This year was supposed to be Vince Carter's grand retirement tour. But it, the NBA season, and just about everything else across the world was abruptly cut short once coronavirus showed itself to be a universal threat. When the league revealed only 22 teams would participate in their planned restart down in Orlando, the Atlanta Hawks' season was over. So was Carter's career.
He made that official on his podcast Winging It. Unlike with most professional athletes in his position, we can be fairly confident about what's next for Carter: a potentially lucrative and likely successful media career.
Carter has been dipping into the media side of things for years now. It won't be a big transition for him. He's made regular appearances on TNT's Inside the NBA and ESPN's The Jump over the years, even hopping on a few Summer League broadcasts as an extra color commentator. He always sounded comfortable and knowledgable in his on-camera adventures. It was less than a year ago that Fox Sports senior coordinating producer Bardia Shah-Rais compared his potential as a media star to one Tony Romo in a Sports Illustrated feature:
Soon it will be media executives fawning over Carter. “As frenzied as the NBA offseason was—where’s Anthony Davis going and Kawhi—that’s going to be the TV offseason for him next year,” Fox Sports senior coordinating producer Bardia Shah-Rais said, later comparing Carter’s potential to that of Tony Romo. “He’ll have his pick of the litter and he deserves it. He’s worked his ass off doing it.... The fact that this guy has put in the work as if he was a 12th man on a bench to get to here speaks to his character.”
Carter would probably be the first one to tell you to pump the brakes on those comparisons, but his appeal and potential are clear. Former players who have a deep well of experience to draw upon and want to go into broadcasting are rare, much less former players who've got "the stuff" to be on camera for hours at a time utilizing an entirely different set of skills they built their first career on.
Carter has been prepping for this transition for a few years now. It's unclear if he'll jump right in immediately. The bidding war for his services will be hampered by the economic state of affairs and even if he's more prepared than most, adjusting to a new job is hard without the added difficulties of living through a global pandemic. But once he does, he will indeed have his pick of the litter.
What that pick will be is still a mystery. If he'd prefer to become a studio analyst, ESPN seems the natural choice, given his affinity for The Jump and the cadre of players-turned-analysts like him in the network's arsenal. Turner would love to add him to their pregame coverage on TNT (perhaps even as the fifth member of Inside the NBA) and both networks can slot Carter as a color commentator if he so wishes. Spotrac puts Carter's career earnings at about $172 million in salary alone, so money may not play as big a factor. In all likelihood, it will come down to comfort level and personal preference. He could also forgo those tried-and-true paths and sign up with a site like The Ringer to keep producing content that he has complete creative control over.
The media world is Carter's oyster going forward. He has talent, name recognition, and on-screen charisma. That's the combination all sports media networks strive for, and finding it is as rare as striking gold was back in the day. Nobody knows exactly what's next, but we can sleep soundly knowing we haven't seen the last of Vince Carter.