Then Carter saw the familiar No. 15 and recognized that Ross was wearing Vinsanity’s old Toronto jersey as a tribute.
“It was weird, but I was honored,” Carter said Monday. “It was great to see that jersey on the floor in that atmosphere of the dunk contest.”
Ross did the jersey proud, catching a pass off the side of the backboard and perfectly executing a windmill dunk while wearing No. 15. Ross dethroned defending dunk champ Jeremy Evans, bringing the title back to Toronto 13 years after Carter won it with a legendary performance.
Ross, who was 9 when Carter won the dunk contest, has told reporters that Carter was one of his boyhood idols. Carter reached out to Ross over the weekend to express his appreciation for the tribute.
“I wanted to personally congratulate him and told him I was honored,” Carter said. “I think this is a great opportunity for him because I know what winning the dunk contest did for me. I said the same thing to him. I said, ‘Everywhere you go, when your name is mentioned, it’s mentioned among the dunk champions.’ That’s an honor in itself. That’s something they can’t take away from you.
“That’s how my wonderful ride began. Everybody is excited about the dunk contest and it just gave me confidence.”
Carter won the dunk contest the day before he made the first of his eight consecutive All-Star appearances. Ross, an eighth overall pick averaging 6.4 points per game as a rookie, has a long way to go to approach those heights.