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Oldest Players in NBA History

Rob Joyce
August 08, 2019 - 2:01 pm

Vinsanity has one more year left in him. At age 42, reports are out that Vince Carter will play his final NBA season with the Hawks. Averaging 7.4 points in 76 games with Atlanta last year, Carter has long been a renowned mentor off the bench since his dynamic days have passed by. An eight-time All-Star, the future Hall of Famer will set numerous records this year for longevity in the league, including climbing up the “oldest player in a game” list. From household names to a player-coach, here are the oldest players to ever appear in an NBA game:

7) Bob Cousy (41 years, 150 days):

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The Hall of Famer initially retired after the 1963 season at age 34, having made the All-Star team in all 13 seasons and winning six titles with Boston. After six years in retirement as a coach, he took over for the Cincinnati Royals. To boost ticket sales he came out of retirement to appear in seven games in 1970, scoring five points in 34 minutes before calling it quits for good.

6) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (42 years, 6 days):

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There were no gimmicks here. Though far removed from his peak of playing 37-40 minutes a night for the Lakers, Kareem was still effective in 1988-89, his 21st and final NBA season. In 23 minutes a game he averaged 10.1 points and 4.5 rebounds while shooting 47.5 percent – his only season below 50 in his career. He retired as the NBA’s all-time leader in games played (since surpassed) as the Lakers made it to the Finals, losing to the Pistons.

5) Vince Carter (42 years, 186 days):

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If he in fact plays one more season, he will move up one spot on this list by the end of the regular season. The upcoming campaign will be Carter’s 22nd in the league, setting a new NBA record. If he plays after the New Year he will also be the first player ever to appear in games in four different decades, having debuted with Toronto in 1998. If he plays in at least half of Atlanta’s games, he’ll finish third all-time in games played, behind only Robert Parish and Kareem.

4) Dikembe Mutombo (42 years, 300 days):

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The eight-time All-Star is best known for his years in Denver and Atlanta, but spent the last five years of his career with the Rockets, playing alongside Yao Ming. Though never averaging more than 16 minutes a game, he had some notable performances (22 rebounds in a game in 2007, part of the 22-game win streak in 2008). After starting 2008-09 as a free agent, he returned to Houston in December for a farewell tour, playing in nine games in the regular season before tearing his quadriceps tendon early in Game 2 of the first round against Portland, ending a Hall of Fame career.

3) Robert Parish (43 years, 254 days):

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The NBA’s all-time leader in games played, Parish was a workhorse for 20 years, playing between 72 and 82 regular season games from 1976-96 – and that doesn’t include an additional 182 playoff games in that span. For the 1996-97 season the Hall of Famer signed with the Bulls, appearing as a role player in 43 games, plus two in the playoffs. He went out a champion, winning his fourth NBA title before retiring.

2) Kevin Willis (44 years, 224 days):

Never a centerpiece – he only made one All-Star and one All-NBA team – Willis was the ultimate team player, carving out a 21-year career with eight teams. After a long stint with Atlanta to start his career, he bounced around from 2000-05, playing for Toronto, Denver, Houston, San Antonio and Atlanta for a second time. He retired in 2005, but came back briefly with Dallas late in 2007, playing in five games. He’s one of 15 players all-time with at least 16,000 points and 11,000 rebounds.

1) Nat Hickey (45 years, 363 days):

Hickey’s professional career spanned three decades, playing for a variety of teams in early leagues like the American Basketball League and the National Basketball League. He was the head coach of Providence in the BAA (the NBA’s predecessor) in 1948 when he decided to lace up for the 4-25 Steamrollers, playing in two games, scoring two points. So despite his NBA career being otherwise unmemorable, he technically is the oldest player ever in an NBA game.