Vince Carter is fully on the other side of the camera now. Eighteen months ago, the Hall of Fame forward signed a contract with ESPN after a 22-year NBA career. Carter spoke to The Big Lead about how he prepared for his move to media years before his retirement, his long-term goals in the industry, and his participation in Corona's "Shades of Blue" campaign.
Liam McKeone: Vince-- it's been about a year and a half now since you made that full transition into sports media. Can you tell me a little bit about what that acclamation process was like?
Vince Carter: See, it's funny because not many people realized or knew that for the last 8-9 years prior to me retiring, I was already working in the media. Once the season was over I would join with Turner and ESPN. As soon as the season over, typically I would do some studio work with Turner and then as the playoffs moved further on, I would do some of the Finals, like some sideline stuff. I do some studio location stuff and then I would do summer league.
So I was doing that routinely. I was comfortable with it and once the pandemic hit, we waited to see if all 30 teams were going to go [to the bubble]. Originally they said 30 teams were going to go and then they backed off and said just 22 teams. The Hawks weren't one of the teams to go in. Right after that, I started doing studio work again and I started doing the Tuesday show with Shaq, Dwyane Wade, and Adam Lefkoe at Turner. Then I did some work with ESPN and shortly thereafter I signed on.
It was kind of like I was just picking up where I left off. When my official first day with ESPN happened, you know, my first show, it didn't… I mean it just seemed like another day at work, honestly. That's kind of how I wanted it to be and it made the transition a little easier. It made going through the pandemic and a weird ending of my career in-season a lot easier to deal with because I was already working on a Phase 2.
LM: What drove you to start doing that? Obviously in the offseason, guys want to take some time off and relax. You chose to go back to the game all those years. What was your driving motivation to start that so early?
VC: Well, this is something I wanted to do. I took the course at Sportscaster U in Syracuse that the NBAPA offered for the players to try to see how they felt about broadcasting and just being on that side of the media. Because we as players talked about how easy it can be, you know, doing the media. Until you're actually doing it and now it's like, oh man, it's easy to talk about it, but what level do you want to be and how good do you want to be? And that aspect was important to me.
I did Sportscaster U. I loved it. I loved it and I got a chance to learn all facets of the media, from studio to TV to radio to sideline reporting. Once I finished that, that's when I started to do a little bit of everything. I did a little bit of radio, I did a little satellite recording, obviously studio and calling some games. I just got a feel of what I liked and what I didn't like and what I was comfortable with. Everything you could possibly do in the media, I tried it and I learned it and narrowed it down to where I am today.
LM: Did it change your perception of what media is like or change any preconceived notions that you might have had about the industry?
VC: It opened my eyes to a lot of things, but it also helped me hone in on how I wanted to approach things when I was on the media side full-time. I felt I had an advantage, being a former player and understanding the likes and dislikes of questioning. I know that the other advantage I have is being a former player, as you know, players are more likely to talk to me. I wanted to make sure that I still knew how to ask questions and make you guys feel comfortable and still understand how to ask the right questions, the good questions where you can get more out of guys. I really went deep into that into understanding and what it took. That was kind of the eye-opening for me.
As a player, when I knew [media] was something I wanted to do, I just started to pay attention more throughout those eight years, watching other people and seeing what I like. I just didn't want to pick a guy like, ‘Hey, I wanna be like him, his, his approach, his attitude.’
My approach to this was like basketball. I wanted to dive deep in it, get as much experience as I can, ask as many questions as I can, jump into the fire and learn and make my mistakes. So that when I did this as a profession, if there was something I wanted to do, I felt comfortable and I knew the avenue and who I was and what I wanted to be and how I wanted my approach to be. It was a learn-on-the-go type of thing. But like I said, my approach was like basketball. I wanted to be amongst the best guys to do it.
LM: Do you have any long-term goals as far as what you want to accomplish as a member of the media?
VC: I want to be your coach on TV. That's who I am. I enjoy explaining. I enjoyed teaching, I enjoyed helping players as a player when I was around my last years in my career. I enjoyed being a mentor. I was a part of the player development group. It was just fun and important and I enjoyed it. That was my approach. That's what I wanted to be. That was kind of my niche. Stephen A. Smith has his approach, but this is me. Tony Romo, he's a guy who explains the game, and seeing his approach, that's what I wanted to be.
I've been in the game long enough that now, my player development is on TV to people watching it. Teaching you how we see the game and still deliver the game. Understanding the do’s and do nots. That's been my thing and I'm comfortable with that. I've had a lot of people come up and say, ‘Hey man, I appreciate listening to you because you break the game down for us.’ It’s not quite basketball for dummies, but it's just where viewers understand it and I try to open your eyes to different things because you and I can watch the game, watch a particular play and see it totally, totally different. I see things differently than the average media person or, shoot, the average player, if you would. Now I can say, okay, you see it that way, but here's how that happened. This is why that happened. I just try to bring my touch to it.
One thing Grant [Hill] and a lot of people told me, what I learned is just be yourself and learn the ins and outs of the business end of the job while being yourself and see what comes of it.
LM: Why did you decide to partner with Corona for their Shades of Blue campaign?
VC: Obviously, seeing the commercials I have a lot of respect for Snoop Dogg already, and I thought he was doing a fantastic job. It was a no-brainer before I even knew what the ad was about, just to be a part of something that I thought was pretty cool. It's a cool thing to be a part of. Then understanding what the ad was about, the different shades of blue, it's a part of life. Every alumnus of their school, you're gonna always rep your school, point blank. When the tournament comes around and your team's in it, you're repping them whether you feel like they can win the title or not. And I think that's the cool thing about this.
When it was presented, like, okay, we're talking about the different shades of blue. And when I saw Duke, I was like, alright, cool. And then Kentucky and then obviously UConn. I knew Christian Laettner already, I played against Devin Booker, I obviously admired Sue Bird for her longevity and I felt I could relate to her because of what she's doing in the WNBA. Reading the script, it was a cool concept that I wanted to represent and bring to life. I remember seeing it the first time and my kids were so excited. My kid is four and he enjoys it and he knows pretty much all of my lines just from two days of seeing it.
It’s cool to be on rotation throughout the tournament, repping the different shades of blue. And then you fast forward to where we are now with Carolina playing well, it just brings that commercial to life. I wanted to knock it out of the park because I feel so strongly about Carolina and particularly against a guy like Christian Laettner, who loves his Blue Devils. I was definitely pleased with the outcome of it and it was great to work with those guys.