The career of an NBA player usually stagnates after the age of 32 as minimum veteran contracts and bench minutes dominate the final years of their career. However, for certain players, they haven’t aged like milk but like wine as they continue to play at a high level during their twilight years.
There are several players this season who have seemed to defy age and normality to put up some impressive numbers considering where they are in their NBA life cycle. Let’s look at some players who prove that 'old' age doesn't matter.
What hasn’t been written about LeBron James? His career has been well documented, and he has been touted by some as the greatest player of all time. However, many speculate that James’ performance this season has been his best yet. It's an astounding claim given James is 33-years-old and has 14 NBA seasons under his belt.
His numbers haven’t tailed off as he averages 27.4 points, 9.1 assists and 8.6 rebounds per game this season. Not only that, he’s put up some individual performances that are jaw dropping. Take Cleveland’s recent win against Toronto as a case in point. James not only scored 35 points and had an astounding 17 assists, he did so without committing a single turnover.
As James puts up career numbers in his 15th season, it will be interesting to see how long he can keep this up. He’s played every game so far this campaign and is on track to complete the first full season in his entire career. All this with a team that has faced upheaval, yet is still in the championship race thanks to James' heroics..
Dwight Howard is definitely one of the more polarizing players in the league. Early in his career he dominated the centre position, earning him the nickname ‘Superman’. However, injuries and turbulent relationships with franchises resulted in uncertainty about which version of Howard will step out onto the court each night. Will it be the Dwight Howard who dominated the Eastern Conference and took his Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals? Or the Dwight Howard who didn’t seem fully committed to his subsequent franchises in Los Angeles, Houston and his hometown Atlanta.
This season, however, it seems as if Howard has found a stable home in Charlotte where he is playing consistently and has shown signs of prime Dwight. He has managed an impressive stat line for the year, putting up 16.7 points, 12.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per contest. There was also an astounding effort against the Nets recently when Howard managed 32 points and 30 rebounds. the last player to cross the 30-point, 30-rebound mark was Kevin Love in 2010.
The Hornets have struggled for the most part this season, partly due to injuries. But Howard’s play and veteran nous kept them competitive, even though they will yet again miss the playoffs.
One key to having a long career in the NBA, particularly through yours 30s, is to accept lesser roles. Big names in the past have notably not accepted bench roles and at times it has hampered their reputation, but those who have see their career extend to their late 30s.
This season, five players over the age of 36 are averaging double figures in points per game. In descending order by age, they are: Dirk Nowitzki, Jamal Crawford, Pau Gasol, Zach Randolph and Dwyane Wade. What's more, only Randolph and Nowitzki sit on a team that is not currently in a playoff spot. Each player has seen their minutes curbed, yet have done what's best for the team. And the stats speak for themselves.
With the game getting faster, one would think players would retire quicker due to not being able to keep up with the pace. However, it seems with technology, trainers and hard work, players are looking after their bodies better and for longer, meaning they can play at a high level well into their 30s. It's not an easy thing to do, and as this season's vintage crop of NBA stars shows, it takes a special player to pull it off.
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