Anytime a player completes over 13 years in the NBA, they are entering a very special territory. Longevity in arguably the most fast-paced and competitive sport in America is truly a rare attribute. That is why the vast majority of players last under 10 years in the league. But what about players who managed to play for two decades in the NBA? Playing at least 20 years in the NBA must have some sort of accolade because it is so rare; less than 10 players in NBA history have actually managed to do that.
Competing for over 20 years in the NBA is almost historical, and a very few selection of players have managed to stay healthy and lucky enough to last that long. We have collected the only players who have played at least 20 seasons in the league, with some very famous names at the top of the chain. While the longevity of these players is down to the lack of health, it is also down to the players' dedication to their own bodies and capabilities.
Jamal Crawford - 20 NBA Seasons
Career Stats: 14.6 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 3.4 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Easily one of the most talented ball-handlers in NBA history. Jamal Crawford had a very long career because he was always capable of going off on the offensive end. The shooting guard lasted 20 seasons in the league, competing for 9 different franchises, including the Los Angeles Clippers (5 seasons), New York Knicks (5 seasons), Chicago Bulls (4 Seasons), and Atlanta Hawks (2 seasons).
Crawford was at his apex during his stints with the Hawks and Clippers, winning 3 Sixth Man of the Year awards with both franchises. The talented shooting guard was capable of scoring the ball from the perimeter and also creating his own offense, a reason why he was capable of competing late into his 30s. Crawford’s last season came in 2020 as a member of the Brooklyn Nets when he dropped 5.0 PPG at age 39.
Armed with a nasty crossover and amazing agility, Crawford could nail long threes (often with a foul) and also draw fouls in the paint with an 86.2% efficiency from the line. Standing 6’5” and weighing 185 lbs, Crawford was incredibly thin, but he had the length to get his shots up over defenders when necessary.
Kobe Bryant - 20 NBA Seasons
Career Stats: 25.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Kobe Bryant probably should not have played 20 seasons because he was banged up and ultimately finished by the time he reached 35 years of age. Of course, an Achilles tear in the 2013 season ultimately ended the Black Mamba as we knew and loved him. But no doubt about it, Kobe was a top-10 player of all time, and he had a legendary career that included 5 NBA championships.
An obsessed winner, Bryant did whatever needed to be done to win games consistently as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. He was an all-time great scorer with a career average of 25.0 PPG, and also added 2 Finals MVP awards and a regular-season MVP award to his resume. Sure, Bryant played 3 more years following his Achilles injury, but he was a shell of himself and averaged 18.9 PPG over those seasons, which was clearly below his career average.
Overall, Kobe still played 20 seasons and retired following a 60-point masterpiece in his farewell game. There is no doubt that the shooting guard is one of the greatest to ever do it, and he has been able to manage to play through injuries for the majority of his career. If only he had managed to stay with Shaquille O’Neal for longer because he would have retired with at least 7 NBA championships by the time his 20-year career was over.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 20 NBA Seasons
Career Stats: 24.6 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 3.6 APG, 0.9 SPG, 2.6 BPG
Arguably the greatest center of all time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was able to play two decades of basketball because he had the most unstoppable shot of all time. Most centers and big men were known to break down through time because their generally abnormal size took a toll on their joints. But Kareem was able to play through that and just shoot the sky hook over helpless defenders.
Over his 20-year career, Abdul-Jabbar made 19 All-Star Teams and 15 All-NBA Teams, ensuring his spot in the Hall of Fame. The center also led the league in scoring twice and blocks twice. Kareem has to be the most successful player in basketball history, taking into account his college and professional days, and his longevity is to be respected.
Only LeBron James has played for as long as him and was better on the court at a later age. But that does not take away from Kareem’s greatness as a go-to scorer and paint presence because he has been the NBA’s leading scorer ever since he retired following the 1989 season. He will soon be passed by James, but Kareem occupies the majority of the top-5 player of all-time lists.
LeBron James - 20 NBA Seasons
Career Stats: 27.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 7.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG
LeBron James has lasted the longest out of all current NBA players. Entering his 20th season, The King has played an incredible 1,366 games with a career average of 38.2 MPG. With the world of expectation on his shoulders, James has done extraordinarily well. With 4 NBA titles to his name, along with 4 MVP awards, James has accomplished everything on an individual and team level.
It is widely known that LeBron invests over $1 million on his body every season to preserve the machine that drives the future Hall of Famer every night. There truly has never been an NBA athlete like LeBron James before, and that is why he has lasted as long as he has. Entering his 20th season, it is expected that The King will continue his reign as one of the top-10 players in the world, and it isn’t farfetched to imagine that he could be in the MVP race as well.
Just one year ago, James averaged 30.3 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 6.2 APG while nailing 52.4% from the field and 35.9% from three. The King was exceptional last year, and based on what we have seen from him in the Drew League this offseason, he is 100% healthy and ready to push in the playoffs for the Lakers once again.
Kevin Willis - 21 NBA Seasons
Career Stats: 12.1 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.5 BPG
A 7’0” power forward and center, Kevin Willis had an extremely long career that spanned 21 seasons across stints with 8 teams. The big man had an innate ability to score inside and also rebound the ball consistently, a reason why he always seemed to have a job even as he aged.
Willis played into his 40’s, retiring at age 43 but coming back to play for the Dallas Mavericks at age 44. The big man also made an All-Star Team in the 1992 season at age 29, posting 18.3 PPG and 15.5 RPG while nailing 48.3% from the field. In the same year, Willis made the All-NBA Third Team.
The former No. 11 overall pick played 11 seasons with the Hawks over his career and is one of the franchise’s most respected players. Unfortunately, Willis never managed to win a championship with the Hawks and instead won one with the San Antonio Spurs as a backup big man. Willis posted 4.2 PPG and 3.2 RPG that year, playing 11.8 MPG.
Robert Parish - 21 NBA Seasons
Career Stats: 14.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 1.5 BPG
A 4-time NBA champion and 9-time All-Star, Robert Parish has to be one of the most accomplished players of all time. Sure, he played alongside some Hall of Fame talent throughout his career with the Boston Celtics, but the big man was a steady two-way presence for most of his time in the NBA.
Parish was taken No. 8 overall in the 1976 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors and did not make his first All-Star Team until his first year with the Boston Celtics. He would make 7 straight All-Star Teams from 1981 to 1987 and 2 more between 1990 and 1991. The big man was always reliable on both ends of the floor, which is why he managed to complete an impressive 21 seasons.
Parish played his last season with the Celtics at age 40 before joining the Charlotte Hornets at age 41. He played until 43 years old, with the last season coming as a member of the Chicago Bulls. Looking at his career, it was obvious that Parish was going to retire as a Hall of Famer because 9 All-Star appearances, 4 rings, and 2 All-NBA Team selections were certainly impressive. Not to mention, Parish retired as a member of the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.
Kevin Garnett - 21 NBA Seasons
Career Stats: 17.8 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.4 BPG
One of the most competitive and fiery big men of all time, Kevin “The Big Ticket” Garnett had a first-ballot Hall of Fame career. Starting out his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Garnett ended up winning an MVP award and All-Star Game MVP award with the franchise that took him No. 5 overall in the 1995 NBA Draft.
Garnett would prove to be a bonafide superstar with the Timberwolves, eventually getting his trade to the Boston Celtics. With Boston, KG won Defensive Player of the Year and helped Paul Pierce capture the 2008 NBA championship. Garnett was the undisputed best defensive player in the NBA that year, and he earned his ring. For that, Celtics fans are still forever grateful.
But KG also retired after 21 seasons played, an incredible achievement for a player who exhausted himself every game he played. Following his trade to the Brooklyn Nets at age 37, Garnett was clearly past his best as he never averaged above single-digits again. The storybook ending was seeing Garnett retire with the Minnesota Timberwolves, where the power forward first blossomed into a superstar.
Dirk Nowitzki - 21 NBA Seasons
Career Stats: 20.7 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.8 BPG
One of the all-time great power forwards, Dirk Nowitzki, completed an impressive 21 seasons as a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Dirk possessed one of the best jumpers we have ever seen, and he used it to terrorize defenders until his very last game in the NBA. With 14 All-Star Team and 12 All-NBA appearances to his name, Nowitzki was certainly a force to be reckoned with.
A future first-ballot Hall of Famer, Dirk accomplished everything from an MVP award to a championship and Finals MVP award as a member of the Mavericks. The sweet-shooting German possessed one of the most unstoppable moves in the one-legged fadeaway, which he used to shoot over helpless defenders year after year. His career was all put together when he broke through to win it all in 2011.
But Nowitzki played for 21 years, something fans seem to forget. The German only averaged under double-digits scoring in his rookie season and the last season of his career, when Dirk was 40 years old. As a testament to his greatness, Dirk deservedly made the All-Star Team at age 40, and he certainly deserved the lifetime achievement award.
Vince Carter - 22 NBA Seasons
Career Stats: 16.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Arguably the game’s greatest ever dunker, Vince Carter has had the longest NBA career. An All-Star scorer in his prime and one of the most electrifying stars to ever play the game, Carter was keen on collecting checks as he aged. At age 38 and until age 43, Vince averaged under 9 PPG every season and played 3 different teams.
Carter was brought in at those ages to be a veteran presence in the locker room and also contribute to limited playing time because he could still get up for dunks and nail outside shots. But in his prime, the scorer was a bonafide star who posted at least 20 PPG with ease. Carter also made 8 straight All-Star Teams between 2000 and 2007.
Completing 22 seasons is an impressive achievement for any NBA player, and it is amazing that the former All-Star was able to last that long in the league and still have highlight moments. Carter is one of the most popular players of all time, which is why he should make the Hall of Fame once his time for recognition comes.