What Is The Average Age of Retirement in the NBA?

We may enjoy seeing our favorite basketball players play but someday they’ll retire. In the world of sports including basketball, retirement comes early.

No matter how good a basketball player is, there will come a time when they retire due to age, injuries, or other reasons. But when exactly is that?

According to surveys carried out between 2011 and 2022, the average age of retirement in the NBA was found to be 34 years. Compared to other sports, basketball players stay longer on their careers.

What is the Average Age of Retirement in the NBA?

NBA allows players to retire at a much older age compared to other sports such as NFL and soccer.

In fact, the 34 years, which was found to be the average retirement age in NBA, is seven years more than the 27 years that most players in the NFL retire with.

Some players have extended beyond this age due to their passion for basketball or simply because their genes allow them a few more years, but 34 is the average age of retirement in basketball.

What are the Factors that Contribute to Retirement in the NBA?

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Several factors contribute to individuals retiring from NBA. The most prime ones include:

  • Declining physical attributes
  • Injuries, and
  • Old age.

After the age of thirty, players become more susceptible to illnesses and injuries, and apart from this, their bodies tend to take longer to recover compared to players in their 20s. 

Secondly, the agility and speed that they enjoyed from their youthful twenties tend to fade, and they start becoming slower and less sharp. Other physical attributes that decline include recovering from after-game fatigue and skills such as shooting and flight.

Interestingly, a 2020 scientific study highlights that although injuries and illnesses do influence the career of NBA players, it is their skill that generally keeps them longer on the court.

NBA Players who Retired the Oldest

Several players have watched their fitness, affording a few more years of playing at the top level.

However, there are only a handful of players who have continued playing into their forties, including Dirk Nowitzki and Vince Carter. Currently, the oldest player to have graced the basketball court was Nat Hickey, who retired in 1948 aged 45 years and 363 days.

Other famous players who played beyond the 40-year mark include:

· Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (42 years, 6 days)

· Dikembe Mutombo (42 years, 300 days)

· Robert Parish (43 years, 254 days)

· Kevin Willis (44 years, 224 days)

Youngest NBA players to retire

According to official NBA records, the youngest individual to retire from the game was Brandon Roy, who retired at the age of 27. This was regarded as a very young age since most players begin the peak years of their careers at around 26/27 years, lasting to around 30 years when the decline starts kicking in for most individuals.

For Brandon Roy, however, the decision to retire was not fully voluntary. The once young and promising rising star was plagued with a series of knee injuries that refused to go away. His retirement came as a surprise to many in the league, with several still speculating that he might still make his way back to the game and come out of retirement.

Others who retired a little bit early in their careers include Pete Maravich and Larry Johnson, who retired at the ages of 32 and 31, respectively. Pete also retired because of niggling knee issues, while Johnson retired because of recurring back problems.

How Long Does the Average NBA Career Last?

As mentioned, there are players whose NBA career is synonymous with longevity, with individuals like Vince Carter having played for a record 22 seasons.

However, on the other end of the spectrum, there are also fringe players whose NBA careers fizzle out as soon as they sprout, and these are the majority compared to the number of long careers.

One particular case of a short NBA career was that of JamesOn Curry, who made his NBA debut for the LA Clippers in 2010, playing for only 3.9 seconds. That was the only recorded appearance in the NBA, making his career the shortest ever in the league’s history. 

Therefore, NBA statistics indicate that the average length of an NBA career is 4.5 years.

Minimum and Maximum Age to Play in the NBA

The minimum age cap to be eligible to play in the NBA is 19 years. This age shall fulfill the requirements that the player ought to be one season removed from high school.

For players who have not studied in the US, the rules state that any individual who has played in the G-league or who has been involved in professional basketball overseas is eligible to play in the NBA at 19 years as well.

Furthermore, there is no maximum age cap in the NBA; as long as one can play, they are deemed eligible.

Can Retired NBA Players Come Back to Play?

In the history of basketball, some players have announced their retirement only to come back and continue playing, with individuals such as Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan great examples.

The two had retired citing personal reasons, with Jordan initially retiring from basketball due to the death of his father, returning almost two years later, and Magic retiring due to HIV, returning almost five years later. There are no rules barring a player who has retired from coming back and continuing with his playing career.


Age is a very important factor when it comes to any professional sport, including basketball. It is essential to note that there is a lower age limit, such that players below the age of 19 are ineligible to play in the NBA.

Conversely, there is no upper age limit, and if a player wishes to continue playing, they are free to continue doing so. 

After the age of 30, most individuals’ physical attributes and sharpness in the game take a downward trajectory, and their bodies become more susceptible to injuries and illnesses. After some time of prolonged decline, they decide to call time on their career and retire.

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