Two days before the 2009-2010 NBA season begins, we pay tribute to the guys who still make it out of bed, despite the aching bones and other age induced pains and troubles. Oh right, I forgot they get millions for playing Basketball, that’s always a good reason. But being durable is worthy of being admired, especially after so much time in the league – so here they are, the 10 oldest players in the NBA.
Number 10 – Theo Ratliff, San Antonio Spurs, 36
Born on April 17th, 1973, in Demopolis, Alabama, Ratliff will be starting his 15th NBA season in 2009-2010. This time it will be with the San Antonio Spurs, his 7th NBA team. Like in recent years, he’ll try to give a few minutes rest to the big guys in the starting five. Last season he didn’t get to start any games, and averaged 12.6 minutes a night.
Number 9 – Jason Kidd, Dallas Mavericks, 36
The future hall of famer was born on March 23, 1973, in San Francisco, California. Kidd, one of the league’s best point guards ever, will be starting his 16th NBA season and his third with the Mavs (his second stint there). His scoring average dropped for the first time in his career below the 10 ppg mark, and despite him playing at least 80 games in each of the last four seasons, his numbers are dropping and there’s not much more juice to squeeze out of this lemon (Kidd and the Mavs.
Number 8 – Michael Finley, San Antonio Spurs, 36
Born on March 6, 1973, in Melrose Park, Illinois, Finley will begin his 15th NBA season and his fifth with the San Antonio Spurs in 2009-2010. He’s been scoring way below his career average since he’s moved to San Antonio, averaging 9.7 ppg last season but he’s still hitting them from the outside (41.1% last season) and is a very important role player for the Spurs’ (maybe final with this core group) title challenge this season.
Number 7 – Juwan Howard, Portland Trail Blazers, 36
Born on February 7th, 1973, in Chicago, Illinois, Howard is still mostly known for his part of the “Fab-Five” back in the 90′s in the University of Michigan. Howard will be starting his 16th NBA season this year, this time with the Portland Trail Blazers, the 6th team he’s played for. Last two years he hasn’t played more than 50 games and probably won’t get more than 10 minutes a night playing for the Blazers.
Number 6 – Kevin Ollie, Oklahoma City Thunder, 36
Born on December 27, 1972, in Dallas, Texas, Kevin Ollie will begin his 13th NBA season in 2009-2010, this time with the Oklahoma City Thunder, his 12th NBA team. Ollie has never been more than a bench player although last season did get to start 21 times as a TimberWolves player, scoring 4 ppg, his best since 2003-2004. He won’t give the Thunder much more, except for some experience in the locker room.
Number 5 – Grant Hill, Phoenix Suns, 37
Born on October 5, 1972, in Dallas, Texas, Grant Hill will be starting his 16th NBA season and third with the Phoenix Suns in 2009-2010. Hill was en route to the hall of fame in the first six seasons of his career, but too many injuries sidelined him and limited him for most of the last decade. His last two seasons with the Suns have been reasonably good, and he even played 82 games last season, the first time in his career. Staying healthy and producing double-digit scoring will be good enough again this year, as he creeps slowly towards 40.
Number 4 – Kurt Thomas, Milwaukee Bucks, 37
Another Dallas native, Kurt Thomas was born on October 4, 1972. This season will be his 15th, with the Bucks being his 7th stop in his career. Thomas managed to stay healthy for a full season in 2008-2009 with the Spurs, the first time he’s so much (79 games) since 2004-2005 as a Knicks player. 15-20 Minutes with 4-5 rebounds per game and solid paint defending will be good enough for him and the Bucks.
Number 3 – Shaquille O’Neal, Cleveland Cavaliers, 37
Shaq was born on March 6, 1972, in Newark, New Jersey. He’ll be starting his 18th season in 2009-2010 and his first with the Cavs, his fifth stop in his NBA career. He hasn’t scored over 20+ in his last three season, but did manage staying healthy for almost the entire season last year, playing 75 games for the Suns, the most for him since 1999-2000. If he can stay healthy for the Cavs this year, especially for the playoffs, as Shaq tends to do, he maybe the piece that finally falls in place for the Lebron James title quest.
Number 2 – Brent Barry, Houston Rockets, 37
The most successful of the four “Barry Brothers” but not as good as his father, Rick Barry, Brent was born on December 31, 1971 in Hempstead, New York. Although winning two NBA titles with the Spurs (2005, 2007) as a important player off the bench, he’s still mostly remembered for his win in the 1996 Dunk Contest, with the jump from the foul line. He’ll be starting his 15 NBA season in 2009-2010, his second with the Houston Rockets.
Number 1 – Lindsey Hunter, Chicago Bulls, 38
The oldest player in the NBA today, Lindsey Hunter, born December 3, 1970, in Utica, Mississippi, will begin his 17th season in the league in 2009-2010 and his second with the Bulls. Hunter doesn’t get to play much – injuries and ability issues, but when he does play, which is around 9 minutes a night, he still gives great defense, no matter who he faces. Theoretically, can reach 1000 regular season games this year, but he hasn’t played 76 games since 2004-2005, and it’s hard to imagine it’ll happen this year.