They've Still Got It: Old-School Stars Who Refuse to Go Quietly

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2017

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 to win the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

The sporting world is all about the next generation. 

Drafts for any sport are major ordeals every time they come around each year. They appeal to the eternal optimists of even the worst teams, but they also offer a glimpse of the future.

But some older stars won't have the throne swiped away so easily.

Think about the old guy in sweatpants at the YMCA balling with the younger guys. The man won't stop because he doesn't want to, or better yet, simply can't.

The following sports stars are similar on a professional level. They keep commanding the headlines because no matter how hyped the next generation is, they aren't going away quietly, and maybe not anytime soon.

Roger Federer

Switzerland's Roger Federer celebrates his victory against Spain's Rafael Nadal during the men's singles final on day 14 of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 29, 2017. / AFP / WILLIAM WEST / IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE -

Don't tell Roger Federer he's 35 years old. Don't try to tell him he turned pro back in 1998, either.

He's not going away.

Things have been spotty for Federer in recent years, sure. The man with 18 majors didn't win a Grand Slam between 2013-2016. Many were ready to write him off, especially after recently taking six months off due to injury.

Federer slammed his way back into relevancy with No. 18 by winning the 2017 Australian Open, slipping past Rafael Nadal in five sets.

Instead of an obituary on a legendary career, 2017 looks like a renaissance of sorts for Federer. The heights it reaches and how long it goes he might not even know.

Rafael Nadal

Spain's Rafael Nadal reacts after a point against Switzerland's Roger Federer during the men's singles final on day 14 of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 29, 2017. / AFP / WILLIAM WEST / IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - ST

Speaking of Nadal, his coming up short at the Australian Open doesn't mean he can't make the list here.

Nadal isn't far behind his rival. He turned pro in 2001 and will turn 31 in June. But many have been willing to write the end of Nadal's storied career because he didn't even make the semifinals of a Grand Slam in 2015 or 2016.

This isn't that big of a deal for most, but it is for Nadal—he won a Grand Slam outright every year from 2005-2014.

Nadal's return to a final at the Australian Open says it all. He talked about his comeback after the final, according to the Australian Open's official website:

I cannot predict what's going on in the future. That's always the same thing. I just think that I am playing well. I just think that I worked hard to be where I am. I believe that playing like this, good things can happen. Can happen here in this surface, but especially can happen on clay.

He is healthy and ready to resume his status as the King of Clay, even at the crisp age of 30. Sports fans have quite the year ahead with Federer and Nadal gunning at full strength.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams of the US hits a return against Venus Williams of the US during the women's singles final on day 13 of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 28, 2017. / AFP / PAUL CROCK / IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTL
PAUL CROCK/Getty Images

One more tennis spotlight for the road. 

The Australian Open, alongside the Super Bowl and even WrestleMania (more on those in a bit), have really set the tone for the theme of 2017—the stars who won't fade away when most would expect.

Serena Williams is one of those. This isn't to suggest her performance has faltered much over the years, but one could reasonably expect a 35-year-old superstar who turned pro in 1995 to start falling off at some point.

Apparently not. Williams took down her sister, Venus, at the Australian Open to make it a Grand Slam title six years in a row and counting. With it, any whispers or thoughts about a falloff drop to the wayside.

This year looks like another run at the top of the sports world for Serena, which isn't a bad thing.

Manu Ginobili

Milwaukee, WI - DECEMBER 5:  Manu Ginobili #20 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots a free throw during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks on December 5, 2016 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges a
Gary Dineen/Getty Images

San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili isn't posting crazy numbers, but he's refusing to go away quietly strictly through helping the team contend in the brutal Western Conference.

Ginobili is well past his prime at the crisp age of 39, hence head coach Gregg Popovich's only giving him 19 minutes per game, a number down even from last year.

Yet, Ginobili still shoots 40 percent from deep and plays a key role on a team second in the conference, still hanging with the likes of the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets—a continual mainstay while some such as the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers come and go.

Maybe Ginobili won't get to go out with a ring, but he's still scratching and clawing his way toward another.

Drew Brees

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 01: Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints looks on during the second half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on January 1, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Now Drew Brees? The man still has numbers. 

One would think Brees is simply a video game at this point. Weapons for the New Orleans Saints come and go, but Brees remains the same. He finished 2016 with 5,208 yards and 37 passing scores, both improvements on the year prior. He also completed a silly 70 percent of his passes.

Keep in mind Brees is now 38 years old and a guy who wasn't supposed to be the same after an early career injury. Now he's a borderline robot from a numbers standpoint, and it doesn't seem like he will slow anytime soon.

Granted, the Saints don't look like a team ready to compete for a title in the near future. Brees doesn't seem like the sort of guy to abandon the city this late in his career, either.

Which is fine—Brees will simply keep marching toward retirement in a loud manner while posting eye-popping numbers.

Vince Carter

DENVER, CO - FEBRUARY 1:  Vince Carter #15 of the Memphis Grizzlies reacts to a play against the Denver Nuggets during the game on February 1, 2017 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by down
Bart Young/Getty Images

Vince Carter, the man behind Vinsanity, looked like a guy ready to quietly fade away while playing the game he loves.

Then this season happened.

Carter is 40. He entered the league in 1998 and has spent time with six different teams. His last stop with the Memphis Grizzlies looked like an uneventful way to close out a legendary career while supporting the guys from the bench.

Except he's posting 24.1 minutes per game this year, his highest output since 2013-14. He's shooting 39 percent from the floor and averaging 8.1 points as a key rotational player for a surprising Memphis squad hunting for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The odds the Grizzlies actually make noise in the playoffs don't seem great. But the grizzled Carter is making a nice end-of-career push after taking a dip into the fountain of youth.

Dwyane Wade

CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 4: Dwyane Wade #3 and the Chicago Bulls talk in the huddle prior to the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on January 4, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, b
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Things might be a bit wild for the Chicago Bulls right now, but it doesn't change the fact Dwyane Wade is in the middle of another solid year despite a change of scenery.

Try to keep in mind Wade is already 35 years old. This is his first year in Chicago after 13 seasons with the Miami Heat, so his strong transition while acting as a veteran mentor for a team hoping to contend is commendable.

Wade averages 18.9 points, 3.9 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game this season while shooting 42.8 percent from the floor. His points per 40 minutes are at 24.8, according to ESPN.com, which is right around his normal output.

Wade will have a hard time downing friends like LeBron James in the Eastern Conference playoffs, should the Bulls qualify. But he isn't letting the world forget about him because he refuses to fall off a cliff in terms of production.

John Cena

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 23:  John Cena enters the ring at the WWE SummerSlam 2015 at Barclays Center of Brooklyn on August 23, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images)
JP Yim/Getty Images

WWE might be scripted, but the toll on the body through in-ring action and a brutal 300-day travel schedule is real.

This makes the accomplishments of John Cena—now 39 years old and having started training back in 1999—all the more impressive.

Cena just tied Ric Flair by becoming WWE champion for the 16th time by taking down global legend A.J. Styles at the Royal Rumble. He'll presumably go on to headline WrestleMania 33 or come darn close to it.

Even casual observers of the WWE will point out something crazy about Cena, too—his in-ring skill continues to improve, matching the new generation of wrestlers. The man could just as easily lean on his old ways and still be a fan favorite, but he continues to push himself and the bar for everyone on the roster.

Tom Brady

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks to pass the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Remember when New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady would surely fall off after failing to make it to the Super Bowl and receiving a four-game suspension?

Good times.

Brady might be 39 years old, but he keeps playing like he's 30. After serving the ban, Brady resumed torching the NFL like he was playing Madden on rookie, throwing 28 touchdowns against just two interceptions. Add in another five and two, respectively, over two playoff games to secure a playoff berth.

No matter what happens in the Super Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons, it is clear Brady is nowhere close to finished. He's remained relatively healthy throughout his career. And so long as the body keeps holding up, the decision-making, presence and overall mental state of affairs helping him to be one of the best of all time isn't going anywhere.

Not bad for a career that started back in 2000 in the sixth round.


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