At 42, Vince Carter has recently become the first and only player to play in the NBA for four decades.
Carter is the oldest active NBA player. And to contextualize, he was first drafted in 1998 when 36 of the active players in the NBA were born.
Hakeem Olajuwon was once his teammate, and now he was playing with Trae Young. Carter also once went against Michael Jordan.
While Carter never planned on playing this long, he was “thankful to still be around and competing at this level.”
Not only that, but Carter also became the only person to play 22 seasons in August 2019.
So if you want to know what player has played the longest in the NBA, that’s Carter.
Carter in stats
- Played in 1,511 season games (as of 1/7/2020)
- Appeared in 11 playoffs and 88 playoff games
- Played for eight NBA teams
- Rookie of the Year Award (1999)
- NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion (2000)
The other NBA players who had the longest playing careers are as follows. They are known collectively as the 21-season club because they played one season shy of that of Carter’s.
#1 – Dirk Nowitzki
Nowitzki is a German basketball player who played all his seasons with the Dallas Mavericks. He was regarded as the greatest European NBA player as well as the league’s one of the greatest power forwards.
Nowitzki is known for his trademark fadeaway jump shot. And because of his shooting abilities, he became the first Maverick to be included in the All-NBA Team.
Nowitzki in stats
- Played in 1,522 season games
- Appeared in 15 playoffs and 145 playoff games
- NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) (2007)
- NBA Finals MVP (2011)
- 6th NBA career scoring leaders
#2 – Kevin Garnett
Garnett started and finished his playing career with Minnesota Timberwolves, from 1995 to 2007 and 2015 to 2016. He also played for Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets.
When he was drafted in 1995, he was the first player to be drafted straight from high school—speaking of which, Garnett won the National Player of the Year Award while in high school.
Garnett in stats
- Played in 1,462 season games
- Appeared in 14 playoffs and 143 playoff games
- NBA MVP (2004)
- Won both the NBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same year
- 3rd most appearance in All-Star selections
#3 – Robert Parish
Parish holds the record for most games played with 1,611. He started playing with the Golden State Warriors and one season each for Charlotte Hornets and Chicago Bulls.
However, it was his playing time with the Boston Celtics that pushed him to appear to the NBA All-Star for nine times. He won three championships with the Celtics and one on his lone season with the Bulls. The Celtics retired his 00 jersey in 1998.
Parish in stats
- Played in 1,611 season games
- Appeared in 16 playoffs and 184 playoff games
- Inducted in Hall of Fame in 2003
- One of 50 Greatest Players in NBA History
#4 – Kevin Willis
Willis played for eight NBA teams throughout his career. He played until he was 44 years old with the Dallas Mavericks in 2006-07.
Willis in stats
- Played in 1,424 season games
- Appeared in 11 playoffs and 98 playoff games
- One in 15 NBA players with more than 16,000 career points and 11,000 career rebounds