If you’re a professional athlete, when you call it quits on your playing days, it’s pretty much inevitable that you’re going to put on a few pounds. It’s that change in lifestyle as there is no more need for hardcore training. Retired athletes, therefore, tend to take it easy, put their feet up a bit and enjoy the fruits of their labor, and deservedly so.
For others, it seems as if training and a healthy lifestyle have become ingrained in their very being. They've developed good habits and it feels odd to complete the day without doing a little bit of something to keep fit and active. Consequently there are some ex-pros who spend their retirement in good shape – watch what they eat and train to stay healthy and looking good.
When it comes to basketball, it’s not always easy to spot if someone’s gained weight. That’s because these guys are giants; super tall guys rarely get visibly fat. It’s actually quite an impressive feat that some of these ex-NBA ballers have managed to put on weight because they’d have to eat a hell of a lot of food and consume a ton of calories to do so. Nevertheless, it has happened; the combination of too much food, bad dietary choices and a more sedentary lifestyle has meant that there have been ex-basketball players who have gained weight following their NBA playing days.
These are eight ex-NBA pros who have done just that and have let themselves go, and at the other end of the scale, eight retired professionals who look terrific.
16 GREAT: Michael Jordan
It’s safe to say that MJ is responsible for making the NBA the global phenomenon it is today. He was a marketing man’s dream, endorsing tons of products and services, not to mention his accomplishments on the basketball court. He had great athletic ability, was one of the best defensive players, and led the NBA scoring charts for ten seasons – the complete package. He’s also been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame twice – that speaks volumes about how he’s regarded in the sport.
Arguably the best basketball player of all time, Jordan has appeared in movies and commercials, has met plenty of dignitaries and has helped carry the sport to where it is today. He’s aware that he’s in front of the camera a lot and wants to look good as he goes about his business. For a man in his 50s, he’s kept himself fit and lean. He’s certainly a true professional, even though he no longer is a pro player.
15 GO: Charles Barkley
Barkley made a name for himself in the NBA as one of the most dominating forwards around. He was a power forward, gained plenty of accolades during his time on the court and was a firm fan favorite; he knew how to bring attention to himself, stir up a bit of controversy and keep things exciting with on- and off-court confrontations. Barkley was a master at playing to the cameras – certainly one of the most controversial, outspoken and dominating players in the history of the NBA. Since Barkley loved to talk, it’s no surprise he was handed a gig in the commentator’s chair post NBA. He’s currently working as an analyst for Inside The NBA – a position perfectly suited to Barkley.
Barkley was given the rather unfortunate nickname, The Round Mound of Rebound, during his playing days. If he thought that name was unjust before, he’s now grown into that name and seems to have put on a ton of weight post-NBA.
14 GREAT: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem is undoubtedly one of the greatest players to have ever graced the court. After debuting for the Milwaukee Bucks way back in 1969, he went on to break all sorts of records for fun, with the Bucks and then with the LA Lakers. When he stepped away from the court, he was the all-time leader in terms of points scored and had been voted an NBA MVP six times – deservedly so.
Kareem’s sustained excellence on the court and longevity can be attributed to his level of fitness. He was supremely fit, with a lifestyle that he’s continued into his retirement years. At the age of 69, Kareem looks to be in great shape; it doesn’t seem as if he’s put on an ounce of weight post-NBA. Some may say that he actually looks a tad too skinny, but he’s lean, appears to be in good health, and is enjoying his retirement years.
13 GO: Lamar Odom
Lamar’s one of the most famous faces in basketball. Even those who know nothing about the NBA have heard of Lamar, and not really because of anything he’s accomplished on the court. Let’s get to that first. Lamar did have a decent time of it in the NBA. He’s a two-time NBA Champion, but it was his antics away from the court, in his private life, that have been much publicized and broadcast to the world, and ended up having a negative impact on Lamar’s pro ball career.
He ended up marrying reality star Khloé Kardashian in 2009. Things appeared to be rosy, but around 2013, things began unravelling quickly in Lamar’s life. He’s had a lot of heartache in his life and began abusing drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. Things came to a head in 2015 when he was in a coma and was placed on life support. Unsurprisingly, with all of this going on, his training’s suffered; he’s put on weight and hasn’t played for a couple of years now. His NBA career’s essentially over.
12 GREAT: David Robinson
Robinson played for the San Antonio Spurs for his entire career, from 1989-2003, and had a very successful time of it in Texas too. He achieved a ton of accolades – a list as long as his arm – which included being a two-time NBA Champion, ten-time NBA All-Star and the 1995 NBA MVP. When he announced his retirement, he had cemented himself as one of the best NBA centers of all time.
Prior to his life as an NBA superstar, Robinson had a stint in the U.S. Navy. This meant that he was already fit when he embarked on a pro basketball career; his regimented, disciplined approach held him in good stead in terms of his basketball and the fitness side of things. Even now that he’s in his 50s, The Admiral probably approaches training sessions like he did in his army days. Consequently, he looks to be in great shape and will probably remain so for years, possibly decades to come.
11 GO: Shawn Kemp
Six-time NBA All-Star Shawn Kemp played in the NBA for 14 seasons, retiring with Orlando Magic in 2003.
When Kemp started out in the NBA with the Seattle SuperSonics, he became known as someone who was super athletic, although he struggled to get on the court and get in a consistent amount of playing time. Xavier McDaniel mentored him and he slowly but surely began making some headway in the NBA. However, he started to get complacent – weight problems became an issue. Consequently, he failed to replicate the success he had at Seattle when he was drafted to the Cleveland Cavaliers and was ousted to the Portland Trail Blazers a few years later. Again, he battled with extreme weight problems; add his drug habit into the mix, and his career slowly fizzled out. Since he retired, his weight’s gone up and down.
10 GREAT: Chris Mullin
During his playing days, Mullins was a shooting guard and small forward for the Indiana Pacers and the Golden State Warriors, with whom he had two stints, starting and ending his NBA playing career with the Oakland-based team.
Mullins had a number of career highlights, some of which included being a five-time NBA All-Star, and a number of college and Olympic basketball triumphs.
During his playing days, he was lean – he didn’t have an ounce of fat on him. Nothing’s changed now that he’s gotten into coaching. He’s currently coaching the St. John's Red Storm and is certainly setting an example to the kids by the way he takes care of himself.
He’s turned his life right around since he beat his alcohol addiction all those decades ago and has successfully made fitness his sole priority, and it’s worked wonders.
9 GO: Magic Johnson
Many people regard Earvin "Magic" Johnson Jr. to be the best player to have ever graced the NBA. Look at his career accomplishments and it’d be hard to argue otherwise. Johnson finished his time in the NBA with a stack of career highlights and awards. He was the main man at the LA Lakers throughout the '80s, and is now one of the main men in the world of business. He came, he saw, he excelled, he excited and he conquered the NBA, and now he’s got in his hands in many different pies and is a money-making mogul.
Unlike a lot of other ex-pros, Johnson’s bank balance didn’t suffer when he left the NBA. His funds continued to mount, his bank balance grew, but along with his business savvy ways and his growing bank balance, his waistline grew too.
Magic Johnson Enterprises owns numerous eateries, coffee shops and 31 Burger King restaurants – no wonder he piled on the pounds.
8 GREAT: Penny Hardaway
Penny will be remembered for his rather unusual role in NBA terms – he was an unusually tall point guard at 6-foot-7. He may have played in an unconventional position, but he made it his own. Comparisons were regularly drawn between Penny and Magic Johnson – that’s high praise enough.
Injuries hampered Penny quite a bit, and eventually played a part in him calling quits on his NBA career in 2008.
Post-NBA, Penny’s been keeping busy with his vast and varied business empire. Something he feels strongly about is promoting sports, health and fitness in Memphis. He leads by example, because at the age of 45, he’s still in terrific shape. Eight years of retirement hasn’t added an inch to his frame – he looks the same as he did in his playing days. He’s actually probably in even better shape since he no longer has to contend with all those injuries.
7 GO: Shaquille O'Neal
Shaquille O'Neal is a truly massive man. He’s not only tall, but he’s a mass monster too, with a physique that’s not really associated with basketball.
Shaq’s physique fluctuated throughout his career and into retirement. One thing that’s remained a constant is his size -- he’s always been around the 300 pound mark. Sometimes it’s been evident that Shaq has caught the gym bug and has been working out. There’s been times when Shaq has packed a large amount of muscle onto his 7-foot-1 frame and has chiseled it to perfection; at times, he’s even had abs showing!
But other times, it appears as if he’s just blown up and has spent every waking moment shoving junk down his throat. During retirement, his weight has touched 370 pounds. That’s far too heavy, and it’s certainly not all muscle.
6 GREAT: Dikembe Mutombo
Mutombo moved to the U.S. from his native Congo at the age of 21 in order to enroll in a college and work towards becoming a doctor. Medicine’s loss was basketballs gain, as his talents were quickly spotted and harnessed in the NBA. Over the course of the 18-year NBA career that followed, Mutombo became a prolific shot blocker; he is only behind Hakeem Olajuwon as the best shot blocker in NBA history.
Today, he’s a do-gooder, spending his time and money on philanthropic causes in Africa and around the globe.
Now at age 50 and well into retirement, Mutombo’s still lean and looks like he did in his playing days. He hasn’t used retirement as an excuse to let himself go; he’s still fit and trim and looks in tremendous shape for a 50-year-old.
5 GO: Mitch Richmond
After making waves at Kansas State University, Mitch was drafted to the Golden State Warriors, where he made a name himself in the NBA as a sharp shooter and a guy with fast break skills. He then went on to play for the Sacramento Kings, where he established himself as one of the NBA’s best ever shooters. His career began to fizzle out with the Washington Wizards and eventually ended after a solitary season with the L.A. Lakers. Mitch finished his career averaging 21 points a game and is now trying to impart some of his wisdom and shooting ability to those at St. John's Red Storm, where he’s Special Assistant Coach.
Now that Mitch has retired he’s definitely gotten thicker around the waist and has put on a few pounds. He’s a big guy, and into retirement, he became a big guy with an even bigger belly.
4 GREAT: Karl Malone
“The Mailman” – nicknamed because of Karl’s consistent delivery – spent 18 seasons with the Utah Jazz in the NBA, forming a formidable partnership with John Stockton as a power forward. He put up stellar numbers for the Jazz before his scoring gradually began to decline and he closed out his NBA career with the L.A. Lakers. Karl achieved a number of accolades during his time in the NBA; he’s a 14 time NBA All-Star and was a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player.
After his playing days, he’s stayed in basketball. He had a stint as director of basketball promotion and assistant strength and conditioning coach at Louisiana Tech University, and then worked as a big man coach for his old team, Utah Jazz.
For a guy in his 50s, The Mailman is in great shape. He’s beefed up a bit, put some hard muscle onto that frame of his, but evidently still works out and likes to keep himself fit and healthy.
3 GO: Antoine Walker
Walker played as a power forward for eight different teams in his NBA career. He started off his life in the pro leagues in 1996 when he was selected by the Boston Celtics. He formed a formidable partnership with Paul Pierce, which lasted for a few years and helped the Celtics reach the playoffs for the first time in seven years. Comparisons were constantly being made between the two, and it was Walker who always came out on top. Now that Walker’s retired, the roles have been switched. Walker went into a downward spiral post-NBA. He fell onto hard times financially, acquired huge gambling debts, and eventually declared bankruptcy. In addition to numerous other legal problems, it’s no surprise that his health suffered; he let himself go big time and it certainly shows.
2 GREAT: Scottie Pippen
Pip will be remembered for his role in taking the Bulls to greater heights. He played for the Chicago Bulls for 12 seasons, helping them win six NBA titles. Perhaps one of his even greater accomplishments was putting the Bulls – and basketball for that matter – on the map, popularizing the sport around the world which he did with his teammate, Michael Jordon.
Pip is considered to be one of the best small forwards of all time. He’s been named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, and was versatile on the court too, exhibiting skills and taking to different positions, which made him an asset to any team.
He’s now in his 50s, but is lean and is still looking in tremendous shape. When he appears at basketball games, he’s actually rather skinny, but appears to be in great shape, is healthy and is enjoying his retirement.
1 GO: Yao Ming
Yao Ming is certainly one of the best-known basketball pros in the world. That’s because he hails from China, the land of 1.4 billion people, and is a bankable, marketable star, even now into his retirement. Yao became known to the masses when he was selected by the Houston Rockets. He spent eight seasons with the Rockets until injury concerns forced him to retire.
At 7-foot-6, Yao was one of the tallest players to have ever played in the NBA. He therefore obviously stood out and was a marketable star. He’s gained a ton of sponsorship deals since his time in the limelight and is loaded. He was at the top of Forbes' Chinese celebrities list in income and popularity for a number of years and is one of the best and most recognizable athletes in the world.
Now that he’s no longer playing, he keeps himself busy with his humanitarian work, but he’s put on a large amount of weight in the process. Because he’s so tall, the weight gain isn’t immediately noticeable, but compare pictures of him when he was in the NBA to recent pictures, and he’s definitely gotten a little chubby around the face.