5 Oldest NBA Players of All Time
Basketball is quite often known to be a young man's game, especially in the NBA. With all the agility and quick movements required, not to mention the need to be productive on both ends of the court. At the same time, the NBA is also a league of superhumans. And we have had multiple players defying age and defeating father time over the years. Just take this past year (2017-18) for example. Although in limited minutes, 7 of the 9 oldest players this past season were quite valuable and important players in their team's rotation.
In fact, all of these 9 players were either guards/wings or power forwards, some only playing the center position as part of a small-ball line-up. While one obvious reason for this is the league evolving to playing small ball, the other important reasons are the state-of-the-art medical facilities that the current players have at their disposal and more team's embracing the concept of "rest" which has helped elongate the careers of various players over the past decade.
However, this is something that's only come around recently. Therefore, you will notice that on the all-time list of "oldest NBA players ever", six of the top 10 are centers with three of them featuring in the top 5. A lot of that has got to do with the league's playing style early on - relatively slow game pace and the ball being pounded into the paint more often than not.
Have you guessed the 5 oldest NBA players yet? Well, never mind, we got you covered:
5. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Age during last game: 42 years and 6 days)
Unlike a lot of these players on this list, Kareem despite being around the age of 40 was still quite effective and productive as part of the team's regular rotation. In fact, just four years before retirement, at 38 years old, Kareem had been named the 1985 Finals MVP for averages of 25.7 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists on 60.4% shooting while playing 35.5 minutes against the Boston Celtics.
Kareem's greatness lays in the fact that he played a HUGE role in his team's success - initially as a perennial MVP candidate with the Milwaukee Bucks and later, in his early years with the Los Angeles Lakers (1975-79). Once the purple and gold franchise drafted Magic Johnson in 1979, he still played a pivotal role but was part of a 1-2 punch with Magic.
Kareem, the first overall pick of the 1969 Draft, basically did back in the 1970's and 1980's what LeBron James is doing right now - consistent excellence and domination of the game. He did not make it to 8th straight NBA Finals but over the course of his 20 years, he was named NBA MVP six times. He was part of a championship winning squad six times as well, twice being named the Finals MVP.
Other notable individual accolades include Rookie of the Year (1970), 2-time scoring champion, 19 All-Star selections, 15 All-NBA selections, 11 NBA All-Defensive selections.
His No. 33 has been retired by UCLA (won 3 NCAA titles with them), the Milwaukee Bucks, and the Lakers. Oh, and he also leads the league's all-time scoring charts with 38,387 career points in the regular season.
4. Dikembe Mutombo (Age during last game: 42 years, 300 days)
Dikembe Mutombo wasn't as dominant as Kareem was. While Kareem won six titles, Mutombo played for six teams (Denver Nuggets, Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets, New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets) over an 18-year career but couldn't get one.
That's not a shot at the Congolese American. He came close to winning rings with his two trips to the NBA Finals in three years with different teams - 2001 with Philly and 2003 with New Jersey. There are only a countable number of players that are ranked above Kareem on the all-time list but Mutombo ranks among the greats in the one facet of the game he knows best - defense.
Drafted 4th overall in 1991, Mutombo finished his career as a 4-time Defensive Player of the Year (tied for most in NBA history), led the league in blocks thrice and had a career average of 2.8 blocks per game. In fact, in terms of total career blocks, he is second only to Hakeem Olajuwon (3830) with 3289.
After his playing career, Mutombo is well known for all his work for humanitarian causes. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015 and has his No. 55 jersey retired by the Hawks and Nuggets.
3. Robert Parish (Age during last game: 43 years, 254 days)
Robert Parish was an underrated part of the Boston Celtics' dynasty in the 1980's. Along with Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, the threesome was arguably the greatest frontcourt ever assembled, winning three titles in 5 attempts.
Drafted 8th overall in 1976 by the Golden State Warriors, Parish was acquired by the Celtics via a trade and then stayed on with the franchise till 1994, when he was let go to be part of the league's Expansion Draft.
From 1994 to 1997, he played for two teams - Charlotte Hornets and the Chicago Bulls (1996-97), therefore finishing his career with four rings when he called in quits after the 1997 season. Might not be as great as Kareem but four rings, 8 All-Star selections in 21 years for a sort of one-dimensional 7-foot center isn't bad at all.
2. Kevin Willis (Age during last game: 44 years, 224 days)
Kevin Willis played in the NBA for 22 years officially but he was a force of nature and effective only during the first 10 years of his career from 1984 to 1994 with the Atlanta Hawks.
In the 12 playing years from 1994 to 2007, Willis played on 8 teams including a one-year stint again with the Hawks (2004-05). At least, all of that hopping around, worked out when, on a two-year deal with the San Antonio Spurs, he won his first championship in 2003. Going by individual accolades, his best year was in 1992 when he made it to All-NBA Third Team and was named an All-Star.
His one-year return to the Hawks allowed him to become the oldest player in NBA history, who played for than one game. He played again a couple of years later as a late addition to the contending 2006-07 Dallas Mavericks. He played in the late regular season games but the team was unfortunately upset in the first round by the Warriors.
1. Nat Hickey (Age during last game: 45 years, 363 days)
So actually, Nate Hickey was the oldest player ever to play in the NBA history. He was the interim head coach of the Providence Steamrollers during the 1947-48 season in the Basketball Association of America (BAA) - the forerunner to the NBA. Through the first 29 games of the season, his team had registered a 4-25 record.
So, he activated himself as a player and played two games. In those two games, he made no field goals on six attempts and committed 5 personal fouls. His career games against the New York Knickerbockers and the St. Louis Bombers, both of which allowed him to hold the dubious record of being the oldest ever player to appear in an NBA game.