Painting Vince carter's "vingevity"

A detail view of Terry Smith's painting of Vince Carter's face.


For the Vince Carter painting, I wanted to create something to commemorate his 22 years in the NBA. I was searching for a concept that would be different from the typical image of Vince soaring through the air, executing one of his signature dunks. I was looking to create an image that would be more reflective in tone—a sense of looking back over a long and storied career. 

I also wanted to use my typical “story within an image” approach with the piece. 

I arrived at the concept of a secret formula or elixir to explain his longevity. How can anyone play the demanding sport of professional basketball for a record-breaking 22 years? It’s got to be more than the must be magic. 

I always start every piece by trying to capture a solid likeness of the athlete’s face. I try to find the right expression that will reflect the mood of the piece. I usually like to have the athlete’s eyes looking at the viewer. With Vince I wanted his face and expression to play up a sense of slyness. There is a secret to his longevity, but only he knows what it is. The ball positioned behind his back creates a sense of him giving you a glimpse into his magical powers but not fully revealing them. Some of his secrets are retiring with him.

Various stages of detail being added to Vince Carter's face over four iterations.

The concept of a transparent ball, bubbling with liquid longevity elixir provided by the basketball gods, seemed appropriate. The magical fumes from the elixir, rising up to form the number 22 as they drift upward, subtly alludes to the specific number of his momentous accomplishment. 

Increasing detail being added to the painting of Vince Carter's torso and basketball.

The team logos presented as graffiti on the wall behind Vince signify all of the stops he has made along his NBA basketball journey. Some are more prominent than others, intentionally representing some of his better seasons—his NBA Rookie of the Year debut with the Toronto Raptors; the NBA Finals with the New Jersey Nets. Vince has been a unique individual—a class act both on and off the court for his entire career. I felt it was important to use the wall to reflect upon his entire NBA journey.

The toughest decision to make was which uniform to put him in. I decided on the Atlanta Hawks uniform, as this marked his last stop; the end to his special 22-year journey. 

Terry's portrait of Vince Carter, without background
Terry's portrait of Vince Carter, with a concrete wall background
Terry's portrait of Vince Carter, with graffiti added to the concrete wall
Terry's portrait of Vince Carter, with the completed background to include the misty

It was truly an honor to paint this piece. I had met Vince 20 years ago when he was just starting his career. I was working on a project at EA and made arrangements through a mutual friend for him to fly out to visit the EA campus. Vince was a class act then; and he still is today. 

Fast-forward 21 years and my son ends up becoming a trainer for the Hawks during Vince’s final season. Vince was one of the athletes he worked with, helping to get him through his last season in the league. I can’t thank him enough for the way he treated my son and everyone else around him. I painted this as a way to say thank you—on behalf of all of us who enjoyed watching him play. More importantly, to thank him for the way he carries himself and treats all those who have had the privilege to be in his company. 

Finished image of Terry Smith's completed portrait of Vince Carter.

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