Durability is something you don't find every day in sports, especially in the NBA, where players are pushing towards more regulation, rest, and time off to prepare their bodies for the postseason.
Back in the day players would have to be literally bleeding out to miss a game. Now, we have the load management trend, which has its pros and cons and will likely preserve their careers and allow players to play for a little while longer.
Today, we're going to talk about the NBA's iron men, those who played the most 82-game seasons throughout their careers. Needless to say, we're not likely going to find any modern-era guy make this list when it's all said and done.
10. Otis Thorpe - 9
Younger fans must not remember him but Otis Thorpe is actually one of the Houston Rockets' all-time great players. He was a part of the 1993-94 NBA championship team and was a prime example of longevity, as he played all 82 games 9 different times.
Notably, Thorpe had his last 82-game season at age 33 when he was playing for the Detroit Pistons and most impressively, he averaged 31.7 minutes per game over his career while working down low vs. some of the most physical big men ever.
9. Derek Fisher - 9
Derek Fisher doesn't get enough credit for his great contributions to the Los Angeles Lakers' winning history but he was a part of their last 5 NBA Championships. Even though he never posted great numbers, his impact went far beyond the stat sheet.
Fisher also had 9 82-game seasons and averaged 25.4 minutes per game throughout his career. Most impressively, his final 82-game campaign came at age 35, and he played 81 games on his final season with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
8. Andre Miller - 9
Andre Miller spent 16 years in the NBA and played 82-games 9 times. However, which is more impressive is the fact that, for the remainder of his career, he only had two seasons playing fewer than 80 games, which were the 2013-14 season (58 games) and his final season 2015-16 (39 games).
Miller was one of the best playmakers and passers in the league during his prime, a fine entertainer that found the way to stay relevant through two decades and mentor hundreds of young point guards. He even led the league in dimes (10.9) during the 2001-02 season.
7. Mark Jackson - 9
Mark Jackson was never much of a dominant scorer but he sure found ways to make an impact on the court with his great playmaking ability and off-ball defense. That's why he had a 16-year career in the NBA before pursuing his career as a coach and analyst.
Jackson also had 9 82-game seasons throughout his career, and the only two times he played fewer than 72 games came in his age 33 season with the Pacers, and his final campaign at age 38. He also led the league in assists per game (11.4) in 1996-97.
6. Gary Payton - 9
Gary Payton is not only one of the best point guards of his era but also one of the most dominant defenders in NBA history. He was the only guy capable of doing something similar to 'clamping' Michael Jordan in his prime, which is saying enough.
But more importantly, Payton was also reliable and durable. He didn't take games off, he embraced the challenge of guarding the best in the league. The only time he played fewer than 77 games was during his final year, in which he made 68 appearances. Well, that and during the 1998-99 season, which only had 50 games in the regular season.
5. Michael Jordan - 9
As you may know by now, Michael Jordan was the ultimate competitor. He never wanted to stop hooping, even if his career was in jeopardy. He even risked suffering a career-ending injury during his sophomore season to come back and lead the Chicago Bulls to the playoffs.
When playing a full season, he never played fewer than 78 games with the Bulls, regardless of if he had the flu, was intoxicated or was golfing until 5 mins prior to tip-off. He even played 60 games when he came back with the Wizards and all 82 games during his final season at age 39 and after retiring twice.
4. Randy Smith - 10
Randy Smith was as durable as they come. He spent 14 seasons in the NBA and made 82 appearances in 10 straight of them. The only three times he played fewer than 80 games were during his rookie year (76), and his final two seasons (65, and 16).
Smith managed to do so while averaging over 32.2 minutes per game and while he didn't find much success with the Buffalo Braves/San Diego Clippers, he did manage to make it to a couple of All-Star Games, even winning the All-Star Game MVP once.
3. Karl Malone - 10
You could tell that Karl Malone was a superhuman just by taking a quick glimpse at him. He was often the strongest, most athletic player on the court, and he even managed to have a brief WWE career at the same time he was pouring buckets in the NBA.
Malone played for 19 years and had 10 82-game seasons. He had 5 81-game seasons and 2 80-game campaigns, only playing fewer than that during the 98-99 season (49 out of 50) and his final year with the Los Angeles Lakers (42) at age 40.
2. A.C. Green - 14
A.C. Green is the true ironman. He holds the record for playing 1,192 consecutive games over a 16-season span. Hell, he even had an 83-game campaign in 1996-97 when he was traded from the Phoenix Suns to the Dallas Mavericks, which is just quite impressive.
As a matter of fact, Green only missed three games throughout his entire career, all of them during his sophomore season. The other time he didn't make 82 appearances over a season was during the 1998-99 campaign we've already discussed. Also, he averaged 28.6 minutes per game.
1. John Stockton - 16
John Stockton was the synonym of durability. He didn't miss a single game until his sixth year in the league when he made 'just' 78 appearances. He would keep his 82-game streak alive for 7 more seasons until he missed 18 games in 1997-98.
Stockton then went on to play all 50 games next year and never missed another regular-season contest until his retirement in 2002-03 at 40 years old. No wonder why he's the league's all-time leader in assists with 15,806. Talk about load management.