The NBA should adopt ‘testimonial games’ as a better way to send off their generational stars, and it should start with Vince Carter
A little over a week ago, on March 11, the NBA suspended their season indefinitely (for at least 30 days, more than likely more) amid concerns over the growing threat of COVID-19.
On that same night, the Atlanta Hawks lost to the New York Knicks in overtime. A game between two non-playoff teams that would otherwise be an afterthought on your typical Wednesday night game in March. However, with the NBA shutting down for possibly the entire 2019-20 season, it meant a little more for Vince Carter.
The 43-year-old swingman is winding down his historic career and made it known before the season that his 22nd NBA season would be his final one. With the potential that he could be playing the final season of his career, the Hawks made sure to get Carter back in to give him one more “moment” in his career.
Despite getting one “final moment” in the waning minutes of a mid-March game, none of this feels right. This is not how Vince Carter should go out. It was not supposed to be like this. There should be a way to honor Vince Carter for everything he has done for the game of basketball and the NBA.
It feels right to find a way to honor Vince Carter and future players who have impacted their team or the league over a prolonged time. In European Soccer, they have a thing called “Testimonial Matches.” These are exhibition games to honor a player who has played there for a long stretch of time or has won a vast amount of trophies for their squad.
The games are always well attended with the proceeds going to charity. The players in the game can be former teammates, current squad members or rivals of the player. The whole game is meant as a lighthearted fun way to give the player a proper send-off.
Imagine if Vince Carter could pull on a purple Raptor’s jersey again for one night only. To play in front of the crowd where it all started, any hard feelings would melt away even before tip-off.
Vince Carter’s career has lasted so long it has been two decades since he told us “it’s over” at the dunk contest. Carter has gone from his first 11 years in the league as “Half-man/Half-Amazing” in Toronto to hitting corner 3’s in New Jersey as the crowd shouted another “VC THREE” to spending 11 years as this journeyman vet.
You still hear people say “remember when Vince put his whole arm through the net” or “remember when he jumped over that guy at the Olympics”. Grainy youtube clips of Vince will live on forever but now his career is in its final minutes.
The whole sports world is currently on pause with no set-in-stone start date to recommence their seasons. If this were a proper NBA season, you could stick this “testimonial game” in the preseason. Or, this could take place in August when free agency has died down and it is the only month the NBA is kind of quiet. However, right now the NBA schedule is in flux.
Despite that, there are so many ways that this game could be formatted and adopted. This would be a great and honest way to help older, veteran players to get the “Thank You” that they deserve right now and moving forward.