They say age is nothing but a number...but that does not apply to the NBA. As a player gets older, his physical attributes wane and their true skillset begins to show in a more balanced playing field. Explosive players without refined skills often fade into obscurity, while the most skilled players are able to dominate the game past their prime. That is why guys like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were able to remain the best players in the league as they passed their prime.
But which players won major awards at an older age? While remaining dominant at an older age is impressive itself, capturing major awards is an entirely different story. Here is the oldest player to win every major award category, proving that remaining healthy and refining skills is most important in having a successful career.
Final All-Star Appearance
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - Age 41 (1988-1989 Season)
Season Statistics: 10.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.1 BPG
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played his final season in the NBA during the 1989 season, and he was voted into the All-Star Team out of respect for the legend’s Hall of Fame career. It is clear that Kareem was not an All-Star during the season on the stat sheet, averaging only 10.1 PPG in 22.9 MPG, but nobody had disputes over this All-Star selection.
Kareem was able to retire as a 19-time All-Star and a 6-time NBA champion. Thanks to his incredible impact on both ends of the floor, Kareem made the All-Star Team 19 seasons out of the 20 he played in the NBA. Even at 41 years old, Abdul-Jabbar was a solid paint protector and scorer when needed.
Most Improved Player
Darrell Armstrong - Age 30 (1998-1999 Season)
Season Statistics: 13.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 6.7 APG, 2.2 SPG, 0.1 BPG
Darrell Armstrong took a big leap in his play in the 1999 season for the Orlando Magic, averaging a then-career-high in points, assists, and steals. Armstrong completed his first season at 26 years old so was an older rookie in the league. After barely appearing for the Magic the first 3 seasons of his career, he started getting more playing time by averaging 25.8 MPG in his 4th season.
The 6’0” point guard would then appear in 50 games in his 5th season, averaging 30.0 MPG as mainly a backup for Penny Hardaway. Armstrong was effective on offense, nailing 36.5% of his threes and 90.4% of his free throws. As a primary ball-handler when he was on the floor, he showed his prior experience playing in Cyprus and Spain as an instant creator en route to the Most Improved Payer Award.
6th Man Of The Year
Jamal Crawford - Age 35 (2015-2016 Season)
Season Statistics: 14.2 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.2 BPG
One of the greatest 6th men to have ever played the game, Jamal Crawford has always been a sensational scorer and fire-starter coming off his team’s bench. Crawford had an assortment of crossover moves that is the stuff of legends and had the ability to create his own shot in any circumstance.
Jamal Crawford is also the oldest 6th Man of the Year award winner, capturing the trophy at 35 years of age. Crawford was no longer in his prime, but he still averaged 14.2 PPG in only 26.9 MPG of play with the Los Angeles Clippers which was a testament to his greatness as a scoring guard.
Rookie Of The Year
David Robinson - Age 24 (1989-1990 Season)
Season Statistics: 24.3 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.7 SPG, 3.9 BPG
David Robinson could have played his first NBA game at 22 years old, but military service for his country kept him busy during the 1988 and 1989 seasons. After completing his duties for the U.S. Navy, “The Admiral” would go on to have one of the best rookie seasons in NBA history.
Averaging 24.3 PPG, 12.0 RPG, and 3.9 BPG; Robinson became one of the best players in the world as soon as he stepped on the court. He was stronger and faster than most players at his position and had leadership qualities that translated directly into the NBA. Being an older rookie certainly helped, and he holds that record for being 24 years old with a Rookie of the Year trophy.
Defensive Player Of The Year
Dikembe Mutombo - Age 34 (2000-2001 Season)
Season Statistics: 10.0 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.4 SPG, 2.7 BPG
Dikembe Mutombo is a Hall of Famer, one of the best defensive players ever, and one of the most recognizable athletes in American sports (thanks to his voice). Climbing “Mount Mutombo” was almost an impossible thing to do because a blocked shot and a confident finger-wag soon followed whenever a player challenged Mutombo at the rim.
Dikembe averaged a strong double-double at 34 years old, the same season he was acquired by the Philadelphia 76ers. With Mutombo winning Defensive Player of the Year and Allen Iverson playing like the MVP, the Sixers made the NBA Finals. It will be hard for any player past 33 years of age to capture the Defensive Player of the Year Award like Mutombo did in 2001.
Most Valuable Player
Karl Malone - Age 35 (1998-1999 Season)
Season Statistics: 23.8 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 4.1 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.6 BPG
At 35 years old, Karl Malone won league MVP averaging his solid scoring and rebounding numbers and leading the Utah Jazz to the best record in the NBA (tied with the Spurs). The power forward was past his prime in terms of his age but was still physically capable of banging down low with the bigs every night.
Malone would actually go on to play another 5 seasons in the league and retire at 40 years old, so it is amazing “The Mailman” was able to keep healthy for that long. His scoring never waned, although the 1999 season was his worst scoring output since his rookie season. Many believed Tim Duncan deserved the MVP over Malone in 1999, but The Mailman got the job done in the end for the record of the oldest MVP winner.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - Age 37 (1984-1985 Season)
Season Statistics: 22.0 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 3.2 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.1 BPG
What more is there to say about the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? The legendary center has a host of seemingly unbreakable records to his name including most points scored in NBA history, and becoming the oldest Finals MVP in history at 37 years old is yet another one. When looking around the league, only LeBron James seems capable of breaking this unbelievable record.
Abdul-Jabbar won Finals MVP by averaging 25.7 PPG, 9.0 RPG, and 5.2 APG while guiding the Los Angeles Lakers to victory over the Boston Celtics. Kareem is one of the best players to ever play into their late 30’s, and his “Skyhook” move was simply unguardable. Unless LeBron James can win a championship with the Lakers, it seems unlikely any player will ever break Kareem’s record.
Credit for the idea: Slam Studios
The Deadliest Kryptonite For The Miami Heat: LeBron James Has Dominated 3 Heat Starters, Jimmy Butler Has Only 4 Wins Against Chris Paul
How NBA Stars Spent Their First Paychecks: Shaq Buys Three Mercedes, LeBron James Takes Friends To Amusement Park
Giannis Antetokounmpo Has Run The League In The Past 3 Years: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard Aren't Even Close