A Question of Values


A Question of Values:

Carter Fouled on Final Shot


          Copyright ã 2001 Paul Turse.  All rights reserved

                        (Edited and updated January 22, 2010.)

        In the 7th and final game of the 2001 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals, Vince Carter was given the final shot with 2.0 seconds to go in the game, a basket that would give the Raptors a victory over the 76ers, since there would be no time left on the clock for the 76ers to come back.  However, Carter missed the shot.  Although it has gone un-noticed, Carter was fouled on the final shot.

        No, he wasn’t fouled by any of the 76ers, and it wasn’t during the game, but Vince Carter was aggressively taken to task by some writers who misinterpret the power of the press to mean the divine power to arrogantly meddle in the personal lives of others and to decide what their priorities should be.  When, on the morning of the big game, Carter wanted to recognize his academic accomplishments by flying from Philadelphia to Chapel Hill  to attend his graduation ceremony at UNC (approximately 1.5 hrs by plane), his decision and motives were scrutinized and criticized by those who media personnel who failed to see any merit in his constitutional right to free choice, let alone the value of education.    

        Of course, as it is commonly known, all sportswriters apparently have competed in so many championships themselves, and all have PhDs in sports physiology, that they omnisciently know the best way for each individual to prepare for a competition.  In fact, “what effect attending a graduation has on an athlete’s performance” was the topic of many a doctoral dissertation, I am sure.       

        One writer even went so far as to take, what appears to me, a cheap shot at Carter’s mom. Another reporter attempted a comparison to Shaquille O’Neal’s graduation visit and made the Lakers' star look like a poster child for both selfless team spirit and media savvy.  She then claimed that Carter was irresponsible and did not consider the consequences of his tumultuous and errant voyage, since the plane he had traveled in could have had engine trouble.2   Too bad this writer wasn’t the travel agent for the Titanic.  I guess it is the Columbo in me, but I am confused.  I mean couldn’t the entire team have crashed when the players flew from Toronto to Philadelphia. 

        Instead of worrying about Carter’s motives, maybe some of these writers need to consider their own selfishness in terms of irresponsible journalism.  In fact, they should thank him because they probably couldn’t have found anything else to write about that week.  What these myopic individuals missed in their crystal balls is simply this:  That week, although Vince Carter may not have sunk the shot to win the Conference finals, he nevertheless went above the rim of narrow-mindedness and slam-dunked one for all those who refuse to sell out and who value something else besides basketball or sports in general—things like commitment to family, self, and education.  For those few that were turned off by his choice to visit his alma mater, many more may have been inspired by that decision.

        Trying to figure what effect the trip had on Carter’s performance would be as difficult as taking another re-count of the ballots in Florida, and perhaps a lot less scientific.  Remember the 1969 Super Bowl?  Broadway Joe certainly did not suffer from Jet lag, and according to the rumors, he was flying far friendlier skies the night before than Carter that day.  While the commencement exercises Joe took part in that night may have been more fantasy than fact—and true or not—many sportswriters reveled in reporting the legendary victory.  They bought it. 

        Now, once again, like Columbo, I am just a little confused.   A man decides that it is an important moment in his life to get a diploma on the morning of the big game and is vilified, but a man who may have spent the night before the game in reckless revelry is idolized.  Didn’t Joe Willy consider the consequences?  He could have been weak in the knees the next day!  Well, I can’t figure it out.  If you can figure it out, send me an e-mail.  Even if you can’t, send me an e-mail anyway.  It gets lonely here in NJ.

        One thing I can figure out is this:  the values that we are trying to impress upon our youth today get muddled in this debate.  We are sending mixed messages to the youth of our nation by making them believe that one cannot serve an academic and athletic master at the same time.  And that pride in one’s academic achievement should be subordinated to athletic endeavors.  Do you remember the attitude of the pedantic teacher played by F. Murray Abraham in Finding Forrester?  He could not conceive of a black inner-city basketball player being able to balance his life between athletic and literary pursuits, let alone have the intelligence to be a scholar.

        Since Sean Connery is not always going to pop up to save the day and convince an ignorant and prejudiced society that academic talent and athletic talent may not be mutual exclusive, it is essential that today’s athletes do the




        1Peter Vecsey, “RAPS CAN’T SAY NO TO VINCE,” NYPOST.COM, May 22, 2001, (www.nypost.com/05222001/sports/40579.htm).

        2Dian Pucin, “Selfish Carter still has a few things to learn,” The Sporting News, May 21, 2001 (http://www.sportingnews.com/nba/articles/20010521/318383.html).

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