The aging curve hits different nowadays.
Just a couple of decades ago, once they hit their mid-30s, players could basically kiss their careers goodbye. But advances in medicine and science, and a better understanding of training, nutrition, and sleep, are helping NBA players extend their primes further than ever.
Some of the absolute best players in the league are in their mid-30’s. For example, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant are 33, with no signs of slowing down.
33 used to be washed-up; now nobody blinks twice when a GM signs a star to a max contract that will take him well into his fourth decade.
Let’s take a look at the oldest of the old. Only 22 players have suited up in the NBA this season at the age of 35 or older. Many of them are still solid contributors to their team, like Rudy Gay and Jeff Green. The best of the bunch should be pretty obvious, but who else makes the list?
The top 5 old heads still dominating the NBA today: Honorable Mentions
Udonis Haslem has to get some love for being the oldest player in the NBA by a substantial margin (excluding Joe Johnson and his 10-day hardship contract). The aforementioned Gay and Green are averaging nearly ten points per game for playoff teams.
Andre Iguodala’s stats don’t jump off the page, but he’s the perfect fit in a Warriors machine that requires intelligence and ball movement, and he can still play elite defense for short stretches at a time.
But really, the two biggest snubs here are PJ Tucker and LaMarcus Aldridge. Tucker plays elite defense against every position and has been hitting shots at career-best levels for Miami. He was pivotal to the Bucks’ title run just last season.
Aldridge has been an inspiring story coming back from a heart condition that forced his retirement and now averages nearly 14/10 on an excellent Brooklyn team.
But none of these players have been as good or as crucial to their team as the five listed below.
The top 5 old heads still dominating the NBA today: 5. Carmelo Anthony, Los Angeles Lakers
I’m as surprised as you are at this pick. Carmelo was literally out of the league just a few short years ago after a disastrous Houston stint, and now he’s an absolutely essential floor-spacer for a Los Angeles Lakers team parched for shooting.
Hitting 39 percent from range on six attempts per game, Carmelo is averaging13.3 points while accepting his role as a microwave bench scorer.
These aren’t empty stats, either. According to Cleaning the Glass, Carmelo is third on the Lakers in on/off point differential. They score an additional 9.0 points per 100 possessions with Carmelo on the floor, which ranks in the 94th percentile for all forwards (and, for those wondering, their defensive rating stays the exact same).
Anthony hasn’t missed a game all season, a miracle for any player in this protocols-riddled age, much less the third-oldest player in the league. His steady presence is one of the few things the Lakers can count on this season. Imagine reading that sentence just a few seasons ago.