10 Oldest NBA Players

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Being a professional athlete can be both a lucrative and fulfilling career option, especially for someone with natural talent and ambition. However, professional sports tend to take a toll on athletes’ bodies and the average age of retirement is 33. While this is typically true for most athletes, there are several who play for decades and retire at an age that is seen as exceptionally “old” for an athlete.

The following 10 NBA players all retired over the age of 40 and most of them left a lasting legacy in their sport and were inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.  

10. Karl Malone 

Oldest Age While Playing:  40 years, 325 days  
Team During Oldest Age:  Los Angeles Lakers
Draft Year: 1985 
  Years Played:  1985 – 2004 
Career Length:  19 

Karl Malonephoto source: nba.com

Karl Malone, nicknamed “The Mailman” was a power forward with the Utah Jazz for the first 18 years of his NBA career and is the 10th oldest player ever. Malone is known for being one of the best power forwards in NBA history and together with his teammate John Stockton (who was a point guard and an earlier entry on this list) formed a powerful duo.

He holds the record for second most career points in NBA history with 36,928 points and the record for most free throws attempted and made. Malone was inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame twice, once in 2010 for his individual career and as a member of the 1992 U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team.  

9. Charles Jones   

Oldest Age While Playing:  41 years, 30 days
Team During Oldest Age:  Houston Rockets
Draft Year: 1979 
  Years Played:  1984 – 1998 
Career Length:  14 years

Charles Jonesphoto source: NY Daily News 

Charles Jones is the ninth oldest person to ever play in the NBA. He was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 1979, but did not start playing until 1984 for the Philadelphia 76ers. Jones went on to play for four more teams before retiring from the NBA in 1998. His three brothers, Wil, Caldwell, and Major also played in the NBA.  

8. John Stockton  

Oldest Age While Playing:  41 years, 35 days  
Team During Oldest Age:  Utah Jazz 
Draft Year: 1984 
  Years Played:  1984 – 2003 
Career Length: 19 years 

John Stocktonphoto source: Wikimedia Commons  

John Stockton spent his entire professional basketball career as a point guard for the Utah Jazz and is the eighth oldest person to play in the NBA. He holds the NBA record for most assists (15,806) and steals (3,265) and is considered to be one of the best point guards of all time.

Stockton also has five of the top six assist seasons in NBA history with the other belonging to Isiah Thomas and also holds the record for the most games and consecutive games played with one team. Stockton is also a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.  

7. Herb Williams  

Oldest Age While Playing:  41 years, 129 days 
Team During Oldest Age:  New York Knicks  
Draft Year: 1981
  Years Played:  1981 – 1999 
Career Length: 18 years 

Herb Williamsphoto source: nba.com  

Herb Williams played for the NBA for 18 years and is the seventh oldest player ever. He was a first round draft pick for the Indiana Pacers in 1981, but did not necessarily have a remarkable career.

After retiring from the NBA as a player, Williams was the assistant and interim coach for the New York Knicks from 2003 – 2014. He is currently the assistant coach for the WNBA’s New York Liberty.  

6. Bob Cousy 

Oldest Age While Playing:  41 years, 150 days  
Team During Oldest Age:  Cincinnati Royals 
Draft Year: 1950
  Years Played:  1950 – 1963; 1970
Career Length: 13 full seasons and a half season during his comeback 

Bob Cousy photo source: Wikimedia Commons  

Bob Cousy is the sixth oldest person to play for the NBA and is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. During his NBA career as a player, Cousy was a 13 time NBA All Star and won the NBA Most Valuable Player Award in 1957.

Cousy retired as a player in 1963, but went on to coach for Boston College and eventually the Cincinnati Royals. In 1970, Cousy returned, at the age of 41, as a player for the Royals during the late season in an effort to boost ticket sales – ticket sales jumped by 77 percent.  

5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar  

Oldest Age While Playing:  42 years, 6 days 
Team During Oldest Age: Los Angeles Lakers 
Draft Year: 1969 
  Years Played:  1969 – 1989 
Career Length: 20 years

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar photo source: Wikimedia Commons   

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is known for being one of the greatest basketball players of all time and is the fifth oldest person to have played in the NBA. His NBA career spans over 20 years and during that time he set several records including, six-time NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP), 19-time NBA All Star, played in six NBA championships, and was voted NBA Finals MVP twice.

Abdul-Jabbar still holds the record as the all time leading scorer with 38,387 points and the player with the most career wins at 1,074. In 2016, ESPN named him the second best player in NBA history behind Michael Jordan.  

4. Dikembe Mutombo  

Oldest Age While Playing:  42 years, 300 days 
Team During Oldest Age: Houston Rockets  
Draft Year: 1991 
  Years Played:  1991 – 2009 
Career Length: 18 years  

Dikembe Mutombophoto source: Wikimedia Commons  

Dikembe Mutombo is a former NBA player best known for being one of the greatest shot blockers and defensive players of all time and has won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award four times. He is also one of the oldest people to play in the NBA.

After injuring himself in his last game for the Houston Rockets, Mutombo announced that he would retire from the NBA. Mutombo was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015 and since retiring from professional basketball, he has continued to do humanitarian work around the world.  

3. Robert Parish 

Oldest Age While Playing:  43 years, 254 days  
Team During Oldest Age: Chicago Bulls  
Draft Year: 1976 
  Years Played:  1976 – 1997 
Career Length: 21 years

Robert Parishphoto source: nba.com 

Robert Parish was first drafted into the NBA in 1976 after graduating from college and played for 21 consecutive years. He is the third oldest NBA player ever and holds an NBA record of playing in 1,611 regular season games during his career.

Parish was inducted into the the NBA Hall of Fame in 2003 and was also voted as on the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996.  

2. Kevin Willis

Oldest Age While Playing:  44 years, 224 days
Team During Oldest Age: Dallas Mavericks   
Draft Year: 1984 
  Years Played:  1984 – 2005; 2007 
Career Length: 22 years

Kevin Willisphoto source: nba.com

Kevin Willis holds the record for being the second oldest player ever in the NBA. He was first drafted in 1984 and played for various teams including the Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, Houston Rockets, and the Dallas Mavericks – Willis played for 21 consecutive years, took a break for a year, and returned for his final season in 2007. Willis only played five games for the Mavericks during the late regular season.

Due to his long career, Willis is one of 15 players in NBA history to have over 16,000 career points and 11,000 career rebounds.  

1. Nat Hickey

Oldest Age While Playing:  45 years, 363 days 
Team During Oldest Age: Providence Steamrollers  
Draft Year: Undrafted
  Years Played:  1948 in the NBA; 1921 – 1942 in the American Basketball League  
Career Length: 28 years total as a player and coach of the American Basketball League and the NBA 

Nat Hickeyphoto source: Amino

Nat Hickey holds the record for being the oldest person to have played in the NBA (which at the time was the Basketball Association of America) as he played two games in 1948, a few days before his 46th birthday.

Hickey was the coach of the Providence Steamrollers during the 1947 – 48 season; he decided to activate himself as a player in an effort to turn the team’s losing streak around. During both games, Hickey managed to score a total of two points and recorded five personal fouls.

Prior to coaching for the early NBA, Hickey was a professional basketball player for the American Basketball League for 21 years on various teams.  

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