Nearly two decades later, Vince Carter says he wouldn't change a thing about his decision to attend his graduation ceremony at North Carolina on the morning of what was then the most important game in Toronto Raptors history.
"I was once in your position, excited about the opportunity to graduate and receive my diploma - but I was also playing in the biggest basketball game of my professional career as well," the retiring veteran told graduates of historically black colleges and universities in an address posted by the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday. "And by the way: They were both on the same day."
The contest in question was Game 7 of the 2001 Eastern Conference semifinals. To that point, it was the furthest the fledgling Raptors had ever advanced in the postseason - and they had an opportunity to keep the good times rolling.
Facing Allen Iverson's Philadelphia 76ers on the road, Carter shot 6-of-18 from the floor, finishing with 20 points and nine assists while playing all 48 minutes. He also missed what would have been a series-clinching two at the buzzer as the Raptor fell 88-87:
The juxtaposition of a packed travel itinerary and a shaky performance against the 76ers resulted in criticism of Carter's decision at the time.
Still, regardless of the end result - and the fact that Carter would only appear in one conference final in his career (with the Orlando Magic in 2010) - the player once dubbed "Half Man, Half Amazing" has no regrets about attending one of the major milestones of his academic career.
"It was a taxing day for me, but I was able to accomplish both goals," Carter said. "And I would do it again if I had to."
Carter, 43, holds the record for most seasons played in NBA history (22). He also has a degree in African-American Studies from the University of North Carolina.