average retirement age for NBA players

What Is The Average Retirement Age for NBA Players?

NBA players’ average retirement age varies depending on a number of variables, including their career path, injury history, and personal preferences. Yet, the average age of retirement for NBA players is between 27 and 28 years old.

That is significantly earlier than the typical American worker’s retirement age  of 62. Why is this early retirement happening, then?

The NBA is a physically demanding league, and players there have a larger risk of injury than in other sports, which can be explained by their relatively young age. The league also has a high turnover rate, with younger, more potential players frequently replacing more seasoned players.

Average Retirement Age for NBA Players

NBA players retire at a median age of just under 34 years old. Few players’  careers last into their forties.

There are several reasons for this, the most important of which is the sport’s physicality. We will investigate all of the major reasons why NBA  players retire at this age.

Why do Many NBA Players Retire in their Mid-30s?

average retirement age for NBA players

1. Injuries

By far, the most common reason for early retirement is the sport’s physicality.  NBA players put their bodies through so much stress that they frequently  can’t play at a high level past their mid-30s.

Sports injuries are a typical occurrence, and they can significantly affect an athlete’s performance. An athlete may be required to retire if their injury is too serious. Even less serious injuries can have a cumulative effect on a player’s body, making it more difficult for them to keep up their high level of play.

This was the case for Scottie Pippen, who retired at the age of 36 in 2004. Pippen had been plagued by injuries throughout his career, and his body simply  couldn’t take it any longer.

“I could no longer run and jump like I used to. That’s when I knew it was time to walk away from the game.”

Scottie Pippen

Many other players have made similar decisions, as the risk of injury is simply  too great to play into their forties.

So, while NBA players may retire earlier than the majority of Americans, it’s not always by choice. In many cases, their bodies are simply unable to  withstand the rigors of professional basketball.

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2. Age and Physical Decline

Of course, not every player who retires in their 30s is forced to do so due to an  injury. In some cases, they simply aren’t good enough to compete with the  newcomers to the league.

Athletes’ bodies may not be able to perform as well as they previously could as they age. It may become more challenging to compete at a high level as a result of a decline in performance and an elevated risk of injury. As they can no longer keep up with the demands of their sport, many athletes decide to retire.

This was the case for Amar’e Stoudemire, who retired at the age of 34 in 2017.  Stoudemire had been a star earlier in his career, but by his  mid-30s, he was no longer able to compete at a high level.

“I want to be remembered as a winner. I don’t want to be remembered as somebody who just played basketball.”

Amar’e Stoudemire

3. Not in Demand Anymore

In other cases, players may retire because they’re no longer in demand. This  was the case for Kobe Bryant, who retired at the age of 37 in 2016.

Bryant had been one of the league’s best players for many years, but by his  mid 30s, he was no longer able to perform at a high level. As a result, teams were unwilling to sign him to a new contract.

“It’s been difficult to watch from afar. But it’s also been beautiful to watch.”

Kobe Bryant

4. Burnout

Professional sports players put forth a ton of effort and attention to succeed. The expectations and strain of a sport can become too much for some athletes, which can result in burnout. Burnt-out athletes may lose passion for the game and feel that it’s time to switch to another career.

 This was the case for Dwyane Wade, who retired at the age of 37 in 2019.

Wade had been one of the league’s best players for many years, but he said  he no longer felt the same love for basketball as he did when he was younger.

“I’ve done everything that I could do in this game… I’m happy with my career.”

Dwyane Wade

5. Financial Considerations

As egoistic as it may sound, some players may retire because they have  amassed sufficient wealth. Professional sports careers can be short, and many athletes want to ensure that they have enough money to support themselves and their families after their playing days are over.

This was the case for Shaquille O’Neal, who retired at the age of 38 in 2011.

average retirement age for NBA players

O’Neal had been one of the league’s wealthiest players for many years when  he decided it was time to move on.

“You can’t play basketball forever, I want to be a businessman when I’m done.”

Shaquille O’Neal

Does Player Position Affect the Retirement Age in the NBA?

The average retirement age for NBA players is just under 34 years old, as we  have seen. But does the position of the player influence the retirement age?

It has been discovered that point guards have the longest careers while  centers have the shortest. When you consider the physicality of the sport, this makes sense.

Point guards rely on speed and agility more than centers, who rely on size and strength. And, as we’ve seen, injuries frequently force players to retire early.

Do NBA Players Get Paid after Retirement?

The majority of NBA players are not paid after they retire. There are, however, a few exceptions.

Players who have been in the league for at least ten years and have played  for the same team for at least five years, for example, can receive up to half of  their salary from their former team.

Players who have been in the league for at least ten years and have played for three different teams are eligible to receive up to 50% of their salary from  their previous team.

Finally, players with at least 20 years in the league can receive up to $300,000 per year from the NBA Players’ Association pension plan.

While the majority of NBA players are not paid after they retire, there are a few exceptions. The NBA offers a small pension to players who have been in the  league for a long time and have played for multiple teams.

average retirement age for NBA players

So what do Most NBA Players do after Retirement?

Many of them, however, continue to be involved with basketball in some  capacity. Many go on to become coaches or broadcasters, while others work  as scouts or in the front office. Some go on to coach high school or college  teams.

Others achieve business success, as many NBA players have made a lot of money during their careers. Others invest in real estate or venture capital, while  others open restaurants or start clothing lines.

Finally, some players simply enjoy retirement and a leisurely lifestyle. They  travel the world, spend time with family and friends, and do everything they  couldn’t do during their playing days.

Against all odds: some notable nba players who retired way past the average age.

The average age of retirement for NBA players tends to be lower than other professional sports, but these athletes are the exception rather than the rule:

  1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – retired at age 42 after a 20-year career
  2. Vince Carter – retired at age 43 after a 22-year career
  3. John Stockton – retired at age 41 after a 19-year career
  4. Tim Duncan – retired at age 40 after a 19-year career
  5. Dirk Nowitzki – retired at age 40 after a 21-year career
  6. Kobe Bryant – retired at age 37 after a 20 year career

These players are all legends there is another NBA legend that will be joining this list in the near future and that is Lebron James. He’s already 38 years old in his 20th season but still has 2 more years in his contract. No other player drafted after him seems to match the amount of longevity that these legends above displayed.


So there you have it: a brief overview of why so many NBA players retire by  their mid-30s. Injuries, not being good enough, losing passion for the game, and simply making enough money to live comfortably are all factors.

Do you have a favorite player who is no longer active? Please let us know  in the comments! Also, be sure to read our other blog posts about all things basketball! Thank you for taking the time to read this!


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