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The Best "Old Guy" Seasons in Sports History

Giancarlo Ferrari-KingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 3, 2014

The Best "Old Guy" Seasons in Sports History

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    "But I'm an old man, I'm confused!" Uncle Leo famously said on Seinfeld. Leo may have used age as an excuse for his behavior, but the guys on this list sure didn't.

    In sports, some athletes prove the old adage "age is nothing but a number" to be true. These players defied logic. Forget their bodies breaking down on them. They still managed to put together remarkable seasons despite their age.

    No sport is immune. We're talking heavyweight champions of the world, World Series winning pitchers and of course, quarterbacks.

    It's time now to start the slideshow and check out some of the best "old guy" seasons in sports history.

Tim Duncan: 2013-14

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Tim Duncan is truly an ageless wonder. The 6'11" power forward is a five-time NBA champion and the best ever to play his position.

    Even at 38 years old, his play hasn't dropped off enough to warrant any fragment of concern. Duncan averaged 15.1 points per game and 9.7 rebounds during the Spurs' 2013-14 championship season. His numbers weren't tremendous, but in order to understand just how good he was, you have to look at Hollinger's advanced metrics (Insider subscription required).

    According to those numbers, Duncan was the 21st-most efficient player in the league. That put him above talented players like Dwight Howard, Paul George, Joakim Noah, Paul Millsap and Serge Ibaka. Dial that down to just power forwards and Duncan ranks as the seventh best in the NBA.

    Toss in a shiny championship trophy and Duncan just gave us one of the best "old guy" seasons in a long time.

Peyton Manning: 2013-14

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    In a rickety old town full of dust and saloons, there's a place where old gunslingers come to die. After their playing careers have dried up like a raisin in a microwave, these NFL quarterbacks gather here to reminisce about the old days.

    All right, that place doesn't really exist. But if it did, Peyton Manning would drive his Buick right past it and never look back. Manning has defied the logic of being "old" in football and has used his smarts, skill and dedication to the sport to remain the best the game has to offer.

    Last season, Manning's brilliance reached historical levels. Taking on the record books, Manning tossed 55 touchdowns and accumulated 5,477 yards through the air—both NFL records. His arm strength may have deteriorated, but his resolve is stronger than ever.

    2013 was just another reminder of how good this guy actually is.

George Foreman: 1994

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    Lennox McLendon/Associated Press

    If you grew up in the '90s, you probably cooked up slabs of meat smothered in cheese on your George Foreman Grill.

    For a generation of '80s babies, George Foreman was much more than just a boxer. He was a friendly face who allowed us to grill in the comfort of our homes. But as history would tell you, his apron-wearing escapades aren't his greatest claim to fame.

    Foreman is one of the most recognizable heavyweight fighters to ever throw on a pair of gloves. He battled some the greats: Muhammed Ali, Ken Norton and Joe Frazier. He was a ferocious puncher who looked the part of a bully in the ring.

    After retiring in 1977, Foreman surfaced 10 years later on the comeback trail. At 38 years old, he began his quest to recapture the heavyweight title. In 1994, those aspirations came to fruition when Foreman stunned the world and defeated Michael Moorer for the IBF and WBA titles. The heavy-handed Foreman was 45 years old.

Jamie Moyer: 2008

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Pitching isn't always about throwing heat, leaving hitters standing next to a vapor trail. Just ask former Philadelphia Phillies veteran Jamie Moyer.

    At age 45, Moyer found pitching nirvana during the Phillies' World Series run in 2008. His regular season was impressive. Piecing together a record of 16 wins to just seven losses, he gave the Phillies everything he had for 196.1 innings that year.

    In baseball, you'll always have guys who can reach back and use their brute arm strength to shred batters to pieces. Moyer was never that type of pitcher. In fact, according to FanGraphs.com, during his fantastic 2008 campaign, his average fastball was clocked in at just 82.9 MPH.

    His masterful season will always be a part of Phillies history.

Brett Favre: 2009-10

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    Hannah Foslien/Associated Press

    You can't really have a list of "old guy" seasons without mentioning Brett Favre. Favre—the guy who refused to retire—helped the Minnesota Vikings reach great heights in 2009.

    At 40 years young, Favre led the Vikings to the NFC Championship game behind a magical season. Completing 68.5 percent of his passes—the best percentage of his career—he threw for 33 touchdowns. Even better, Favre—an avid gunslinger—tossed just seven interceptions. Again, that was the lowest total of his career as a starting QB.

    The Vikings' season may have ended with a Favre interception in the NFC title game. But watching him turn back the clock and lead this squad deep into the playoffs will be forever etched into the marble slab that is franchise history.

Mario Lemieux: 2002-03

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    KEVIN FRAYER/Associated Press

    Throughout the '80s and early '90s, there was Wayne Gretzky and there was Mario Lemieux. They were two players who defied logic with their talent and efficiency on the ice.

    Unfortunately, Lemieux was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma cancer in 1993. Combined with a history of back problems, though he was still a dominant force on the ice, he stepped away from the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1997. That remained the case until he hit the comeback trail and returned to the team three years later.

    During the 2002-03 season, Lemieux churned out another quality effort. Even at 37 years old, he was able to put up 91 points over the course of 67 games. There will never be another Mario Lemieux. He was a unique talent who overcame tremendous odds and carried a franchise on his back.

Kurt Warner: 2008-09

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Kurt Warner's NFL story is the stuff legends are made out of. His journey from playing in the Arena Football League to winning a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams turned out to be just the beginning.

    After struggling with the New York Giants during the introductory years of the Eli Manning era in the Big Apple, Warner found a slice of redemption with the Arizona Cardinals.

    Under then-head coach Ken Whisenhunt, the veteran QB took the starting job from former first-round pick Matt Leinart and led the Cardinals to an improbable Super Bowl run during the 2008 season.

    Leading up to that playoff run, Warner went on a magisterial tear. Passing for 4,583 yards and 30 touchdowns, he just lost out on snagging MVP honors to the illustrious Peyton Manning. It doesn't really matter that the Cardinals were defeated by the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII. The fact is Kurt Warner was sensational.

    He's worthy of a spot in the Hall of Fame, and there's no better proof of that than his 2008 season.

Michael Jordan: 2002-03

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    CHRIS KELLY/Associated Press

    In the last season Michael Jordan played professional hoops in a Chicago Bulls uniform, he slid past Byron Russell and devastated the Utah Jazz en route to his sixth NBA championship.

    His return for the 2001-02 season with the Washington Wizards was baffling, but still amazing. How could fans of the sport not want the greatest player of all time back stroking jumpers?

    The Wizards finished 37-45 both years Jordan suited up for them, which wasn't very Michael Jordan-like. Still, he played well for two seasons in the nation's capital.

    Jordan's final season with the Wizards was his best. He shot .445 percent from the field and averaged 20 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. More impressive than his numbers was Jordan's efficiency rating. Using the Hollinger index for player efficiency ratings (Insider subscription required), MJ finished as the ninth-best shooting guard that season.

    Who cares if he was 39 years old? Jordan was still out there doing Jordan things.

John Elway: 1998-99

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    ED ANDRIESKI/Associated Press

    John Elway left the NFL with back-to-back Lombardi trophies chilling by his side. The long-time Denver Broncos stalwart was desperate for a taste of glory, and when he finally got it, he decided to go back for a second helping.

    During the 1998 season, Elway led the Broncos to a 14-2 record, passing for 2,806 yards and 22 touchdowns. His numbers weren't spectacular, but that wasn't really his fault. Running back Terrell Davis rushed for 2,008 yards that year, making him a one-man band out there in Denver.

    Elway's crowning moment came in Super Bowl XXXIII. He was named the Most Valuable Player after throwing for 336 yards and a touchdown. The 38-year-old's grandiose performance was a fitting way to say goodbye to the greatest player in franchise history.

Bernard Hopkins

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Advocates of the sweet science will tell you that Bernard Hopkins is an all-time great inside of the ring. He's built a historic career since his debut fight back in 1988.

    According to BoxRec.com, Hopkins has boxed 494 rounds in his professional career. Rounds that have consisted of quality bouts with legends like Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones Jr. (twice), Felix Trinidad and Ronald "Winky" Wright.

    Hopkins has never been a devastating puncher despite sending De La Hoya to the canvas with a crippling body shot in 2004. Despite that, even at 49 years of age, Hopkins is still fighting at a high level. He's stayed in outstanding shape and has used his boxing acumen to frustrate opposing fighters.

    As he prepares for another championship fight later this year, he'll once again look to defy the whole age conundrum.

     

    All MLB, NBA, NHL, college football and NFL information and stats provided by ESPN.com, unless noted otherwise.

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