Age is only a number, or so the old adage teaches us. The truth of the situation is that numerous professional athletes do well to defy their ages in different ways. Some manage to perform well beyond their years and excel in leagues ahead of their times. Teenage sensations set records and outdo opponents who have years and, in some cases, even decades of experience on their resumes, and these young Superstars become international celebrities for their achievements. In other instances are the accomplished athletes who surprise critics and analysts by hanging around well after their primes should, theoretically, be over. These amazing athletes stun us mere mortals by competing for and, in some instances, by winning championships well into their 30s and their 40s after logic suggests they should be thinking more about retirement than hoisting trophies.
It appears that the greatest quarterback in the history of the National Football League is currently playing in the league on Sundays and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future despite his advanced age. The best female tennis player we’ve ever witnessed is still competing as she did a decade ago when her prime should’ve been wrapping up. One National Hockey League legend looks like he could continue playing at the pro level, either in North America or overseas, into his 50s because of his love for the game and his ability to remain in elite condition. As training methods, diets and fitness programs evolve, so do pro athletes. Age will be only a number in different ways heading into next decade and beyond because of these practices.
15 Tom Brady: 40
Five-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady turned 40 years old this past August, meaning that he will be 41-years-old before the start of the 2018 NFL season. Does anybody out there believe that he is playing in his last pro season? Brady continues to look like the player of old and perform better than the majority of men at the position who are much younger than he is, to the point that it wouldn’t shock us if he ultimately won a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award when he is closer to 50 years old than 45.
Maybe it’s the diet that includes the famous avocado ice cream that does it for Brady, or perhaps it has something to do with him never eating strawberries. Either way, Brady is a football star unlike any before him.
14 Sage Northcutt: 21
Everything about Ultimate Fighting Championship personality Sage Northcutt screams “star,” to the point that one may not believe that Northcutt turned 21 years old only last March. Northcutt has won nine of 11 professional fights, he looks like a million dollars, he walks and talks like a celebrity, and he still has a long ways to go before he will be at his best as an athlete and a fighter so long as he continues to work to improve in the cage.
Northcutt has the skills and other traits required to carry the UFC on his back into the next decade so long as he applies himself and doesn’t get caught up in the hype. If nothing else, he clearly possesses the confidence required to be a champion at the highest level.
13 Bartolo Colon: 44
Our grownup Christmas list involves wanting to see Bartolo Colon continue pitching in Major League Baseball up through the end of the decade. “Big Sexy,” as he became known during his tenure with the New York Mets, is expected to remain in the Big Leagues throughout the 2018 season, at least, and one shouldn’t be too shocked if he receives an opportunity from a club because of his ability to eat up innings and get batters out at a decent rate.
Sure, Colon will turn 45 years old next May, but he certainly wouldn’t be the worst option for a team that needs a right-handed arm. If nothing else, Colon would provide a boatload of entertainment for players in the clubhouse, for beat reporters who cover him and for fans yearning to cheer him on.
12 Tyler Bate: 20
We absolutely consider professional wrestlers to be top-tier athletes, which is why Tyler Bate deserves recognition in any list of individuals whose ages will shock you. Bate won his first major championship as a member of World Wrestling Entertainment at the age of 19 years old, and he is one of the company’s brightest young stars before he can legally buy an alcoholic beverage in the United States.
Bate has a ways to go as it pertains to cutting promos, but he is physically ready for the main roster today. We look forward to seeing the 20 year old continue to evolve as a performer overseas and, eventually, in NXT or on shows such as SmackDown and Raw down the road. He has everything required to carry the company into the 2020s.
11 Serena Williams: 36
Serena Williams turned 36 years old in September 2017, she’s a mom, and she remains the biggest star in tennis, mens or womens, and the best player in the division heading into the 2018 Australian Open. Williams looked to be slowing down and heading toward retirement only a couple of years ago before she reclaimed her form and once again proved that she’s a player unlike any before her, and the expectations are that she will once again dominate the sport when she makes a full return to action in January 2018.
Enjoy watching Williams while you can, because odds are age will eventually catch up with her and force her from courts before 2020 rolls around. Then again, she’s scoffed at age before. Maybe she’ll play into her 40s.
10 Auston Matthews: 20
The future of the NHL is bright even with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin getting up there in age. Auston Matthews is one of the reasons why that is the case. The young leader of the Toronto Maple Leafs is a budding superstar who creates highlight-reel moments on the regular and who generates headlines and attracts attention when he plays on national television in the United States, a country that often ignores hockey other than during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The NHL needs to do even better in pushing Matthews as the next big name of the league, because he is going to become the face of the franchise and, potentially, of the NHL if he takes Toronto to more than just a handful of playoff wins as soon as 2018.
9 Gianluigi Buffon: 39
The hearts of football fans around the world broke when Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, because it meant legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was retiring from International play and wouldn’t feature on the sport’s biggest stage one final time. Buffon turns 40 years old in January 2018, and it’s possible he will play in the Champions League for Juventus for the last time before he hangs his boots and gloves up for good next spring.
In a way, it’s almost difficult to imagine the sport without Buffon playing at the highest level for those of us who have watched him since the 1990s. Maybe Buffon could spend a couple of years in Major League Soccer for one of the expansion sides set to join the league before 2020.
8 JuJu Smith-Schuster: 21
The Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the most respected franchises in all the NFL, made news when they selected wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, the youngest player available in the 2017 draft. Because the Steelers routinely get more right than wrong, Smith-Schuster has proven himself to be an impact player worthy of participating for a playoff side in his first season in the league even though he turned 21 years old in November 2017.
He proved his dedication to the cause and to his teammates when he leveled Cincinnati Bengals defensive standout Vontaze Burfict with a blindside block that earned the rookie a one-game suspension. Whatever you think of that hit, you can be sure those inside the Pittsburgh locker room appreciate the young receiver even more after the fact.
7 Daniel Cormier: 38
Let’s all be clear about the fact that Daniel Cormier is the best Light Heavyweight signed to the UFC today, in part, because of his ability to actually pass drug tests. Perhaps what is most astonishing about this reality is that Cormier turns 39 years old in March and is showing no signs of slowing down so long as Jon Jones continues to earn himself suspensions on a yearly basis.
All jokes and cynicism aside, it’s a shame Cormier won’t be appreciated by casual fans who will always believe he held somebody’s else’s title. Cormier has, by all accounts, done things the right way during his feud with Jones, and he should be seen as one of the greats of his time. Cormier deserves to hold his championship into his 40s.
6 Carlos Correa: 23
Fans of ball clubs other than the Houston Astros may hate the fact that shortstop Carlos Correa turned 23 years old in September 2017 and that he has only spent three years with the Big League club. Correa has already proven himself to be a .300 hitter, he can hit for power and smash over 20 home runs in a season, he can drive home over 90 RBI in any given year, and he is still evolving as a hitter and a fielder.
If all of that wasn’t enough to make non-Houston fans cringe, Correa also happens to be a world champion heading into 2018. The Astros’ future is as bright as that belonging to any club in the league thanks to the likes of Correa.
5 Vince Carter: 40
It’s not so much that Sacramento Kings star Vince Carter will turn 41 years old that shocks and astonishes us. Those of you who are fortunate enough to watch Carter during pre-game warmups can confirm that he can still soar into the air for highlight-reel dunks, and he occasionally pulls such tricks out of his bag during games when he is provided with opportunities to do so.
We can’t say, for sure, how long Carter will remain in the NBA, as he is currently on a one-year deal. For what it’s worth, there are certainly worse players in the Association today than the veteran who could provide leadership in the locker room for a young side in need of such a presence in February 2018.
4 Kylian Mbappe: 18
Some throughout the world football community were left shocked when Paris Saint-Germain splashed the cash for Monaco star Kylian Mbappe, who will turn 19 years old before Christmas 2017, before the close of the summer transfer window. Mbappe may or may not prove to be worth the money PSG spent for him, but his play in the Champions League speaks for itself.
Weeks before he celebrated his 19th birthday, he became the youngest player to score 10 goals in Champions League play in the history of that competition. It seems like it will only be a matter of time before he is playing for either Barcelona or Real Madrid because PSG will need to recover funds. Don’t be shocked if he completes such a move before turning 21.
3 Adam Vinatieri: 44
The sun rising in the east and setting in the west, grass being green, and Adam Vinatieri kicking field goals for NFL teams. You can set your watch to each this holiday season. The Indianapolis Colts placekicker will turn 45 years old before the end of the year, but he remains a reliable player who is better than many others at the position who are currently signed to rosters.
How long Vinatieri will remain in the NFL is anybody’s guess, but it worth noting that his leg is still strong and still capable of netting points for clubs and for our fantasy football rosters. We’d like to see if Vinatieri has another five years in him. Imagine a 50 year old existing inside of an NFL locker room?
2 Frank Ntilikina: 19
In a way, one could feel sorry for guard Frank Ntilikina, who turned 19 years old in July 2017 after he was drafted by the New York Knicks. Long-suffering Knicks fans have high expectations, perhaps unrealistic hopes, for the young man taken with the eighth overall pick of this year’s draft, and the second-youngest player in the league has, predictably, experienced ups and downs during his debut season.
Also, a lingering ankle issue has been cause for concern. Any and all who may criticize the rookie should remember that plenty of people in the New York area weren’t all that thrilled when the franchise drafted Kristaps Porzingis, and that has worked out rather well. To steal the phrase commonly associated with the Philadelphia 76ers: Trust the process.
1 Jaromir Jagr: 45
We are rooting for Jaromir Jagr to play in the NHL literally forever, or at least for as long as the league exists. Jagr will turn 46 years old in February 2018, and, while he is definitely slowing down, he continues to defy the odds and prove himself a serviceable player for the Calgary Flames. Numerous news outlets detailed Jagr’s ability to remain in playing shape into his late 40s during the fall of 2017, and teammates have discussed how he is positive influence for younger players just starting out in the league.
There may come a time, sooner than later, when Jagr is a coach either in the NHL or in a different competition. For now, however, we hope Jagr will play so long as his body allows him to do so and face players who are literally half his age.