Top 25 Aging Athletes that Continue(d) To Dominate
People in their late 30s and early 40s are still considered to be young and at the peak of their lives. Right? Well not in professional sports where an athlete is considered “over the hill” by the age of 35.
It’s funny because a lot of athletes are staying in great shape these days and some actually say that they feel better now than they did in their 20s.
While it’s true that their production level starts decreasing after the age of 35 many athletes still continue productive careers until age 40.
Shaquille O'Neal is having a great year at 36 when many believed his best days were over. Kurt Warner helped the Arizona Cardinals reach the 2008 Super Bowl at age 37 when he had practically been forgotten.
Then there are those who continue to play a major role even after 40 years of age like Chris Chelios and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who won two NBA championships in his 40’s.
It is true that not all sports are the same because hockey and football puts more of toll on bodies than baseball or golf. In addition, the generation that an athlete competes has a lot of influence on conditioning.
Nevertheless, any sport requires participants to be at the physical and mental peak and when athletes in their 40’s are still dominating in their sport that is a major accomplishment.
Try not to obsess over the rankings because everyone has their different opinions and criteria and it is difficult to judge. Instead it’s important to realize that every athlete on this list deserves to be here and celebrated for their achievements.
I may have even missed some athletes and you are welcome to mention them when you make your comments. Let’s begin!
25. Jaime Moyer
At the age of 41 he was an all-star for the first time and he was a major contributor in winning his first World Series Championship at the age of 46. Clearly, this is an athlete who is getting better with age.
24. Rickey Henderson
In 2002, at the age of 42, Henderson finished the his season with 25 stolen bases. Good for ninth in the NL. It was his 23rd consecutive season with more than 20 steals.
23. Mark Messier
Arguably the most feared and revered leader in sport history. He was still a solid producer and an important contributor for the New York Rangers in his 40s.
22. Mario Lemieux
At the age of 38 "Mario the Magnificent" managed 91 points in only 67 games played. In his 40s he didn't play many games but still managed 31 points in 36 games over two seasons.
21. Wayne Gretzky
He may be a coach now but just 10 years ago "The Great One" was just about to end one of the most spectacular career in hockey history. Even in his late 30s he was putting up 90 point seasons.
20. John Stockton & Karl Malone
Yes. Even on lists these two can not be separated.
Averaging a career double-double demonstrates that Stockton didn't slow down even in his 40's. He managed to get a triple-double in the 2001 playoffs at the age of 39 when he had never achieved this feat in his career.
Karl Malone won NBA MVP at 34 and 36. Plus, he was on the Third All-Star Team at the age of 39. At the age of 41 he was a major contributor to the LA Lakers team that made it to the NBA finals only to lose to Detroit.
19. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem was still a major contributor for the LA Lakers who had back to back NBA championships in 1987 and 1988. He was in his 40's for both championships.
18. Paolo Maldini
40 is the new 20 as far as Paolo Maldini is concerned. In 2004, at 36 he was Serie A Defender of the Year and in 2007 at 39 he was elected the UEFA Champions League Best Defender.
17. Al MacInnis
With one of the hardest slapshots in NHL history Al MacInnis didn't make his age determine his career. In his final full season, at the age of 40, he had 16 goals and 52 assists for 68 point in 80 games.
At age 36 he won his first Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenseman and at 39 he won an Olympic Gold Medal with Canada's National Hockey Team.
16. Randy Couture
In 2007, at the age of 43, Randy Couture became the UFC Heavyweight Champion. Currently at 45 he is still widely considered one of the best greco-roman wrestlers and mixed martial artist fighters in the world.
15. Scott Stevens
While his point production was low that doesn't mean anything. His priorities and his role as a defenseman changed when he hit his 30’s in 1994. Anyone will tell you that a major reason why the New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup in 2000 and 2003 was because of Scott Stevens.
Plus the Devils reached the finals in 2001 only to lose to the Colorado Avalanche and he did this all from age 36 to 39.
He absolutely and single-handedly obliterated his opponents with devastating hits. He was the best defensive defenseman of his generation by miles.
14. Dominik Hasek
The "Dominator" played his best hockey in his 30s and 40s. He didn't get that nickname for speaking worse english than the Terminator.
Hasek was still putting up great stats in his 40's and in 2008 at 43 he won the Jennings Trophy for best goals against average.
At 36 he won his 6th Vezina Trophy as the NHL's best goalie and at 37 and 43 he won Stanley Cups with Detroit. (he actually was the starting goalie in 2002).
13. Bernard Hopkins
At 43, he became the oldest man to ever win the Middleweight Championship in professional boxing.
12. Morten Andersen
As a multiple NFL record holder, Morten played deep into his 40s and never showed any signs of slowing down. In 2007, at the age of 47, he made 25 of 28 field goals (89.3 percent), the most accurate season of his career.
11. Martina Navratilova
If you think sports in general are tough on age then don't even think about playing tennis where you're practically considered a senior at age 25 (of course I'm exaggerating but there's some truth to it).
But Martina wouldn't pay attention to all that negativity. She retired at 50 in 2006 and was still winning tennis opens' in her 30's and staying competitive in her 40's.
In 2004's Wimbledon Open, at the age of 47, she became the oldest player in open history to win a singles match. And she did it in style by winning in straight sets.
10. Chris Chelios
At the age of 47 he helped the Red Wings win a Stanley Cup (his third).
He continues being a dependable NHL defenseman his physical style of game makes it very astonishing that he's still playing hockey. Never mind the fact that he's playing great hockey with some of the best plus/minus stats of his career.
9. Richard Petty
Petty won two Daytona 500 races in 40's and was still a dominate race car driver going into his 50s. He retired in 1992 at the age of 55.
8. Jack Nicklaus
In 1986, Jack won the Masters at 46 years old. Moreover, at 58, he was tied for sixth at the 1998 Masters.
7. Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli
Since the age of 40 Jeannie continues to be at the top her sport and in 2008, at 49, she competed for France at the Summer Olympics. While at the Beijing Olympics she placed fourth in the road time-trial and 24th in the road race.
She will be 51 in October and is still competing at a high level in a sport that requires a lot of endurance.
6. Phil Niekro
Phil Niekro's 121 career victories after the age of 40 is a major league record. At 46, Niekro became the oldest pitcher to pitch a shutout in the major leagues. Plus, his five Gold Glove Awards were won between the age of 39 and 44.
Not to mention he made it to the all-star game three times between the age of 39 and 45.
5. George Blanda
George played as a quarterback and kicker for 26 seasons which is an NFL record. He continued to play great football in his 40s and he was a Pro Bowler at 40 and a Bert Bell Award winner at the age of 43.
When he retired in 1976 he was 48 years old.
4. Jacques Plante
I often like to compare Dominik Hasek to Jacques Plante because they both continued to have great stats in their 40's. But the difference with Plante is that he was able to win the Vezina Trophy at the age of 40 in 1969.
He shared the trophy with teammate Glenn Hall and that year he posted a 1.96 GAA. At 42, while with the Maple Leafs, he had 24 wins, 11 losses, and 4 ties with a 1.88 GAA.
Jacques retired in 1973 and coached the Quebec Nordiques of the WHA in 1973-74. He decided to return to goaltending and at the age of 45 he suited up for the Edmonton Oilers of the WHA. He retired after that season at the age of 46.
3. Nolan Ryan
Nolan Ryan pitched his seventh no-hitter at the age of 44 and was still a dominate pitcher throughout his 40s.
2. George Foreman
Becoming a boxing Heavyweight Champion at age 45 is enough to put George Foreman in the No. 2 spot on this list. He knocked out 26-year-old Michael Moorer in the 10th round.
1. Gordie Howe
Mr. Hockey played until the age of 51 in 1980 but from the age of 40 to 51 he didn't just play hockey. He still dominated and was getting 100 point seasons which he didn't even achieve in his 20's and 30's.
In 1968-'69, at 41, he had 44 goals and 59 for 103 points with the Detroit Red Wings. From the age of 44 to 48 he achieved 100, 99, 102, 68, and 96 points respectively as a WHA player.
In 1979-80, at the age of 51, he had 15 goals and 26 assists for 41 points and played in 80 games for the Hartford Whalers of the NHL. 51!!! Some players can't even do this in their prime.