Who Are The Oldest Active NBA Players?
Following on from our article about the youngest players in the NBA, we thought it’d be a good time to look at the veterans. Taking the title requires the perfect mix of youthful energy and experienced leadership over the course of a long season. As the 2022/2023 season approaches tip-off, here’s a look at the oldest starting five one could (theoretically!) put on a court.
Forget Pitbull, UD is the OG Mr 305. Miami born and bred, he played college for University of Florida, and having gone undrafted, played for a year in France before being picked up by his hometown Heat. Now 42, Sports Illustrated report he’s signed on for a franchise record 20th season, making him only the third player to spend two decades on one team after Kobe Bryant (Lakers) and Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks). Udonis hasn’t seen so much court time in the last few years – Miami have him as their leader in the gym and on the sidelines, building the ‘Heat Culture’ that they’ve become famous for. He played more than expected last season as a long-term injury to Markieff Morris left his side short at power forward. With the Heat’s only natural 4 at time of writing being rookie Nikola Jovic, Haslem could once more find himself suiting up on the regular.
Four rings with Golden State mean there isn’t much left for Andre Iguodala to do in the NBA. He’s seen it, done it and won it all, including the Finals MVP in 2015 when the Dubs beat LeBron’s Cleveland Cavaliers. After a brief spell with the Memphis Grizzlies and a couple of years at the Heat, Iggy returned to the Bay Area last season to help Steph, Klay and Draymond overcome the Boston Celtics for his fourth victory in six Finals appearances. It’s not clear whether he’ll return for the 2022 season – coach Steve Kerr has said a roster spot will be held open for him – but whether we see him next season or not, the man from Springfield, Illinois will retire a Warrior.
Another veteran currently out of contract, Melo’s 21st NBA season was spent with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he passed Moses Malone to reach ninth on the league’s all-time top scorers list. He’s currently being linked with Boston, who could use front court reinforcements after Danilo Gallinari suffered an ACL tear on international duty with Italy. The Ladbrokes betting odds have the Celtics as favorites for the Eastern Conference, but with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving both remaining in Brooklyn and the Cavaliers’ capture of Donovan Mitchell, things could be tough at the top. Anthony wouldn’t just be bringing veteran savvy to a young Boston side; 2021 saw him average 13.3 points per game, at a 44% clip for two-pointers and 37.5% from downtown.
King James has towered over the league like a colossus since 2003. At 37, he’s still in the Top 10 NBA players. The first indication we’ve seen that he’s human didn’t come until the 2020 season where ankle and groin injuries saw him play less than 55 games for the first time in his career. If Father Time might (finally) be catching him, Bron wants more rings before he hangs up his jersey. That will likely involve getting Russell Westbrook off the Lakers’ wage bill, and Los Angeles trade rumors have dominated column inches this offseason. While franchise owner Jeannie Buss has gone public with her desire for LeBron to retire as a Laker, he’s made no secret of his aim to play with his son Bronny when he becomes draft eligible in 2024. Even at 40, his next contract will be one of the most sought-after signatures in the game.
Chronologically he’s not quite the fifth oldest currently – that would be Paul Millsap – but Millsap is currently out of contract and may be unlikely to find a team in the upcoming season. The 37 year old Tucker had a stellar 2021/2022 season with the Heat and has signed a fully guaranteed three year, $33m deal with Philadelphia. If that sounds high, P.J’s game has never relied on athleticism. It’s all about workrate, about doing the dirty jobs and never being afraid to take a hit. At Miami, he enjoyed a bromance with the notoriously hard-nosed Jimmy Butler, who explained “I didn’t know I would fall in love with a basketball player as much as I have with P.J. He just plays incredibly hard, and then he got the tough job every night of guarding the opposing team’s best player, and then going down there and shooting the ball five times. Like, you got to respect that.” Miami’s loss is Philly’s gain and if Tucker can provide the graft to cement James Harden’s craft and Joel Embiid’s size, then the Sixers will be a force to be reckoned with.