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December 06, 2001

Graduation Vinsanity
By Dan Patrick

Well, the worst thing you can say about Vince Carter is that he flunked diplomacy. In his desire to attend his college graduation and play in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference semifinals, he set himself up to be criticized. No matter how it turned out, there were going to be whispers. He was not going to please everybody. And that's fine, because he wasn't looking to please anyone in the first place.

Vince Carter
Vince Carter celebrated his graduation at North Carolina on Sunday before the Raptors' Game 7 loss in Philly.
For all the talk that attending the graduation was a distraction, I wonder what we would be hearing if he hit the game-winner.

Vince Carter simply wanted to celebrate his college graduation with friends and family. He wanted to commemorate the culmination of all of his schoolwork. And in doing so, he put nothing involving the Toronto Raptors in jeopardy. Nothing. Had there been weather problems, he would not have gone. Had he been graduating from the University of Hawaii, he would not have gone. The scenario was studied and he decided to go, with the team's admittedly reluctant blessing.

Vince Carter attended Raptors' practice on Saturday in Philadelphia and then flew down to North Carolina. That takes an hour, by the way. He attended part of his graduation on Sunday morning, headed off to the airport and arrived on time for a pregame team meeting that started at noon, five-and-half hours before game time.

The idea that Carter compromised anything is ludicrous. The critics say he put himself ahead of his team. Well, sometimes your life does come ahead of your job. This was one of those times. But all he missed was a night's sleep in a Philadelphia hotel room. It hurt no one and did not affect his performance.

Look at the numbers. You can point out the 6-for-18 shooting. But he's had other off shooting nights and nobody wondered what he was up to on the morning of those games. Allen Iverson shot 8-for-27 but nobody has any theories on that.

Carter's other numbers? 20 points, seven rebounds, nine assists and no turnovers. That is a nice road playoff game, no matter how you look at it. Iverson went for 21, grabbed four boards and had four turnovers. But he also had 16 assists. Both guys played well and the Sixers won by a point. Great game, great series.

It seems to me that this whole trumped-up controversy sends an oddly mixed message, especially on the day the NBA draft order was announced.
It seems to me that this whole trumped-up controversy sends an oddly mixed message, especially on the day the NBA draft order was announced. We always wring our hands over the kids who leave college early, as Vince Carter himself once did. We criticize them for having the wrong priorities and for devaluing the appeal of a college degree to impressionable youths.

Well, Carter goes back to school, completes his work and we criticize him again. This time for wanting to attend the graduation ceremonies at virtually no cost to himself or his team. His critics say he was calling attention to himself, doing a big fat "notice me" routine.

Well, here's an idea. Vince Carter doesn't have to do anything for publicity. His privacy departed a few years ago. We cry and moan when athletes slash their throats after a score (that is those of us who are not numb to the histrionics of self-celebrating athletes). "This is horrible," goes the lament. "Kids are watching."

Vince Carter donned some Carolina blue yesterday for the last time. His smile could have lit up the world. He was attending his college graduation and I could only think of one thing.

This is great. Kids are watching.

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Dan Patrick page: 2001 archive

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Stuart Scott offers his first-hand thoughts on Vince Carter attending UNC graduation.
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Dick Vitale says he is proud of Vince Carter for attending his graduation.
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