Fitness Secrets From Vince Carter, the NBA’s Oldest Player

vince carter
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Nicknamed Half Man, Half Amazing for his dunks, Carter has another distinction: oldest player in the league. The shooting guard/small forward for the Sacramento Kings tells us about his career, now in overtime.

I AM 41 YEARS old, and I’m playing my 19th year in the NBA. People ask, “Why are you still doing this?” Because I can, and I love it. Sometimes I just want to lie down for a while, but once you see the results and hear the compliments, it’s motivating. Meyers Leonard [of the Portland Trail Blazers] said to me during a game, “Man, it’s unreal how you’re moving and doing what you’re doing.” Inside, I’m smiling super-big. I don’t do it for other people’s approval, but it’s refreshing when they see the work you’re putting in.

Pregame
I get to the arena three to four hours early. It’s pretty empty. I do my routine, which gets my body together. I’m like an old-school ’64 Chevy. It’s maintaining more than anything—maintenance is my routine. That’s how I survive in this league. I stretch as much as possible. You want your muscles lean and long, especially basketball players, so you can get up and down the court. They’re typical stretches, nothing exotic. But for me, it’s about being consistent. I stretch in the morning, during practice, and at night before I go to sleep. Sometimes I watch these young guys who can’t touch their feet when they’re stretching. They have time to fix that. I don’t. After the game, I don’t hang out as much. Sometimes I’ll even get a lift in. Working out at night helps me sleep like a baby. My problem is I play Candy Crush. I love Candy Crush.

Junk Defense
The younger players can eat bad stuff. If I ate like them, I couldn’t play. When you get older, you have to sacrifice some things. If I go to a fast-food restaurant, I get a burger but just have the meat and not the bun. I eat the fries but not the milkshake. My fridge is what they call “boring.” Water bottles everywhere, maybe one cranberry juice, some Gatorade on occasion. My cheat foods are chocolate chip cookies, red velvet cake, and pasta. But if I’m going to have a couple of cookies or a slice of cake, I gotta f lush my system out with more water.

Goal Tending
If I want to play this sport, I need to invest in myself more than anything. Even in the off-season, I stick to a routine. If I let myself get too far out of shape, the comeback is a lot tougher. Years ago, I built a court and a gym at my house. I work out at least four days a week. I have a NormaTec [recovery system] and an AlterG running machine. I have a cryotherapy machine available, and hot and cold tubs—I try to use all the opportunities out there. People ask what I do specifically to stay in shape. They don’t need to know; they need to see results. I’m going to keep them guessing.

Dunk Dynasty
My first 10 years [in the league], dunking was a walk in the park. If I do it now, I gotta save it for a rainy day. It’s not going up that’s the problem—it’s coming down.

—As told to Anna Katherine Clemmons