Long before Vince Carter launched into Australian airspace 15 years ago -- and vaulted completely over 7-foot-2 French center Frederic Weis in the 2000 Olympics -- for the greatest game dunk ever, he got plenty of training in basketball flight school.
For some, Carter's legendary levitation in Sydney was global confirmation of what could be seen developing from years and miles away. While this marks the 15th anniversary of Carter's career-defining dunk over Weis, it was 20 years ago -- Jan. 21, 1995 -- when he propelled over another victim in high school and ascended onto the national stage as one of the most freakish athletes in the history of the sport.
Tim James, NBA player, 1999-2002, and Florida prep standout: I'm sure Weis, he's (feeling) just like me now. But I don't feel so bad anymore because Vince went on to be a great player who posterized a lot of great players. By the time we got to high school, it was between me and Vince for Mr. Basketball in the state of Florida. That's the one we'd been waiting on -- me and him finally going head to head.
Vince Carter: That was a big rivalry game (Daytona Mainland vs Miami Northwestern in 1995). We were ranked No. 1 and No. 2 as far as players in the state. My mom actually went to the high school (Tim) went to, so there was a lot of talk going into that game. They were talking stuff on the radio.
Tim James: From start to finish, (Vince) dominated. What I remember most about the game is the dunk he had directly on me. To this day, people say, 'We saw Vince dunk on you.' So when I saw that dunk in the Olympics, I was just like, 'Wow.' I wasn't surprised he was taking off on big guys like that. I'm 6-7, but it doesn't matter if you're 7-foot when he's ready to jump and sees the rim.
Vince Carter: (Tim) just blocked the shot of our center and was talking junk. So this happens on the next play. As far as emotion and what it did for fans, (the dunks) were neck and neck. But that was on a global stage, the Olympics. This one, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. In the Olympics, I had no idea.
Tim James: He's coming across half court, on the left wing. He crosses over, blows by (a defender) and gets into the paint with two or three dribbles. If you pause right there, I'm already in the middle of the lane. I look down to make sure my feet are set.
Nick Anderson, former Orlando Magic guard who has watched Carter since high school, to ESPN in 1999: If I had the ball running a fastbreak and Vince Carter was on one (wing) and Jesus was on the other, I'd have to throw it to Vince Carter.
Tim James: Then Vince takes off.
Vince Carter: I was like, 'OK, you're standing there? If you're going to stand there, I'm coming.' So I was actually trying to jump over him on that one. I did it on purpose.
Tim James: I look up and all I remember seeing were his kneecaps and then me falling down. As I start to get up, I literally see people running from the stands onto the floor and out of the gym. It was sick.
Vince Carter: If you ask people, they probably don't even remember a charge was called on me.
Tim James: I got the charge. I've been explaining to people for 20 years that I got the right call. But nobody realizes that. I took the hit, and I was in proper basketball position.
Vince Carter: Didn't matter.
Shareef Abdur-Rahim, former NBA forward and 2000 USA Olympic team forward: I had seen (Vince) and played against him since we were in high school. I had seen him do some spectacular things. He did everything in our McDonald's (All-American) dunk contest that had been done in an NBA dunk contest, ever. (But) that Olympic dunk was just off the charts. It was just different.
Jerry Stackhouse, former NBA guard and fellow UNC alum: I know it was a great dunk. But I was like, 'That's Vince, nothing surprises me anymore.' I understood early on how freaky a leaper he was.
Vince Carter: There's a funny story about that. When I got to North Carolina, we would always work out before the season. That was when the Sixers used to come down -- because Larry Brown was a UNC guy and their coach -- for training camp. Stack just got to Philly, and I came right behind him at Carolina. So it was always this little quiet rivalry because everyone knew Stack was a guy who could fly.
Jerry Stackhouse: We were doing a little dunk show. But seeing Vince jump, after that day, let's just say I put myself second on the list behind him. I concede. He did one where somebody was coming down and made a layup. Vince is trailing on the play. I go to take the ball out of the net and see him over my shoulder. He catches the ball out of the net, already in the air, and just windmills it back in again -- like it was nothing.That's when I realized, right then and there, this guy is a freak of nature.
What he did (over Weis) in the Olympics years later -- it was something that transcends time because it was on a big stage and the guy was huge. To me, it was just Vince being Vince.