Because of its physical demands, the NBA is a game built for the young. However, in the history of the NBA, some great players played well into their 40s. While most weren’t as good as they were during their primes, they were still able to play well as senior citizens of the league.

In this article we’ll list down the 10 best players who played well into their 40s. Our qualification here is for players to be 40 years old at the start of their last season:

Basketball 1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the man who popularized the skyhook, the mot unguardable shot in the history of basketball. Born as Lew Alcindor, Abdul-Jabbar was one of the most dominant players in college basketball. He won three NCAA tournament MVP awards and three NCAA titles. He won the NBA’s MVP award a record six times and was also a two-time NBA Finals MVP.

After dominating in Milwaukee, Kareem moved to Los Angeles where he played alongside Magic Johnson in the fabled Showtime Lakers team. He would win a total of six NBA titles, five with the Lakers. At the time of his retirement in 1989 at the age of 42, he was the NBA’s all-time leader in points scored, games played, minutes played, and career wins. Abdul-Jabbar was also named to a record 19 All-Star teams.

Basketball 2. Vince Carter

The reason why we put Vince Carter’s name so high on this list is because VC is the ultimate symbol of longevity. Carter is the only player in NBA history to play in four different decades. He is one of only seven players in the history of the NBA to play in a total of 20 seasons and is the only one to play in 22. Carter played for the Atlanta Hawks during the 2019-20 season and that was believed to be his last.

Carter started his career as the first superstar of the Toronto Raptors. He was dubbed as Vinsanity for his electrifying dunks and high flying moves. He was the 1999 NBA Rookie of the Year and the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Champion. VC was also an eight-time NBA All-Star and a two-time member of the All-NBA team. During the 2019-20 season, the 43-year old Carter was the only active player born in the 1970s.

Basketball 3. Karl Malone

Karl Malone is considered one of the best power forwards to play the game, if not the best. The Mailman is a two-time NBA MVP, 14-time NBA All-Star and an 11-time member of the All-NBA First Team. He played alongside John Stockton in Utah for all but his final NBA season. When Stockton retired in 2003, Malone left Utah to chase a title ring with the Los Angeles Lakers.

The then 40-year old Mailman was no longer his old dominant self but he helped the Lakers reach the Finals where they were upset by the Detroit Pistons Malone retired after that season, without a ring, but as the second leading scorer in NBA history behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Aside from being one of the best players never to win an NBA title, Malone owns the player record for most playoff losses with 97.

Basketball 4. John Stockton

John Stockton was one of the best point guards ever. The 6-1 from Gonzaga played all of his 19 seasons for the Utah Jazz and the team made the postseason in every year that he played. He led Utah to back to back NBA Finals appearances in 1997 and 1998 while playing alongside Karl Malone. Stockton was a 10-time All-Star and was inducted to the Hall of Fame as a player and a member of the Dream Team.

Stockton played until he was 40 years old in 2003 after a season where he averaged 10.8 points and 7.7 assists per game. He was one of the most durable players in the history of the league as he played all 82 regular season games in 16 out of 19 seasons, including his last four years, and missed only a total of 54 games in 19 NBA seasons.

Basketball 5. Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki is the best European player to ever play in the NBA. Dirk came at a time when Karl Malone was the yardstick of the power forward position. He retired as the first “stretch four” in the history of the game. Many thought Nowitzki’s game wasn’t fit for the physical play of the NBA. Instead, he revolutionized the game and paved the way for today’s Nikola Jokic, Kristaps Porzingis, and Karl Anthony Towns.

Nowitzki was the best player ever in the history of the Dallas Mavericks franchise. In 2011, he led the team to its first and only NBA title. He was named as NBA MVP in 2007 and was named to 12 All-NBA teams. He was a 14-time NBA all-star and the first Maverick voted to an All-Star team. He retired in 2019 as the only player in NBA history to play 21 seasons for a single franchise. The future Hall-of-Famer ended his career at the age of 40 and as 6th overall in the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

Basketball 6. Robert Parish

Most of us remember Robert Parish as the Chief, who played alongside Larry Bird and Kevin McHale in one of the best frontcourts of all-time with the Boston Celtics during the 80s. This trio led the Celtics in their rivalry with the Showtime Lakers and won three titles during the decade. However, Robert Parish did not retire as a Celtic. He played well into his 40’s.

Parish left Boston in 1994 and at the age of 41. He signed a two-year deal with the Charlotte Hornets as Alonzo Mourning’s back-up. After completing his tour of duty in Charlotte, Parish played one season with the Chicago Bulls in 1997 and won a fourth NBA title with MJ and company. He retired after the season with the distinction of being the third oldest player to ever play an NBA game at the age of 43.Parish played in a record 1,611 regular season games throughout a 21-year NBA career.

Basketball 7. Manu Ginobili

Manu Ginobili is the most successful European player in basketball. Ginobili and Bill Bradley are the only basketball players to win a Euroleague title, NBA championship, and an Olympic gold medal. Ginobili played professionally for 23 years, including 16 in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs where he became a two-time All-Star and the 2008 Sixth Man of the Year winner.

Ginobili helped the Spurs win a total of four NBA titles in two different decades. Along with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, they were the winningest trio in the history of the NBA. Ginobili played 65 games during the 2017-18 season and averaged 8.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. But after an offseason which saw Tony Parker sign with the Charlotte Hornets, the then 41-year old Ginobili announced his retirement.

Basketball 8. Grant Hill

Grant Hill was one of the best and most celebrated basketball players during the 1990s after winning a pair of NCAA championships, an Olympic gold medal in 1996, and five All-NBA team honors from 1996-2000. However, his career was derailed after a series of ankle injuries that forced him to play only 47 games over four seasons with the Orlando Magic from 2000-04.

Hill persevered, and battled his way back to health. In his first four seasons with the Phoenix Suns, he missed only a total of 15 games. In 2011, he became one of only 13 all-time players to average at least 13 points at the age of 38. Hill then moved on to the Los Angeles Clippers where he played for two more seasons. Given what he went through, it’s incredible that Hill played until he was 40 years old. He retired in 2013 after playing just 29 games for LA while battling injuries.

Basketball 9. Dikembe Mutombo

Dikembe Mutombo is one of the greatest shot-blockers and defensive players in the history of the NBA. Mutombo won the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award a record four-times. He ranks second to Hakeem Olajuwon in the all-time blocks list, and second all-time in career triple doubles involving points, rebounds, and blocks. He is also 12th on the all-time double-double list.

The 7-2 center from Congo was an eight-time All-Star and a three-time blocks leader. In Game 2 of the Houston Rockets’ first round series against the Portland Trailblazers in 2009, Mutombo tore the quadriceps tendon of his left knee and he called it quits as surgery would be needed. He played for a total of 18 seasons and retired at the age of 42 following the conclusion of the 2009 NBA Playoffs.

Basketball 10. Kevin Willis

Kevin Willis played in a total of 21 NBA seasons, that’s tied for second-most in league history, behind Vince Carter’s 22 years. He is one of only 15 players in NBA history to score at least 16,000 points and grab at least 11,000 rebounds. Willis averaged 15.5 rebounds per game in 1992 and was named to the All-Star team that season.

During the 2004-05 season, Willis was the oldest player in the league and he remained as such until he retired at the age of 44 after the end of the 2006-07 season. Willis would finish with career averages of 12.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game while playing 27 minutes per game.

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