The Brothers Carter

His gravity-defying high-wire act has bestowed upon Vince Carter a magical mystique and world-class nicknames.

He is "Half-Man, Half-Amazing." "Vinsanity." And he is the older brother of a drug addict.

Ask Vince Carter about his only sibling, Chris, and his electric smile gives way to pain. Pain and privacy.

"I think it's a sensitive situation for both of us," he says, eyes moistening a bit. "Me and my brother. It's an obvious effect that situation can have. You can just see the blow it can cause to any family."

Michelle Carter-Scott has two sons. Their life journeys have taken impossibly different paths. One is an eight-time NBA All-Star. The other has been convicted on drug charges nine times.

"Academically, Vince will tell you that he wasn't the smartest in high school. That his brother was," their mother explains. "Vince did well in high school, made good grades. But Chris was off the charts, just very smart."

In 1998, Vince Carter was reminding folks in Chapel Hill of that Jordan kid. Meanwhile, Chris Carter was dropping out of high school in Florida. While Vince was rocketing to NBA fame, Chris was making his own name on the streets of Daytona Beach, Fla., dealing drugs.

"The only reason I sold drugs was because I wanted my own independence. I was just merely at it for the money and the fame that came with it," Chris Carter says. "I'm pushing my family away and I'm pulling more garbage in, but the garbage was giving me the attention I was looking for. Everybody needed me. I got all the attention I needed."

Chris served time for marijuana possession at age 18. He was using marijuana and alcohol, and then accelerated to Ecstasy and cocaine.

His brother tried to make things right. Vince got him a job in South Carolina with his first agent. Yet Chris' demons followed him across state lines.

"I was working, going to school. It couldn't have been more perfect," Chris says as if recalling the turning point in his life. "But I discovered a need for drugs in Columbia, S.C. They had a desperate need for marijuana and large amounts of cocaine."

Ruled by his addictions for more than a decade, Chris Carter did drugs and did time. He's lost count of how much of each. But he says he'll never forget the day he was sentenced to prison.

"It was the day my grandmother had passed away," he whispers. "They wouldn't let me go to the funeral. That alone, I'll never forget that. I blame myself."

As the director of the Embassy of Hope Foundation in Daytona Beach, Michelle Carter-Scott has spent her adult life helping solve problems for families in need. When she considered the plight of her youngest son, she began to question whether she could save her own.

"There were some times when I thought, 'I'm going to wind up burying my child.' I think if you are the parent or the caregiver or the older brother, somebody has to say, 'OK, enough is enough. We've got to do something about this,'" she says, fighting off tears.

Last year, Carter-Scott received one of those 7 a.m. phone calls a mother can never forget. It was Chris.

"I'd taken about six Ecstasy pills," he says. "I thought my heart was coming out my chest. I told her I thought I was going to die. I checked myself into a detox and asked for help."

Vince says he wants to help. Not just his brother, but others like him as well. He donated $1.6 million to help build the Vince Carter Sanctuary, a state-of-the-art rehabilitation facility in nearby Bunnell, Fla., which opened last summer.

When he spoke at the ceremony to open the facility, Vince was overcome by emotion, unable to find the words to express what it meant to create a sanctuary for those in the grip of addiction.

"I was just thankful. Me being the older brother, I'm proud of what he's done for himself to date," Vince says, swallowing hard, determined to finish his thought. "He's a wonderful person for it, and I salute him for taking that fall and building himself back up, and that's one of the things that made me want to do that. To help. It made me feel so good to be able to provide that and be a part of it, and it just all came out."

Chris Carter says he appreciates what his brother is doing to fight addiction. He knows the facility has joined forces with the University of Florida's McKnight Brain Institute to help research and find a cure.

"He's starting to get more of an understanding of the nature of addiction. The Sanctuary, it was built to learn about addiction. That was a big help right there. That showed me that he's interested in helping," Chris says.

"Winning a game, [the happiness] can last that night. Maybe the next day," Vince explains. "But helping someone turn their life around, that lasts forever."

Currently on probation for a previous drug charge, Chris says he's been sober since December, but that every day he must will himself to stay clean.

"I can't say that if I wasn't on probation I would be [clean]," Chris says. "I can easily be like one of those people on the streets up under a bridge, asking you for change, coming to wash your windows and stuff like that. I think about that jail cell and those prison guards shaking their keys and stuff. I think about that stuff. That helps keep me off the street corners."

Now that Vince plays in Orlando, the brothers are 45 minutes apart. As Vince prepares to play the most significant games of his life, Chris keeps his distance. He knows if he wants more time with Vince, he must first restore himself.

"I don't think he'll probably be able to focus on basketball if he knew half of the stuff I go through. He's been there. He gives me advice, a lot of encouragement," Chris says quietly.

"That's pretty much it," Chris says, his eyes watering now. "I always have my brother's back. I'm proud of him. I always wished I'd made it too."

Mark Schwarz is a reporter in ESPN's Enterprise Unit. His work appears on "Outside the Lines."