When Do NBA Players Typically Retire?

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Retirement is a reality that all NBA players should face—whether you are a star player or an underdog. However, they have various reasons for retirement, may it be physical or personal. Now, when do NBA players retire?

The general answer to the question is that NBA players retire when their health is at stake. Even though there is no maximum age to play in the NBA, you cannot revert your age—nor your physical and mental health.

Now that you are already stoked about the NBA retirement keep reading until the end. You will learn that retirement can be involuntary too.

What are the Factors that Affect NBA RetirementWhat are the Factors that Affect NBA Retirement?

There are many reasons behind a player’s retirement, and it is not always because of health issues. In general scope, the NBA league is a highly demanding sport that requires a mentality and physical excellence—not to mention that all players are highly competitive.

Most of all, there are instances when a player is compelled to let go of his basketball dreams. So, what are the factors that affect NBA retirement? Let us take a closer look at the grounds behind an NBA retirement.

Health-related Reasons

First on the list is anything related to health—injury, age, mental and emotional, etc. The physicality of the sport takes a massive toll on their health, so they have to quit their passion and focus more on their physical wellness.

  • Age

Age is a primary driver of retirement because the body can no longer keep up with the arduous nature of the sport and the competitiveness of young players in the league. Although not all stop playing at a fixed age, all players will feel their bodies deteriorating.

  • Mental Health

Basketball, like any other sport, requires so much mental alertness. Hence, players devote most of their time to practicing on the court. Unfortunately, some NBA players lose touch with their lives outside of basketball. In December 2021, an Ohio State player in the person of Tyrell Terry, announced his retirement due to suicidal ideation and anxiety.

  • Injury

Basketball injury is one of the common reasons why NBA players retire, knowing that basketball needs physical strength. In this case, players are robbed of their careers because of limited physical capacity caused by an injury. 

One of the most famous NBA retirement due to injury is Shaun Livingston’s case, who only spent three seasons in his NBA stint. He started strong but fell short due to a knee injury.

Competitive Nature of NBA

By nature, the NBA is among the most competitive basketball leagues worldwide. Hence, NBA players train as rigidly as possible to keep up with the standard, or they will be forced to quit playing in the league.

As you may have known, NBA teams sign players they think are highly competitive and complements their team dynamics. If you show no progress over the seasons, no one will likely sign a deal with you. 

Therefore, we have seen a lot of farewells in the NBA because of their low competitiveness to thrive in the industry. In this case, it is a matter of personal decision, or they are forced to quit because they are left without a choice.

NBA Standards Keep Evolving

One of the critical reasons why NBA players quit is because of the high standards set in the industry, especially for veteran players. Newer players aim to challenge the records set by history makers constantly.

As a result, we see the industry thriving with highly talented rookies more than ever. Therefore, some old players can n longer keep up with the standards—-which leads us to health concerns again.

Time and time again, it reminds us (most especially NBA players) that a basketball career is not forever. There are always highs and lows, and the decision is upon you whether you wish to push through or end your career with a bang.

What's the Average Retirement Age of NBA PlayersWhat’s the Average Retirement Age of NBA Players?

No matter how good you are a player, you will never defeat the fate of time. Like in any other industry, people in the NBA must come and go. Hence, all NBA payers are bound to retire. Who is the youngest NBA player to retire, then? What’s the average retirement age of NBA players?

In general, the average retirement age of an NBA player is 28 years old, according to a study by the RBC. Perhaps the youngest NBA player to have retired was Royce White, a Houston Rockets player who retired at 21 years old due to anxiety disorder and fear of flying.

Below is the average retirement age of NBA players based on their positions. 

Centers and Forwards

These positions have earlier retirements than any other positions. Their average retirement age is in their early thirties. This is because they undergo more rigid physical wear and tear than others.

For example, forwards have an enormous body build. Hence, they are more prone to injury-related retirement. Hence, most forwards stay in the NBA until they reach the age of early thirties.

Meanwhile, centers are tall players responsible for rebounds and short-range scoring. Hence, they are frequently utilized by the team. That is why most of them last until their early thirties.


NBA guards retire a bit later than centers and forwards, but it does not mean they have lesser responsibilities. The average retirement age of guards is mid-thirties. 

They are usually able to play longer on the court. It means that they can adapt to the game dynamics. Hence, it could be why they retire in their mid-thirties, much older than the average 27 years old.

3 Oldest NBA Players to Retire3 Oldest NBA Players to Retire

Since NBA players usually retire in their late twenties to mid-thirties, it is fascinating to think that there are highly exceptional players who could withstand the challenge of their physical health and age.

Who are the oldest NBA players to retire? Check out their names below and see who made it to this list.

1. Nat Hickey

Nat Hickey only played two games as an NBA player. Unfortunately, he made zero field attempts but committed five personal fouls. Hickey played his last game at the age of 45 years old.

Another thing about Hickey is that he was an interim coach of the Basketball Association of America (BAA) team Providence Steamroller in the 1947-1948 season before becoming an NBA player for two games.

2. Kevin Willis

Willis played his last game in the NBA at the age of 44 years old. He spent 12 years, from 1994 to 2007, playing for eight teams in the NBA. These teams include the Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks, and San Antonio Spurs. 

He clinched his first championship trophy in 2003 as a player for the San Antonio Spurs. The last team he played in was the Mavericks in season 2006-2007, but the team lost a shot in the first round against the Warriors.

3. Robert Parish

Parish played his last game at the age of 43 years old. In his 22-year stint in the NBA, Parish played for only four teams: Boston Celtics (drafting team), Golden States Warriors (trade by Celtics), Chicago Bulls, and Charlotte Hornets.

Parish won four rings after quitting in 1997. Although he was not the most outstanding player, he was an 8-time All-Star in his 21 years. What’s more fascinating is that he stood his ground until he was 43, with awards in his bag.

What Careers Do NBA Players Pursue After RetirementWhat Careers Do NBA Players Pursue After Retirement?

NBA players are undeniably talented people with multifaceted skills and intelligence. Hence, many career opportunities await them after they decide to let go of being an NBA player.

What do NBA players do when they retire? Below is a list of common careers NBA players pursue after their retirement.

  • Coach

The career they will likely pursue is becoming an NBA coach. The reason is that they cannot let go of their basketball passion. The living proofs of this narrative are Bill Russell and Phil Jackson.

Bill Russell is the person behind Boston Celtics’ success. Meanwhile, Phil Jackson is one of the most successful coaches in the NBA, with 11 championships won as a head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.

  • Businessmen

It is common for NBA players to own businesses after acquiring millions of dollars from playing basketball. Some build their own company, manage digital media firms, invest in real estate, and even make clothing lines.

One of the successful NBA-turned-businessmen is Dave Bing, who became a steel magnate with the Bing Group and Bing Steel. Also, Junior Bridgeman invested in food chains like Wendy’s and Chili’s Restaurant after retiring.

  • NBA Analysts or Broadcasters

They are passionate about basketball and become NBA analysts after retiring. Of course, many sports media will sign them because they are the most qualified people to comment on basketball trends.

Among the NBA-turne-analysts were Charles Barkley and Bill Walton. Barkley was a player from Chuckster and made it to the 50 best players during the 75th anniversary of the NBA. He then became an announcer of the show Inside the NBA on TNT after retiring. Meanwhile, Walton was a Hall of Fame player of the Trail Blazers and Celtics, then became an analyst of ESPN.

Wrapping Things Up: When Do NBA Players Typically Retire?

NBA retirement is proof that NBA players are like any other people. They are still subject to career ends, which is understandable since their body cannot keep up with the athletic demands of sports when reaching a certain age. So, when do NBA players retire?

Generally, NBA players retire at the age of 27 years old. The reasons could be personal or industry pressure. Even so, you can still root for your favorite NBA player after they retire because they could be your future favorite NBA coach or analyst. Who knows?

We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.

Hoops Addict
Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

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