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An ode to Vince Carter's surprising durability

Jerome Miron / USA TODAY Sports

Over the course of a season writing and talking about the NBA, you'll find that you discover surprising stats, stories and facts about players, teams and the game in general all the time. One of those instances came last night upon stumbling across Vince Carter's Basketball Reference page.

What really jumped off the screen was the games played category. You see Carter was marked with the dreaded 'injury prone' label thanks to his early years in Toronto, and most Raptors fans and even casual NBA fans will tell you that the 16-year veteran is 'soft,' whatever they interpret that to be.

But a glance at that games played column reveals the complete opposite - that Carter has actually been a model of durability and consistency for most of those 16 seasons, including a lot of his time north of the border. You'll notice that Vince only had two real injury plagued seasons - the 2001-02 season that saw him miss 22 games and the Raptors' five-game playoff series against Detroit with a knee injury, and the following 2002-03 season that saw him miss another 39 games.

Those two seasons, the jumper's knee, and the poor start to the 2004-05 season before being traded to the Nets tainted Carter's reputation seemingly beyond repair, but as we come to the conclusion of the 2013-14 season, Carter is now one of the game's most respected vets and a Sixth Man of the Year candidate for the second year in a row, on a potential playoff team in the wild West to boot.

The fact that it certainly appeared Carter mailed it in before being traded from Toronto is something that will always be mentioned, and rightfully so, when discussing VC's legacy, but the soft injury prone label absolutely should not be.

In fact, those two aforementioned seasons in 2001-02 and 2002-03 were the only two seasons in Carter's career that he missed 10 games or more. He missed just seven games total over his first three seasons before those two campaigns, from 1998-99 through 2000-01, and is now enjoying a pretty ridiculous run of durability since then, as in the 11 seasons since the 2002-03 season, Carter has missed just nine, five, three, zero, six, two, seven, nine, five, one and one games in each season, respectively.

That's a total of just 48 games missed over the last 11 seasons, many of which came in Carter's 30's. Only three players have suited up for more games since the start of the 2003-04 season, and if you expand it further and take out the two injury-shortened seasons, Carter has missed just 55 out of 1093 possible games in his other 14 seasons combined - a rate of 4.1 missed games per 82.

Even if you take the 16 seasons as a whole through Tuesday's loss to the Warriors, Carter has missed an average of less than eight games for every 82 on the schedule. Considering his above the rim style of play in his heyday, his early knee issues and his current age, that's pretty remarkable. He's also played more games since he came into the league than all but four players.

As Carter approaches the end of year no. 16 in the Association, it's only natural to wonder how much the 37-year-old has left in the tank. And so as fans and pundits begin to debate the potential Hall of Famer's legacy, you'll no doubt hear about the messy breakup with the Raptors all over again and how Carter never really enjoyed much playoff success filed under the negatives.

But one thing you should hear about on the positive side is Carter's impressive durability and consistency over the years. Because contrary to public belief, Carter will actually go down as one of the most durable players of his time.

Who would have thought?

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