My Favorite NBA Playoff Moment: Vince Carter’s Game 3 Game-Winner

There is no bigger Dallas sports fan I know than the co-founder of this very site and editor-for-life Kenny Masenda. And while I hate the Cowboys with all my being, I can’t help but love my brother-in-arms. I know he not only truly cares about his teams, but he also knows what the hell he’s talking about. Always.

So when I had the opportunity to watch Game 3 of last season’s first-round NBA Playoff matchup between Kenny’s Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs, I knew I was in for a wild ride. How wild remained to be seen.

You see, for the first time in TSFJ’s history, the crew had an official get-together. We called it the TSFJ Summit, which took place last year in the nation’s capital. And believe it or not, after years of friendship as both co-workers and fellow sports junkies, Kenny and I had never met in person previously. We had talked and exchanged emails and texts hundreds of times, but this was the first in-person meeting of the minds — minds that think and often act very similarly.

When I met Kenny, it was as if we we’d been best friends since childhood, and that’s appropriate, because standing next to Kenny I felt like a child in stature. While we may have similar thought processes, we could not be more different in appearance.

Here was Mr. Masenda, 6’1, 225 pounds and solid, which is no surprise to any of you who see Kenny eat weights for breakfast on his Instagram account. Then there was me, 5’6, 145 pounds with less than an athlete’s build — from a guy who avoids weights like the plague. Needless to say, if I was in a fight, I’d want Kenny to have my back … and on the flip side, he’d be one of the last folks I know I’d want to fight.

Believe it or not, this is important.

Why? Because after getting in to a bit of shenanigans, we all congregated at our rental house in D.C. to take in some sports. And with Kenny being an avid Mavs fan, there was no question we were tuning in to see the battle of Texas between the eighth-seeded Mavericks and top-seeded Spurs.

The game was just what you’d expect between two battle-tested, veteran squads with championship pedigree. With the series locked at one apiece, it was a tight contest throughout. So tight that with less than a minute left to play, the score was knotted at 104-104 after Samuel Dalembert of all people hit a pair free throws.

You could feel the tension in the room, no one more understandably tense than Kenny. It got even more tense as the game officially went on the seesaw. First, it was Boris Diaw reclaiming the lead for the eventual champs. Then it was Monta Ellis tying it back up.

But when Manu Ginobili made a driving bank shot with 1.7 seconds left to play, it seemed as though Kenny might be in for some major disappointment.

Then again, the Mavs did have Dirk and Monta and a team full of guys who have been in tough spots. Naturally, everyone assumed the play would be called for Nowitzki. Rick Carlisle, being the mad scientist he is, had other ideas.

With Dirk setting a slight screen, Vince Carter flashed across and headed to the corner. Jose Calderon threw a perfect inbound pass, and then Vince did this:

It was pure pandemonium, and if the shot wasn’t reason enough for this to be my favorite NBA playoff moment in a long, long time, the celebration was.

Me being a Vince and general basketball fan, I leapt up in excitement on the shot. Kenny, being a Mavs fan, did the same. As we naturally went in for a jump/chest bump/hug, our physical attributes came into play. Not only did Vince Carter hit the Game 3 game-winner, but Kenny Masenda sent me into next week. When our two bodies collided, his athlete’s frame sent me flying across the room, damn near knocking me out as I hit the opposite wall.

It was mayhem. It was madness. And it was why we throw ourselves into sports. The raw emotion erupted, Kenny lost his damn mind, and the Rev nearly got decapitated along the way. And I wouldn’t trade that moment for anything in the world.

It’s one thing to watch your own team and go nuts. It’s another thing entirely watching someone else experience so much joy — or frustration — during a game that you really don’t have much invested in.

Vince Carter’s game-winner will always be in my mind, and I’ll never forget where I was or whom I was with when it happened. Which is a minor miracle in itself, because Kenny Masenda almost gave me a concussion in celebration.

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