"It was a great moment for me," said Carter, who at 41 is playing in his 21st season. "Being around this long, you just want to play and accomplish as many things as you can. But 25K is 25K."
Against a Raptors team for whom he played his first six NBA seasons, Carter crossed the 25,000-point threshold when he slammed home a pass from rookie Kevin Huerter off an offensive rebound in the final second of his 1,423rd career NBA game.
"Everyone in the NBA, we're all tipping our hats to him because 25,000 is a lot of points," Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry said. "He's such a great guy, great individual, great teammate, great person. He's earned it, deserved it. I think everyone's really happy for him. He earned it tonight, and to get it on a two-handed dunk like that is pretty cool."
Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce, well aware that Carter was closing in on the milestone, subbed Carter back into the game in the closing minutes of the blowout.
"I didn't want to do that, but I had to do it," Pierce said. "We had to keep Vince out there to get that milestone, and I feel a lot better for doing it. What a night for Vince, what a night for the NBA. To see a guy with 21 years in the NBA is a long time; 25,000 points is a lot of points."
With teammates determined to help him to reach the milestone, Carter found himself the focal point of the offense in the final minutes. Carter attempted a shot in six of the Hawks' final seven possessions, converting a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws in addition to the last-second dunk. After the game, he quipped that it had been some time since he had been the primary option on offense.
He finished with 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting.
Carter characterized the moment as a "weight lifted off my shoulder" but also expressed gratitude for the legacy that accompanies such an accomplishment.
"It's kind of mixed emotions," he said. "I still can't believe it, to be a part of an elite group for thousands and thousands of players who have played in the NBA."
As the crowd at State Farm Arena roared, an emotional Carter gripped the ball after it passed through the rim and closed his eyes. After the final buzzer, Carter was presented with the game ball, after which he walked to center court and waved to the Atlanta crowd.
"I still love it. I still love playing," Carter said. "I was willing to do whatever it took to stick around. All of the things I have to do to play a game, to be prepared, to get prepared for the season, I'm willing to do. I'm asked constantly, 'What's the secret? What are you doing?' Well, the secret is I'm willing to do whatever it takes."
To honor the feat, the Hawks showed a video on the overhead screen in which Carter received congratulations from notable NBA players, including Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins, a fellow member of the 25,000-point club.
"This is one of those accomplishments that only 21 other guys have done," Carter said. "So it's definitely a special moment."
After beginning his career as a high-flying scorer who produced some of the most iconic dunks in league history, Carter has reinvented himself as a mentor and stabilizing force in the locker room. He said after the game that his Hawks teammates -- some of whom are more than two decades younger than him -- raided his locker for shoes and other mementos.
"For the young talent we have, they have an opportunity to see something like this and put that in their memory bank for a goal to reach for themselves," Carter said. "That's what it's all about, giving the opportunity to witness something like that."