Atlanta Hawks veteran Vince Carter knows what it's like to be defined by a highlight reel and says he can relate to Duke freshman Zion Williamson.
Once nicknamed "Vinsanity," the 41-year-old Carter starred at North Carolina in the mid-1990s and is a former NBA slam dunk champion. Picked fifth overall in the 1998 draft after his junior season, Carter said he had to prove he was more than just a gifted athlete upon entering the NBA and thinks Williamson will succeed in doing so, as well.
"He'll be ready [for the NBA]," Carter, the 2000 NBA slam dunk contest champion and eight-time All-Star, told ESPN. "One thing I learned when I got in this league is that yes, I'm athletic, but there's gonna be a lot of guys up here that are athletic. What else do you bring to the table? I think he's going through that phase, kind of what I went through. Everybody looks at 'he can dunk, he can dunk,' but now when you have guys that are super athletic, then they're going to start saying, 'What else can he do?'"
Williamson, who has created this season's most impressive highlight reel, has been the face of college basketball since his arrival and is a contender for this year's Wooden Award.
He is considered a skilled and multidimensional prospect who can guard multiple positions, and Carter believes Williamson possesses the tools to handle the next level.
"He's super, super athletic," said Carter, who ranks seventh in the NBA all-time in made 3-pointers. "He has an NBA body already. I think, more than anything, with all his ability, I just say take his time, develop his game, because when you get here, it's a different beast as far as expectations. A lot of guys try to get here and just develop while they get here."
Williamson entered Tuesday's night's win at Wake Forest averaging 20.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 2.1 steals this season for the top-ranked Blue Devils.
He is projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in ESPN's mock draft, a prediction Carter agrees with.
"He has the potential to be, obviously, the No. 1 pick whenever he decides to come out," Carter said. "I think that's understood."