Vince Carter's performance last night was something else.
Yeah, obviously. 48 points, 34 in the second half, to help the Orlando Magic surmount a 17-point deficit and defeat the New Orleans Hornets. Gaudy, gaudy numbers. Here's a brief highlight film, which is worth watching simply for the overhead shot at the 0:33 second mark alone. Carter's three-pointer does not touch the rim. Just drops straight through the net.
But in this game, the numbers aren't everything. I mean, you can look at the box score and figure that something special happened, sure. But watching it? This man who missed 72% of his shots last month draw nothing but nylon on seemingly every jumper he put up? This man who's missed more than half of his layups this year convert in traffic? Unreal.
Carter's 48-point effort is his best since 2005, and he became the first perimeter Magic player to crack the 40-point barrier since his cousin Tracy McGrady last did it in 2004. Dwight Howard broke it twice, most recently in the clinching game of the Eastern Conference Finals last season in a show I was fortunate enough to witness live, and one that I'll wind up telling my grandchildren about.
Though Howard's performance came in a game with higher stakes, I'd argue that Carter's was more impressive. This wasn't a game in which Orlando pounded away at New Orleans, and Carter simply padded his stats. Nope, the Magic needed every last one of those 48 points to pull out the victory. They gave him the ball on every possession, and he delivered. And with some tighter defense at the other end of the floor, it proved to be enough to give Orlando the win.
I don't mean to prematurely eulogize Carter's Magic career, because he still has the rest of this season, the playoffs, and next season to go. But there's an excellent chance he'll never play better in a Magic uniform than he did last night, and that's OK, because he gave everyone who watched last night, and especially Magic fans, a performance to remember. A signature game.
I can't speak for everyone here, but I do fondly remember the night when McGrady blitzed the Washington Wizards for 50 points, and I didn't even watch the damn game. I was on the phone when my dad walked into my room and handed my a Post-It which read, in his small, blocky hand, "McGrady scored 50!"
I still have that Post-It somewhere.
My point is that we'll all remember where we watched this game. We'll remember what we did that day prior to watching it, how we reacted to his second-half barrage, and with whom we saw it. Perhaps this feeling is familiar and unexciting to fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers, L.A. Lakers, and Miami Heat, who're fortunate enough to see LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Dwyane Wade at least 82 times per season. But for Magic fans, who'd gone nearly 6 years without seeing a wing player from their team excel in the way Carter did last night, it's novel, so please forgive us for being impressed.