Have you ever visited a park or gymnasium and encountered an IRL Uncle Drew? If you frequent the pick-up scene, you know the type of baller we’re talking about: He’s got a few decades on the next-oldest guy on the court, and his knees have seen better days, but he’s still getting buckets—and he’s probably doing it while wearing ridiculous apparel.
Older players have a number of natural disadvantages. They don’t have youthful speed, agility, or athleticism any more. They can’t play at the rim, grab rebounds, or check quick ball-handlers.
But they also have advantages. They have that old-man basketball wisdom; they understand how the game works. They’ve refined their shooting stroke over decades of schooling young bloods. Perhaps most importantly, they know themselves—they know their strengths and weaknesses, and they play within their game.
These Uncle Drews pop up everywhere basketball is played—including the professional ranks. Over the years, we’ve seen a number of NBA players stretch their careers to unbelievable lengths. John Stockton played past 41. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played past 42; same for Dikembe Mutombo.
As for the oldest player in NBA history? That distinction goes to Nat Hickey. As coach for the Providence Steamrollers, he activated himself for two games just before he turned 46. If we’re talking strictly real players, veteran Kevin Willis tops the geriatric class. He played until nearly his 45th birthday.
With the increasing potency of scientific information and technology, some have speculated that LeBron James could play for 10 more years. That would position LBJ, who’s now 33, to potentially play with his son, Bronny—which is something the King wants to do.
We don’t yet know whether LeBron will last long enough to become one of the NBA’s Uncle Drew presences, but there are plenty of them already floating around the game today. Here are 25 players who are somehow still in the league—including a few players who are still getting serious buckets.