Professional athletes are a rare breed of person, to make it to the professional ranks of a major sports, a person must posses a combination of extreme confidence and skill. This level of confidence often comes with a little bit of a blind spot to father time. Many of the great athletes throughout sports history have worn out their welcome in their respective sport; players like Brett Favre, Willie Mays, Patrick Ewing, and Michael Jordan immediately come to mind.
For athletes like these, ones that have dominated a sport for a decade or more, it becomes hard to see when they finally start to decline, and can no longer keep up with the younger more athletic crop of stars. There is a fine balance to be had when trying to age gracefully while not becoming a laughing stock or embarrassing oneself; however, it can been done. John Elway for example, was able to capture a Superbowl Title in his last season, and ride off into the sunset. Barry Sanders retired while still in his prime years of football, something we have seen as recently as Calvin Johnson retiring during his prime.
As we get into the list of NBA players who should retire immediately, we must remember how hard it is to be a world class athlete, and then suddenly be unable to keep up. The thing that makes basketball a little bit different than the other major sports is that, in basketball players can stretch their career years longer by becoming a role player. NBA teams have 12-15 man rosters, while most times only using a rotation of seven or eight players, enabling the aging players to be on the bench most of the time, but still play. Most are signed to act as the "big brother" on a team, leading younger players to better decisions on and off the court. As this list unfolds, I believe you will be shocked at some of the players you can find still playing in the NBA well past their prime.
15 Metta World Peace - 36
Metta World Peace has been in the league so long that he has had a career as Metta, and a career as Ron Artest. Once known for his unrelenting defense, World Peace has fallen off over the past half decade. He was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2004, and in 2010 he helped Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol win an NBA Championship in Los Angeles. Metta is averaging career lows with the Lakers this season in points, steals, and blocks, while also getting less than 1.0 assist and 3.0 rebounds per contest. World Peace has said he plans on playing longer, so he could very well move up this list by next year.
14 Elton Brand - 36
Elton Brand has not been a relevant player in the NBA in half a decade. Brand was a stand out player in college and has had a few successful seasons in the NBA, however he has not averaged over 20 minutes per game since 2012, during his first stint with the Philadelphia 76ers.
This season he is back with Philadelphia, and has appeared in only two games for the team. It has been rumored that Brand was brought in to be a player/coach, as the 76ers try to rebuild their team for the future, and hope to have Brand around as part of the coaching staff in the years to come.
13 Kobe Bryant - 37
"The Black Mamba" is one of the greatest players in NBA history. He has done all there is to be done by a basketball player; MVP, championships, All-Star games, Olympic Gold Medals, scoring titles, and an jaw dropping 81 point game. There is nothing left for Kobe to do except be a "big brother" to his young, up and coming Lakers team.
Kobe is the highest paid player in the NBA, which has hurt the Lakers ability to acquire talented free agents over the past couple of seasons. Aside from his first two seasons, Kobe is averaging career lows in points, steals, assists, rebounds, and minutes per game. Kobe has announced that this will be his final season, and he is enjoying his farewell tour to the fullest.
12 Chris Andersen - 37
The Birdman is 37 years old and as peculiar as he looks now with his neck tattoos and mohawk, imagine how he'll look 10 or 20 years from now. Andersen isn't the only seasoned veteran now on the Memphis Grizzlies, as one of his teammates is also on this list. Andersen may be 37 but he's still of use to a team and given that he doesn't play quite as prominent a role, he could probably hang around another couple of years.
11 Dirk Nowitski - 37
Dirk Nowitski is one of the standouts on this list from the 1998 NBA Draft and the man who should have been picked first overall all those years ago. These days, Dirk is still the face of the Mavericks and his numbers are still holding steady to play in the NBA at least a couple of more years. Unfortunately it's hard to see him winning another championship in Dallas, as the Golden State Warriors seem set to dominate the Western Conference for the foreseeable future.
10 Paul Pierce - 38
Paul Pierce was a superstar with the Boston Celtics from 1998-2013, he along with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen helped guide the Celtics to an NBA Championship in 2008. Pierce is now playing for the Los Angeles Clippers, reuniting with old Boston coach, Doc Rivers.
"The Truth" is averaging career lows in points, assists, and rebounds, while also averaging only 17 minutes per game, another career low. The Clippers brought in Pierce to help during late game situations, however, he has been unable to provide them with the clutch shooting they need, and Pierce finds himself on the bench much more than he is used to.
9 Jason Terry - 38
Jason "The Jet" Terry was once the superstar 6th man of the year in 2009. Now the 38 year old veteran guard is averaging a career low 17 minutes per game with the Houston Rockets. Terry is also putting up career lows in points, assists, and rebounds.
Terry was a huge part of the Dallas Mavericks squad that knocked off the Miami Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals, but his prime has come to an end, and it appears it may be time for "The Jet" to touch down and hang 'em up.
8 Nazr Mohammed - 38
Mohammed spent this season waiting by his telephone, as he was not signed to a contract when the season began. That was until the Oklahoma City Thunder recently signed the 38 year old veteran center to a contract through the end of the season. Nazr finished last season averaging just 1.0 point and 2.0 rebounds, in only five minutes per game with the Chicago Bulls. Mohammed has been in the NBA since 1998 and was part of the San Antonio Spurs team that won an NBA Title back in 2006
7 Manu Ginobili - 38
What is it about being a San Antonio Spur that slows the aging process? Manu Ginobili also made the transition into the NBA from Europe, although he was still 25 when he made it to the Association. Ginobili has slowed down considerably, as is expected for a 38-year-old, his stats are still somewhat in line with his last couple of years and Gregg Popovich always does a great job in resting his veterans for the playoffs, so Ginobili is in the ideal situation.
6 Pablo Prigioni - 38
Pablo Prigioni played in Europe before making his way to the NBA and he still finds himself with a home in the Los Angeles Clippers in his late 30s. Perhaps what is helping him last this long is that he only made his way to the Association at 34, leaving him with less wear and tear on his body than other NBA veterans. In four years, Prigioni has already played for three teams, but nobody should be telling him to retire, as he's just recently started to enjoy NBA money.
5 Vince Carter - 39
It seemed like just yesterday that Vince Carter was wowing fans in Toronto and today he now finds himself in his 18th season, now with the Grizzlies. Carter comes out of the very strong 1998 NBA Draft with Dirk Nowitski and he's not quite at Dirk's level, he's still good enough to hang around the league. He now plays a reduced role in Memphis, having not started a game all season but he's fine in his current role, averaging 5.5 points per game while only averaging 15 minutes.
4 Kevin Garnett - 39
"The Big Ticket' was one of the greatest players of the 2000s decade after being drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1995 straight out of high school. Since then he has been a 15 time All-Star, 2008 Defensive Player of the Year, 2008 NBA Champion, and 2004 league MVP; needless to say his resume speaks for itself.
His biggest successes came with the Boston Celtics, but he is now back in Minnesota helping teach the young Timberwolves players what it means to be a professional and a champion. Garnett is, however, averaging career lows in points, rebounds, blocks, steals, and minutes this season. He has not indicated yet if this will be his last year as a player in the NBA, but no one would blame him if he chose to retire today.
3 Tim Duncan - 39
Tim Duncan is most certainly not one of the players on this list that has to retire. He's still good enough to be of use to his Spurs. While his counterpart big man Kevin Garnett should call it quits at the end of this season, Duncan can keep going another couple of years if he chooses to do so. While his stats per game have taken a bit of a dip this season, one would have to see Duncan in the playoffs and if he can still keep up in the postseason, he could give it a go to play into his 40s.
2 Andre Miller - 39
This ageless point guard has spent 17 years in the NBA, spanning over three decades. Miller is the oldest player currently on an NBA roster, and on March 19 he will become the only player over the age of 40 active in the league. Miller is averaging career lows in points, rebounds, assists, and minutes this season. He was recently released by the Minnesota Timberwolves, but was quickly picked up by the San Antonio Spurs to help with veteran leadership as they begin their journey to another potential championship; I doubt Miller will be what puts them over the top.
1 Ray Allen - 40
Ray Allen has not played an NBA game in almost two calendar years. He last played for the Miami Heat during their run to the NBA Finals in 2014. Allen is still not technically retired, and still has expressed interest in joining a team for a championship run this season.
Allen is one of the most prolific 3-point shooters of all-time and one of the most clutch shooters of all-time as well. There have been a few teams to express interest in Allen's services, but Allen is hesitant to join a team. It is time Ray Allen officially announce his retirement from the game so he can get his recognition, and be inducted into the professional basketball Hall of Fame.