NBA players are not only the best athletes in the world but also the ultimate competitors. Their biggest challenge is not only the battles they go through every night on the court. No, they also are fighting a race against Father Time. As the old saying goes, “Father Time is undefeated”, I mean unless of course, your name is LeBron James. As fans, it’s always hard to watch our favorite players age and watch their game decline. It’s always worse when we didn’t appreciate them before it was too late or we didn’t see it coming.
There are a few reasons why a player getting older could escape us. Maybe they are still playing at a high enough level that we couldn’t possibly believe they are their actual age. Maybe they simply do not look as old as they are AND their games reflect it. Most commonly, we just lose track of time and fail to realize how much has passed as a result.
Whatever the case may be, here are 10 players who are older than you might expect.
Gary Payton II - 29 Years Old
Gary Payton II had easily the best year of his career in 2022. He became one of the Warriors' most important players off the bench, particularly for his defensive efforts. It all culminated with an NBA title win over the Boston Celtics. It seemed like a true breakout year for the young up-and-comer, except players usually don’t break out at 29 years old.
Payton went undrafted and made his debut in 2017 for the Milwaukee Bucks after signing a multi-year deal with the team. He would be waived in April of that same season. After a series of 10-day contracts, being waived, and trips to the G-League, Payton finally has seemed to found his home in Golden State. He signed two 10-days with the team in 2021 until being signed to a true contract. He has made the Warriors look like geniuses with their decision seemingly bringing out the very best Payton has to offer, something no other team had been able to. How much longer his impactful play keeps up? No one knows considering he is already 29 but for now, he is in the perfect situation.
Jordan Clarkson - 29 Years Old
Since the 2019-20 season, Jordan Clarkson has been one of the best sixth men in the entire NBA. As a member of the Utah Jazz, he won the NBA’s Sixth Man Of The Year award in 2021. He averaged 18.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 2.5 APG that season and it was the best offensive output of his career. He’s been so good these past 3 seasons, that it almost makes you forget how consistent he has been his entire career with stops in Cleveland and Los Angeles.
Drafted in 2014 by the Wizards, Clarkson was traded the day after the draft to the Lakers for cash. He spent 3 and a half seasons in LA averaging 14.3 PPG. He has always been a consistent pure scorer off the bench, evidenced by 2019 with the Cavaliers when he averaged 16.8 PPG in 81 games. His game has never looked as complete as it does in Utah. Clarkson has turned into a real three-level threat and become the Jazz’s second most reliable option behind Donovan Mitchell. His game is so smooth and effortless at times, he looks like the youngest man on the floor with an unlimited battery powering him. It’s hard to believe his time with the Lakers was already 7 seasons ago.
Chris Boucher - 29 Years Old
The way that Raptors fans have clung on to the hope that Chris Boucher would be a big piece of their team by now, you would think he is still developing as a young man. When the Warriors drafted him in 2017, he was already a 25-year-old coming out of Oregon. Now, headed into his age 30 season, Boucher finds himself an unrestricted free agent coming off of a decent year.
This season may have been Boucher’s best all-around season of his career. He was more aggressive, was great off the ball on his cuts, and was a ferocious rebounder. You can say he played a key role in the Raptors' unexpectedly successful season on both ends of the floor. The offense ran smoother with him on the floor and the defense was better too. He fought for extra possessions for his team and instilled the energy of a young player looking to prove his worth. The way he looked in 2022, the only thing that is in his way is time.
Udonis Haslem - 42 Years Old
Whatever age you thought Udonis Haslem was, he’s older than that. NBA fans everywhere are befuddled by his situation in Miami, wondering why he hasn’t retired yet despite his greatly diminished role. Haslem hasn’t appeared in more than 16 games since 2016 when he played 37 games for the Heat. The past six years have been pretty much a player-coach role for the veteran with Haslem as the clear vocal leader in South Beach.
It is a true testament to how much he loves Miami and the game of basketball. Haslem has spent his entire 19-year career with the Heat, winning 3 championships in the process and playing a vital role as a starter or on the bench in all of them. The past 6 seasons have been a different look for Haslem with him either seeing garbage time in blowouts or being ejected within seconds of seeing the floor. Haslem is currently mulling his future in the NBA and considering retirement, a decision that is years in the making.
Stephen Curry - 34 Years Old
Many people probably already know about Stephen Curry’s age given he is one of the most popular players to ever walk the planet. The fact that Curry is already 34 years old is still mind-boggling to me. The fact that he is coming off of his best NBA Finals performance and the 4th championship of his career makes it a little more unbelievable. Even in year 13, Curry showed no signs of slowing down.
The way that Curry has been able to sustain his perimeter-based game leads me to believe we have more than a few years left of elite, productive play. Halfway through the 2021-22 season, media members and fans were ready to write Curry off as older and on the decline. How did he respond? By dropping 31.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG, and 5.0 APG in the 6 Finals games, leading to his 4th championship. Curry may be getting older, but he’s not done by a long shot.
Hassan Whiteside - 33 Years Old
It doesn’t seem so long ago that Hassan Whiteside was establishing himself as one of the league’s premier shot blockers. Even though he last led the league in BPG in 2020, we are a long time removed from his dominant defensive days in Miami. His best season should be considered 2016-17 when he averaged a career-high 17.0 PPG and led the league in rebounding with 14.1 RPG. So how is it all of a sudden Hassan Whiteside is 33 years old?
This probably has something to do with the early parts of his career. Whiteside was drafted to the Sacramento Kings in 2010 where he spent 2 seasons and played in just 19 games with zero impact. He then left the NBA for 2 seasons to play overseas in Lebanon, China, and the D-League before landing back in the NBA with Miami. He currently comes off the bench for the Utah Jazz behind Rudy Gobert where he finished 2022 with 8.2 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 1.6 BPG.
Blake Griffin - 33 Years Old
Blake Griffin could also be younger than you expected depending on how you view his career. It doesn’t seem like so long ago that he was jumping over cars and destroying opponents with vicious poster dunks. It seems like just yesterday that Blake was a 20.0 PPG and 10.0 RPG guy with the Lob City Clippers and Chris Paul at his side. The truth is Blake hasn’t aged all too well in his current situation with the Brooklyn Nets.
Blake’s role has been reduced to the bench in Brooklyn given how loaded their roster is. That’s hard to think about considering he was an all-star just 3 seasons ago in Detroit averaging 24.5 PPG and 7.5 RPG in 75 games. Even in Brooklyn, he has shown flashes of the star he once was but it has been sporadic, to say the least. I don’t know if it’s nostalgia or the fact that I miss the old Blake Griffin but personally, I can’t believe he’s already 33.
Spencer Dinwiddie - 29 Years Old
It has been 8 years since Spencer Dinwiddie was drafted in the second round by the Detroit Pistons. You read that right, 8 seasons! His age may surprise some because of how uneventful his first few seasons were. He spent 2 seasons with the Pistons in Detroit where he played a total of 46 games and averaged 4.4 PPG. Heck, even his first few seasons in Brooklyn were less than notable.
It wasn’t until 2018, his 4th season in the NBA that he began to get more of an opportunity to prove himself. 2019 and 2020 were big years for Dinwiddie as he was 2nd on the Nets in scoring both seasons. In 2021, Dinwiddie has a major setback when he tore his ACL just 3 games into the season. After a long rehab and a new team, Dinwiddie was back on the floor. He spent the first half of the 2022 season with the Wizards where he played pretty well for someone who was coming off of a major injury. He was traded to Dallas at the deadline and made a major impact from his first day with the team. Dinwiddie ended up averaging 15.8 PPG and playing a key role in the Mavs' trip to the Western Conference Finals.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo - 29 Years Old
The older Antetokounmpo brother is just 3 weeks shy of his 30th birthday. I can’t be the only one who thought he was younger than Giannis, right? Thanasis was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2014 NBA draft by the New York Knicks but did not see the court for them until the 2016 season. The fun was short-lived in New York as he only played 2 games for the team before deciding to play overseas.
After 3 years in Spain and Greece, Thanasis signed as a free agent with the Bucks in 2019. Constantly in and out of the G-League, he has finally found himself a bench role with the team. A very minimal bench role at that. Antetokounmpo appeared in 20 games in his first season with the team, 57 in his 2nd, and 48 in 2022. Whether it’s the fluctuation in and out of the league or the energy he shows on the sidelines, Thanasis is the youngest 30-year-old in the league.
Julius Randle - 27 Years Old
Julius Randle is a curious case as he appears both on this list and on the 10 players who are younger than you might expect list. Randle landed on the latter because of the rollercoaster career he has endured so far at just 27. I mean it seems like the man has had 2 careers since entering the league. He has been loved, hated, loved again, and now hated again as he goes to war with fans in New York, where he currently plays.
It is almost for that same reason that he lands on this list as well. Randle has had an up and down career so far but it doesn’t seem like that long ago that he was a promising young stud coming out of Kentucky and to the Lakers. One major factor for his placement here is the fact that he won the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award at age 26. Most of the time you see a player win that award in a 3rd or 4th season. Randle won the award in his 7th season and 2nd season as a Knick. Randle’s placement on both lists is peculiar but certainly warranted.