AJ McLean Says Nick Carter Could've Been in *NSYNC If He Chose 'Mickey Mouse Club' Over Backstreet Boys

Nick Carter recalled the time he was faced with choosing between joining Justin Timberlake’s Disney troupe or the boyband that made him a star

AJ McLean and Nick Carter
Photo: Ethan Miller/FilmMagic; Eric McCandless/Getty

Nick Carter was faced with some serious decisions when he was just a preteen.

The Backstreet Boys singer, now 42, reunited with boyband member AJ McLean at this weekend's 90s Con in Hartford, Connecticut, and shared how he got his start with the famous five 30 years ago.

After McLean, 44, told fans that he met Carter at auditions for Disney and Nickelodeon in 1992 — when McLean, "the OG" Backstreet Boy, was helping build the band — Carter recalled the moment he was given the chance to join the Mickey Mouse Club.

"I got offered a contract, and I turned it down," he said Sunday. "I was supposed to be on the same team as Britney [Spears] and Ryan [Gosling]. And I got an option to go in for a Backstreet Boys audition. [AJ] was there."

Carter added that he was faced with choosing between "the $50,000 contract from the Mickey Mouse Club and Backstreet Boys, which had nothing really going for it," ultimately acknowledging: "I chose the Backstreet Boys."

American boy band Backstreet Boys, circa 1995
Tim Roney/Getty

Though Carter would go on to work with McLean, Howie Dorough, Kevin Richardson, and Brian Littrell, he would have met Justin Timberlake — another famous Mickey Mouse Club cast member from the early 1990s — if he had leaned the other way.

"Biggest decision of your life," McLean told Carter at 90s Con. "Think about it. You could potentially have been in *NSYNC. Who knows!"

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The Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC rose to fame simultaneously, with BSB producing hits like "Quit Playing Games" and "I Want It That Way" while *NSYNC churned out pop standards like "I Want You Back" and "Tearin' Up My Heart."

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Music fans were quick to choose a side in the 1990s, but McLean, Carter, and *NSYNC singer Joey Fatone made it clear at the '90s-themed convention that there was never any bad blood between the boybanders.

"They kept us kind of away [from each other], I think. Our managers were the same managers, Lou Pearlman in the very early stages," Fatone explained. "[Backstreet Boys] were doing their thing, and we were doing ours, and they never really brought us together because I don't think they wanted us to talk to each other."

For the most part, the dueling bands were in friendly competition — all except McLean and *NSYNC's Chris Kirkpatrick. "Chris and I did not like each other at first," said McLean. "There was a reason. We dated the same girl two years apart. Now Chris and I are like really close friends. He's a father now, so we have that in common. Things have changed."

It all was for the best in the end, said Carter: "You could say that without *NSYNC that we wouldn't be the Backstreet Boys. There wouldn't be that competition."

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