Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter were two of the most popular players in the NBA during the 2000s. Both Bryant and Carter were considered explosive scorers who could conceivably become the faces of the NBA. But the two players had wildly different career trajectories.
Bryant remained on the same team for 20 years, winning 5 NBA championships to go down as the greatest Los Angeles Lakers player of all time. As for Carter, he wasn't able to capitalize on his potential, and never won an NBA championship. But Carter can be proud of knowing he is one of the longest-tenured NBA players in history, playing for 23 years.
Kobe and Carter had a strong relationship even before entering the NBA. The two were teammates on the greatest AAU team in history, the 1994 New Jersey Patterson. Kobe entered the league in 1996 and Carter followed him in 1998. Carter and Kobe shared a close bond throughout their time in the NBA.
After Bryant's tragic passing in 2020, Carter revealed the nature of their last conversation. It was after a Nets-Hawks game in 2019, in Carter's last NBA season, just a few weeks before Kobe's passing. Carter and Kobe had been planning on working together for Carter's retirement at the time as well.
Two years ago, Kobe and Vince had one last conversation after a Nets-Hawks game.
The two had planned to get together to help Vince with his retirement. Kobe was scheduled to do an interview for Vince’s documentary the week that he passed away. They played AAU together (on the most dominant AAU team of all time) and had a strong competitive bond since their teenage years. There weren’t many players that Kobe had a strong mutual respect for and Vince was one of the very few. They both had a true love for the game and expressed it in their own unique ways. True legends of the game.
Carter said that despite Kobe's incredible tenure in the league, he seemed happiest in retirement. Kobe asked Carter about how he felt coming so close to retiring. And the two planned the retirement of Carter together, saying that they would get in touch about the same, before sharing a hug goodbye.
“I had a conversation in New Jersey after the game. I was like ‘how was it?’. He said ‘I’m happy. I’m at peace. I’m at my happiest’. All these championships he won, MVPs, 81, he was at his happiest in retirement. He asked me if I was ready. I’m back and forth with it all the time. And he’s like you enjoy it, he’s peaceful. He said we’ll connect soon and we’ll talk about it. New ground for me, and who better than to ask the guy who’s done it for 20 years and that was kind of the plans. The last thing we talked about was we were going to do whatever it took to the best of our abilities to take care of our daughters. And that was the last conversation right before we gave a hug and ‘Love you brother, see you soon’.”
Carter was one of Bryant's oldest friends in the NBA, and the two were very good friends. So it came as no surprise that Vince Carter was one of the most affected when the news emerged of Bryant's passing. It was news that no one in the NBA world wished for, and Carter was one of the people who was deeply upset by it.
Carter ended his career that season, as the Lakers, Kobe's team, won the 2020 NBA championship and paid tribute to Bryant's legacy by winning the title in his name.