Still a legend for a dunk contest almost 20 years ago, remembered for jumping over a 7-foot-tall defender for an in-game dunk, a man who helped make basketball mainstream in a whole country, it’s tough to imagine Vine Carter as the target of high school taunts.
But as a teenager, Carter said, he was made fun of for playing volleyball.
“I was teased, it wasn’t popular,” he said during a conference call last week prior to the Jr. NBA Global Championships, an international youth basketball tournament in Orlando, Florida, of which he is part of the broadcast team.
In 1995, Carter graduated Mainland High School (Daytona Beach, Florida). An ALL-USA basketball player, he recorded more than 2,200 points, 985 rebounds and 335 assists over his high school career, according to the FHSAA.
He found another sport that could help him elevate his game, quite literally, in volleyball.
“I felt volleyball was important for my second jump,” he said. “I began to enjoy the sport, so I played it for three years … I knew the game would translate for what I was trying to accomplish and become a professional basketball player.”
There is national debate about whether it is better for elite young athletes to focus on one sport or to branch out and play multiple. Carter said the right choice depends on the player and his or her attitude.
“It can be a smart way to go,” he said. “It’s up to the kid.”
Carter’s teenage daughter has played multiple sports throughout her life. She started playing tennis, and her parents encouraged her to pick up soccer to help with footwork. As she “grew out of” those sports, she picked up volleyball.
“We want basketball and volleyball to coincide,” Carter said.
It’s not for everyone. To be worth the time and effort a second sport entails, an athlete needs to enjoy what they’re doing, like Carter with volleyball. They also need to be OK with how peers view them if the sport isn’t a so-called “popular” one.
Carter was always fine going outside the social norms in the 90s, whether it be poetry, his interest in music — he served as a drum major for the Mainland marching band in his senior year and was offered a saxophone scholarship to the Bethune-Cookman College — or when he stopped playing football after freshman year and took up volleyball instead.
“They were like, ‘Man, you play volleyball?’ Absolutely. And it helped me,” Carter recalled. “So if kids can get past that part of it, and understand the importance of it, I think we’ll start seeing more kids do so.”