At What Age do Most NBA Players Retire?

The NBA is filled with some of the best basketball players in the world, but there comes a time when these pros decide to hang up their sneakers for good. Some NBA players retire young, while others continue their basketball careers well into their 40s.

But when do most NBA players retire? Here’s everything you need to know about the average retirement age of NBA players.

Average Retirement Age of NBA Players

The average retirement age of NBA players is mid-to-late- 30s as their physical fitness begins to decline. NBA players usually peak at around 27 years old. By the time they reach 30, it takes more effort to keep in shape.

As NBA players age, not only does the risk of injury increase but it becomes harder to keep up with younger, faster players.

Even though most NBA players retire between the ages of 36 and 39, some carry on in their 40s. Nat Hickey is the oldest player to play in the NBA. He played one game for the Providence Steamrollers at 45 years and 363 days old during the 1947 to 1948 season.

Why Do Most NBA Players Retire in Their 30s?

Although there’s no strict rule regarding retirement age for NBA players, let’s look at some of the reasons why most retire in their mid-30s.


An NBA player’s assigned position on the court can influence how early they retire. Power forwards and centers normally retire earlier than other positions.

Some players change their roles to less physically demanding ones as they get older. This allows them to keep playing a little longer even once they’re past their prime in terms of fitness.


Health is one of the biggest factors NBA players consider for retirement age. Once players approach their 30s, their fitness level decreases, affecting how they perform and play.

Playing in the NBA is incredibly taxing on the body, and it becomes harder for older players to match the pace of their younger opponents. Retiring gives players the chance to recover and rest, while also leaving their basketball career on a highlight.

Career Lifespan

Most NBA careers last around 4.5 years. Injuries are pretty common on the court, and the older a player gets, the more at risk they are at hurting themselves. Rather than risk injury, a lot of players retire from the NBA after 4.5 years to pursue their careers elsewhere, such as coaching basketball.

NBA Pensions

Even though the average career of an NBA player only spans 4.5 years, the NBA offers an extremely generous pension plan. To be eligible, players need to have spent at least 3 years in the NBA.

The amount of money they receive each year depends on how long they spent in the NBA, as well as the age they decide to begin their pension. For example, a player who spent 3 years in the NBA and chose to receive their pension at 62 years old will get $56,998 each year.

The most a player can receive each year is $195,000 per year, which is offered only to players who played in the league for 11 or more years. But if that wasn’t already generous, the NBA also offers stars a league-sponsored 401(k) plan. This means they match each player’s contribution up to 140%.

The Oldest NBA Players in History

While the majority of NBA players retire in their 30s, some stars kept their careers going well into their 40s. Let’s dive into some of the oldest NBA players in history.

Nat Hickey

As we mentioned earlier, Nat Hickey is the oldest player to ever perform in the NBA. He played a single game for the Providence Steamrollers when he was 45 years and 363 days old during the 1947 to ‘48 season.

If you didn’t already know, the Steamrollers merged with the NBL (National Basketball League) to create the NBA in 1949. Despite being a different league, the NBA still recognizes the Basketball Association of America (BAA) seasons that ran between 1946 and 1949 as part of their history.

Kevin Willis

Kevin Willis played five games for the Dallas Mavericks in 2007. He was with the NBA for 21 seasons before retiring at 44 years and 224 days old.

Robert Parish

The third oldest player to ever play in the NBA is Robert Parish. He played for the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls. He finally retired at 43 years and 254 days old in 1997.

Vince Carter

Next up is Vince Carter, one of the best dunkers in NBA history. He played in the league for a staggering 22 years, with his final appearance being at the age of 43 years and 45 days in 2020 as part of the Atlanta Hawks.

Dikembe Mutombo

The fifth-oldest player to ever play in the NBA is Dikembe Mutombo, a legendary shot blocker. His career in the NBA ran from 1991 to 2009, with his final appearance being when he was 42 years and 300 days old.

The Oldest Active NBA Players

As the list above shows, being an older NBA player doesn’t necessarily mean your career is over. These guys were rocking it well into their 40s!

And there are plenty of older NBA players who are still active today. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the oldest active NBA players (at the time of writing).

Udonis Haslem

Udonis Haslem turns 41 years old in June 2021 and is currently the oldest player in the NBA. He’s been with Miami Heat for his whole career, and first signed with them back in 2003.

Andre Iguodala

Andre Iguodala is the second oldest player who still plays in the NBA at 37 years old. He’s a three-time NBA champion and plays for Miami Heat.

Carmelo Anthony

The third oldest active NBA player is Carmelo Anthony, who’s been named an NBA All-Star 10 times. He turns 37 in May 2021 and currently plays for the Portland Trail Blazers.

JJ Redick

JJ Reddick is the fourth oldest player who still plays in the NBA at 36 years old (37 in June 2021). He plays for the New Orleans Pelicans.

LeBron James

Last but not least is LeBron James, who’s not only one of the oldest NBA active players but also one of the greatest. Despite being 36 years old, he’s still an MVP contender and has made 16 All-Star appearances in 17 seasons.

He’s earned 4 MVP titles and was a key part of the Lakers triumph to victory in 2020, which was his fourth NBA title. It just goes to show that even age can’t slow this guy down!

Final Thoughts

The NBA is home to some of the most skilled basketball players in history, but even the best athletes have to retire at some point. While most NBA players call it quits once they hit their mid-30s, some stars can keep going even in their 40s.

It’s never fun to say goodbye to our favourite NBA stars, but like the two lists above show, even players in their late 30s and 40s can still have some tricks left up their sleeves.

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