They say age is just a number, but that number is all too important if you’re an NBA player.
Few players are able to stick around into their 40s. There’s no Tom Brady or Zdeno Chara in the NBA, as legends rarely play into their mid-40s. The current crop of the oldest NBA players is actually relatively young, with a few aging superstars near the top of the list.
Here are some of the oldest players in the NBA entering the 2021-22 season and in league history:
Who is the oldest active NBA player?
1. Udonis Haslem, 41 years old
Remembered for his days as an enforcer on the Big 3 Miami Heat of the early 2010s, Udonis Haslem is still playing for the Heat. He’s been with Miami since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2003, making him the longest-tenured player in franchise history.
Haslem has played just 45 games combined in the last five years, as he essentially serves as an assistant coach at this point in his career. He appeared in one game last season, playing three minutes before getting ejected for fighting with former Philadelphia 76ers center Dwight Howard.
2. Andre Iguodala, 37 years old
The 2015 NBA Finals MVP continues to bounce around the league, rejoining the Golden State Warriors for the 2021-22 season after two years with the Heat. Andre Iguodala began his career in 2004 with the Sixers, playing eight seasons in Philly before a year with the Denver Nuggets and six with the Warriors.
A three-time champion, two-time All-Defense and one-time All-Star, Iggy has averaged 11.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists in 1,192 career regular season games. He’ll contribute as a veteran off the bench for the Warriors in 2021, but he turns 38 in January.
3. Carmelo Anthony, 37 years old
Just a few years ago, it seemed unlikely that Carmelo Anthony would ever join this list. The No. 3 pick in the loaded 2003 draft, Anthony spent his first 14 seasons with the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks. After a disappointing 2017-18 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Anthony joined James Harden’s Houston Rockets for 2018. He played just 10 games before the team asked him not to come back, and he appeared to be exiled from the league.
The Portland Trail Blazers took a chance on him with a non-guaranteed deal in 2019 and he rebuilt his value as a reputable role player. Now with the Los Angeles Lakers, Anthony is looking for his first title after averaging 23.0 points per game across his first 18 seasons.
4. LeBron James, 36 years old
As LeBron James continues to pad his resume among the best players of all-time, he continues to climb the list of oldest active NBA players. James’ accolades through 18 NBA seasons are remarkable -- 17 All-Star appearances, 17 All-NBA bids, six All-Defensive teams, four MVPs, four titles and four Finals MVPs. He’s also well on his way to becoming the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, sitting just 3,020 points behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The only thing King James is playing for these days is more championships. In 18 years with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers, James has averaged 27.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 7.4 assists in 1,310 regular season games. He’s also played 266 playoff games, more than any player in league history. It might be time for James, who turns 37 this December, to start scaling back in the regular season to save his body for the playoffs after suffering significant injuries in two of the last three seasons.
5. Paul Millsap, 36 years old
A second-round pick in 2006, Paul Millsap has exceeded all expectations throughout his 15-year career. His first seven seasons with the Utah Jazz were solid, as he developed into a starting-caliber power forward. Everything changed when he signed with the Atlanta Hawks in 2013. He was an All-Star every year he played for the Hawks, averaging 17.4 points and 8.3 rebounds across four seasons.
Millsap’s emergence with the Hawks paid off when he signed a three-year, $90 million deal with the Denver Nuggets in 2017. He never found the same success in four seasons with Denver, transitioning into a supporting role. This offseason, Millsap joined the Brooklyn Nets on a one-year deal as he looks for his first championship.
Who is the oldest NBA player ever?
1. Nat Hickey, 45 years old
The oldest NBA player of all-time dates back to 1948. Nat Hickey coached the Providence Steamrollers in the 1947-48 season, but moved himself to the active roster after the team got off to a 4-25 start. He played just two games just before his 46th birthday, scoring a total of two points, committing five fouls and shooting a combined 0 for 6 from the field in two losses.
The numbers are ugly, but just by stepping on the floor Hickey set a record that still stands over 73 years later.
2. Kevin Willis, 44 years old
Unlike Hickey, Kevin Willis played a long career in the NBA before retiring at the age of 44 in 2007. Willis’ career began in 1984 when the Atlanta Hawks selected him at No. 11 overall. He stayed in Atlanta through 1994, averaging 14.1 points and 9.7 rebounds over 11 seasons. In 1992, Willis was named to his only All-Star Game after averaging 18.3 points and 15.5 rebounds that season.
After being traded to the Heat in 1994, Willis spent the second half of his career bouncing around as a solid role player. He later played for the Warriors, Houston Rockets (twice), Toronto Raptors, Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs, Hawks (again) and Dallas Mavericks. Willis won a title with the Spurs in 2003, averaging 2.6 points off the bench in 18 playoff games when he was 40.
3. Robert Parish, 43 years old
Robert Parish played to an older age than any NBA player who made the Basketball Hall of Fame, retiring in 1997 just before his 44th birthday. The Chief started his career with the Warriors, playing four seasons in The Bay before being traded to the Boston Celtics. Parish spent the next 14 seasons in Boston, winning three titles and being named an All-Star 14 times. Along with Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, Parish helped form one of the first “Big 3’s” in NBA history.
Parish’s final three NBA seasons were spent as a backup. He played with the Charlotte Hornets behind Alonzo Mourning for two years, then finished his career in 1996-97 playing with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the Chicago Bulls. He appeared in just two playoff games at the age of 43, but the Bulls won the NBA Finals and Parish was awarded his fourth ring before officially retiring that summer. Parish is the oldest player to win a championship.
4. Vince Carter, 43 years old
Vinsanity. Half Man, Half Amazing. Air Canada.
Throughout his 22-year career, Vince Carter went through plenty of transformations. Carter shined with the Raptors in his early years, with iconic moments in the Slam Dunk Contest and the 2000 Sydney Olympics. After a messy exit from Toronto and subsequent trade to the then-New Jersey Nets, slowly evolved from a superstar into a role player.
Carter spent time with the Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks before finally retiring in 2020. With the COVID-19 pandemic looming, Carter entered what would be his final game in March 2020 and buried a 3-pointer on the final possession of the Hawks’ loss. He’s likely to join Parish in the Basketball Hall of Fame once he’s eligible.
5. Dikembe Mutombo, 43 years old
Before starring in an unforgettable commercial, Dikembe Mutombo was a Hall of Fame NBA player. He was drafted No. 4 overall by the Nuggets in 1991, playing five seasons in Denver before signing with the Hawks in 1996. In nine full seasons with the Nuggets and Hawks, Mutombo averaged 12.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game while winning Defensive Player of the Year four times.
Mutombo was traded to the Sixers in 2001, joining the team just in time for their run to the 2001 NBA Finals. His play drastically dropped off in the following years due to injuries and age. The final years of Mutombo’s career were spent with the Nets, Knicks and Rockets before he retired in 2009 at 43 years old. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.