1,072), Elden Campbell (Clemson, 1,044), Walter Davis (UNC, 1,033), Joe Smith (Maryland, 1,030) and Grant Hill (Duke, 1,026).
Only Wallace and Smith didn’t stay in school for at least three seasons.
Times, trends and draft rules changed, of course.
Obviously, no one could possibly blame the one- or two-and-done players for leaving for the financial security of a lifetime.
But unfortunately the days are probably gone when the ACC’s star players will have long, eventful careers at both the college and pro levels. Duncan, Carter, Hill and Jamison are part of a rare, but fading, fraternity.