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These 9 Players Have the Longest Careers in the NBA

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Sports careers are short and basketball isn’t an exception. Even though it seems like NBA players can play forever, the average length of a basketball career is 4.5 years. Playing the game with high intensity regularly wears down your body. 

Additionally, injuries hamper many athletes, and teams are always looking for new talent. However, some players have longer careers than others. This post lists players with the longest careers in the NBA in ascending order.

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 20 Seasons

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar dunking on the hoop. Source: Wikimedia licensed by Public domain

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played in the NBA for 20 seasons. That’s incredible for someone who played regularly for his team. Jabbar spent the first 6 years of his career at the Milwaukee Bucks and then played for the Los Angeles Lakers for 14 seasons. He ranks second in the all-time scorers with 38,387 points.

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Kobe Bryant – 20 Seasons

Kobe Bryant tapping hands with substitutes. Source: Wikimedia licensed by Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

The late Kobe Bryant only played for the Los Angeles Lakers. He achieved everything there was to achieve. He’s undeniably one of the greatest basketball players of all time. The former shooting guard won the NBA Championship five times. The Basketball Hall of Fame posthumously inducted him after he became eligible.

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Jamal Crawford – 20 Seasons

Jamal Crawford’s highlights. Video Credit: House of Hoops

People don’t talk about Jamal Crawford as much as other players, but he had one of the longest careers in the NBA. Crawford played for several teams, starting with the Chicago Bulls in 2000. He then played for:

In terms of accolades, Crawford didn’t win much.

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Udonis Haslem – 20 Seasons

Udonis Haslem playing for the Miami Heat. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-2.0

Udonis Haslem adds to our list of the longest careers in the NBA. It’s impressive that he had such a long career, for someone who went undrafted. The 6 foot 7 inches was considered small for a forward and thus was overlooked by teams.

The Atlanta Hawks were interested in signing him but after it collapsed, he moved to the French league and played for Charlon-Sur-Saone. After a season, the Miami Heat bought him. He played for the team for 20 years (2003 – 2023). Haslem won three NBA Championships and was an NBA All-Rookie second team.

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Robert Parish – 21 Seasons

Robert Parish game highlights. Video Credit: Back Rim Basketball

Robert Parish has a colorful 21-season stay in the league, marking one of the longest careers in the NBA. The Golden State Warriors drafted him in the 1976 NBA draft. After four years, he moved to the Boston Celtics, where he won all his NBA Championships.

The center also played for the Charlotte Hornets and the Chicago Bulls. He scored 23,334 points and is a Hall of Famer inductee.

Kevin Willis – 21 Seasons

Kevin Willis’ career highlights. Video Credit: CrunchyMan Sopa.

Kevin Willis joins our list of the players with the longest careers in the NBA. He spent 21 seasons with eight teams. He was a first-round NBA draft with the Atlanta Hawks before moving to the Miami Heat. The other teams he played for include:

Willis won the NBA Championships in 2003 and scored 17,523 points.

Kevin Garnett – 21 Seasons

Kevin Garnett playing for the Boston Celtics. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-2.0

Garnett spent 21 seasons in the NBA playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets. He won the NBA with the Celtics and received recognition.

The basketballer was the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2004, was a 15-time NBA All-Star and a four-time All-NBA First Team. He scored 26,071 points throughout his career.

LeBron James – 21 Seasons

LeBron James playing for the Clevland Cavaliers. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-2.0

Out of all the players on this list, LeBron James is the only one active. We’ve documented his illustrious NBA career which includes winning four NBA Championships, receiving four NBA finals MVP awards, Rookie of the Year and breaking the all-time scoring record.

James was the first-round first overall pick for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2003 NBA draft. He currently represents the Los Angeles Lakers, having previously played for the Miami Heat.

Vince Carter – 22 Seasons

Vince Carter is on the court. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-2.0

Vince Carter had the longest career in the NBA. His career started in 1998 with the Toronto Raptors. He then played for:

Carter was an eight-time NBA All-Star and scored 25,728 points in his career. He was the NBA Rookie of the Year in his debut season.

Playing in the NBA for more than 20 years is a feat that deserves recognition. Having consistency and focus to maintain such longevity isn’t a quality many have. Some of these players aren’t the most accomplished, but they did what they loved. However, athletes’ bodies determine how long they can continue playing. 

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