Many players have had very good careers, which were cut short for various reasons. Some had unfortunate injuries and health issues, while others lacked the focus to make their careers flourish long-term. In a 2010 report released by ESPN, the average career of an NBA player is only 4.8 years. Even more staggering is the fact that this number is skewed by the players who have been able to last for an extended period of time.
There are only five players in the entire history of the league, who have played 21 seasons during their careers.
One player is about to make history and take his place at the very top of this list all by himself. Vince Carter, who is regarded as arguably the greatest dunker of all time, is currently preparing for his 22nd season. Carter took the NBA scene by storm. His performance in the 2000 Dunk Contest will go down as one of the best in the history of the league. Over the course of his career, he has managed to evolve into a better perimeter shooter, enabling him to maintain strong value, despite a drop off in his incredible athletic abilities.
KG was widely acknowledged as one of the best players of his time. Not only did he have an incredibly long career, but he was truly dominant in his prime. He captured the NBA MVP Award in 2004, and he eventually won an NBA Championship in 2008, as a member of the Boston Celtics.
His career spanned from 1976 through the 1997 seasons. He set the NBA record for the most games played in a career at 1,611 regular season games. Parish made a name for himself, and was present to watch the NBA transform into the modern league that it is today.
Willis was able to stay relevant, despite changing teams nine times throughout his long NBA career. He accomplished that feat, by being a consistent contributor for whatever franchise he played for at any given time. And while he was not the most dominant player on the court, the 7-footer was able to add value by using his big frame to establish his presence in the paint. Willis was and NBA All-Star in 1992, and he also won an NBA Championship as a member of the San Antonio Spurs in the 2003 season.
Dirk was always loved and respected by basketball fans around the world. This respect was unusually not limited to just the Dallas area, where he spent his entire pro career. At seven feet tall, Dirk’s game resembled a much smaller player, who is able to create his own shots off the dribble and pass the ball with innovative creativity. Over the course of his 21 seasons in the NBA, Dirk was a 14-time NBA All-Star. He was named NBA MVP in 2007, and he later won an championship in 2011, while also taking claim of the NBA Finals MVP Award.
Each of these players had a combination of skill and good health, enabling them to maintain their skills at the highest levels, in order to reach the longevity of a career that spanned more than two decades at the pro level.
The ability to maintain value for such an extended period of time is a major accomplishment for any player. Not only do their bodies need to remain in the best possible shape, but their contributions to an NBA team must justify their spot on team’s roster. With so many talented young players vying for their chance to shine at the top level of the sport, the competition is fierce. It is truly a testament of talent and hard work to stay in the league for such a long time.