Carter plays out his dream
"I have a dream that someday I hope to become a professional basketball player..."
A shy Atlanta fifth-grader wrote those hopeful words a little more than 20 years ago as an exercise in goal setting when the NBA wasn't much more than a wide-eyed fantasy.
When you reflect on them now, you begin to understand why Anthony Carter took the one-year NBA minimum with the Denver Nuggets this past week and why he returned to a team where he felt comfortable.
When you know where he's been and what he's about you realize why he signed the $1.26 million contract with the Nuggets for and, with no energy to waste on petulance, didn't throw a temper tantrum about it.
Would he have liked a fatter contract? Of course. Shouldn't someone who started 67 games at point guard for a playoff team and was a contender for the NBA's most improved player deserve more? Sure.
But as life has often reminded the perpetually smiling Carter in his 33 years, "would" and "should" sometimes get trumped by the reality of salary caps and other things.
"The Dream" has been Carter's compass, guiding him from hard-scrabble beginnings and fueling him through a series of challenges into what will be the longest NBA tenure of any ex-University of Hawai'i player, 10 seasons.
Long before he was known as "A.C." here, he was just another kid with untethered hopes on the asphalt courts of southeast Atlanta.
When he dropped out of high school at 15 it looked like the closest he would get to "pro" ball was the cash he and his neighborhood "Kirkwood Boys" played for in pick-up games.
His game might not have taken him beyond Memorial Drive if not for a fortuitous series of events. The first was meeting Llew Haden, whose "I Have a Dream" foundation encouraged at-risk youth to continue their education. Carter did and it paid off when a player from Saddleback (Calif.) Community College got coaches there interested in Carter. Two years later, Carter was starring in the Stan Sheriff Center.
But a recurring shoulder injury his senior year at UH damaged his pro stock. He spent a year riding the buses in the Continental Basketball Association to get an NBA shot and has since had to come back from a couple of surgeries to return to the league.
Remarkably, with four teams over nine seasons, he's managed to carve a career in a sport where a limited jump shot has sent many other journeymen off to other lines of work in short order.
Carter will be the first to tell you how good he's had it and the last one to say anything about how he's shared that good fortune with his alma mater.
For him it has always been about living — and, now — continuing "The Dream."
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com or 525-8044.