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The Longest NBA Careers of All-Time

While LeBron is a basketball lifer, he’s years away from the record for the longest NBA career ever. Who takes the crown? Find out here.

Vince Carter and Udonis Haslem boast some of the longest NBA careers of all time
Credit-NBA/Joker Mag Illustration

LeBron James is currently in his 19th season in the NBA. He’s made hundreds of millions of dollars, both on and off the court, and has achieved more fame than most athletes in the past century.

King James is a basketball – and global – icon.

But as well known as LeBron is, the fact of the matter is most NBA players don’t come close to the fame, success, wealth, or longevity of the Lakers’ forward.

In fact, if you took the careers of all 4,000+ NBA players in league history, you’d learn that the average player lasts only 4.5 years in the league.

To put that number in context, LeBron has made 10 NBA Finals appearances alone – more than double the average NBA career. Absolute insanity.

And while LeBron is a basketball lifer, he’s still years away from the record for the longest NBA career ever. Who takes the crown?

Table of Contents

Who Played the Most Seasons in the NBA?

Vince Carter holds the record for the longest NBA career. He is the only player in NBA history to have played 22 seasons in the association.

After debuting in 1998, Carter’s best years came as a member of the Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets. The latter years of his playing days saw him bouncing around the league, making stops in Orlando, Phoenix, Dallas, Memphis, Sacramento, and Atlanta, before finally calling it quits in 2020.

Who Played the Most Games in NBA History?

Boston Celtics legend Robert Parish has played the most games in NBA history. Known as “The Chief”, Parish played 1,611 regular season games throughout his 20-year career with the Warriors, Celtics, Hornets, and Bulls.

Parish accomplished this milestone by rarely missing a gameday. Across nine different seasons, Parish played in no less than 80 contests.

In addition to Parish, three other players have played in the NBA for 21 seasons.

RELATED: NBA Teams Without a Championship & Who Can Break the Streak

The Longest NBA Careers Ever

Kevin Willis – 21 Seasons

Kevin Willis was a journeyman power forward who averaged 12.1 points per game while playing for a slew of teams – Willis made stops in Atlanta, Miami, Golden State, Houston, Toronto, Denver, Houston (again), San Antonio, Atlanta (again), and Dallas.

He made just one All-Star team throughout his lengthy career, while on the Hawks in 1992.

Kevin Garnett – 21 Seasons

Kevin Garnett was a 15-time All-Star throughout his Hall of Fame 21-year career. The 2004 NBA MVP is the Minnesota Timberwolves’ all-time leader in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals.

After being traded to Boston, KG brought the Celtics their 17th world championship in 2008.

Dirk Nowitzki – 21 Seasons

Dirk Nowitzki played all 21 of his NBA seasons with the same franchise: the Dallas Mavericks.

Nowitzki’s #41 is retired in Dallas, as he is unquestionably considered the franchise’s best player of all time. He brought Dallas their first – and to date, only – NBA championship, in 2011.

He tops the Mavericks’ all-time leaderboard in career points as well, while ranking sixth in scoring among all NBA players ever (31,560 career points).

RELATED: The Longest NFL Careers of All-Time

Which Active NBA Player Has Had the Longest Career?

Three NBA players who made their league debuts in 2003 are still on active rosters today: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Udonis Haslem each have played 18 seasons in the NBA.

Of this group, James has played the most games, while Anthony has played for the most teams (Nuggets, Knicks, Thunder, Rockets, Trail Blazers, Lakers).

James and Anthony were both top-5 draft picks in the 2003 NBA Draft, while Haslem was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Miami Heat after no teams picked him in 2002. Haslem (41-years-old) is also currently the NBA’s oldest player.

Written By

Muhlenberg College alum based in New York City. Bylines at Joker Mag, Elite Sports NY, and The Apple.

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