During an NBA lockout, the typical storyline that emerges is one where star players who haven’t taken care of their millions as well as they should have over the years find themselves in financial trouble when the checks stop printing. In Latrell Sprewell’s case, for example, he may allude to needing money to “feed [his] family“; a Kenny Anderson might suggest that he’ll need to “sell one of [his] eight cars” to weather the storm; a Patrick Ewing may admit that he makes millions, but that he “spends a lot of money” too. We’re only 42 days and three pay cycles into the current NBA lockout so we haven’t heard any quotes to that effect yet, but everyone will surely admit that it’s only a matter of time until we do.
One player who we don’t think we have to worry about, though, is former North Carolina star and current Phoenix Sun, Vince Carter. Without question the most spectacular and electric in-game dunker we’ve ever seen play this game, the 34-year old, eight-time NBA All-Star may be on the downswing of his career but he is clearly on the upswing of his largess. Having reportedly earned over $130M in salary during his 13-year professional career, Carter has not hoarded his riches all to himself. His alma mater (Carter graduated from UNC in 2001) announced Wednesday that he recently made a $2.5M gift to the Carolina Basketball Family Fund, an endowment that “will support the … men’s basketball program for years to come.” His contribution, the largest in the history of the fund (hear that, MJ?), will go toward supporting and expanding Letterman’s Lane on the Chapel Hill campus.
Lettermen’s Lane, the brick walkway between the Smith Center and the Koury Natatorium, will be named for Carter. This lane honors every varsity player, coach, trainer and manager in the history of Carolina basketball for the role they have played in over a century of the program’s success. “My days as a Carolina student, both pre-NBA and during the summers after I was drafted, will always be special to me,” Carter says. “It goes without saying that I am a Tar Heel. For several years, I have been thinking about something I could do to leave a legacy at UNC. Lettermen’s Lane is a perfect fit.”
Notwithstanding the pressures of the NBA lockout on Carter’s checking account, this isn’t the first time that he has given back huge gifts to support his roots. In the early 2000s at the peak of his NBA stardom, he gave another $2.5M to his Daytona Beach, Florida, high school (Mainland) to build a new gymnasium, now named the Vince Carter Athletic Center. More recently, he and his mother donated $1.6M to build the Vince Carter Sanctuary, a private drug and alcohol dependence rehabilitation facility also located in Daytona Beach. We get the feeling that these large donations are just the tip of the iceberg of Carter’s philanthropy. Who knew that the guy who fundamentally redefined what it means to get posterized (hello, Frederic Weis) would become a poster boy himself for an entirely different reason — giving back to his community.