We are approaching the 2022-23 NBA season where players get older and we might even see some professionals retiring from the beautiful sport. Every year we see star players come in and out of the league, and it will be no different over the next season. Many of the current crops of NBA stars will be retiring at some point over this decade, and it is only natural to see father time set in for even the most well-conditioned athletes.
Retirement is as unavoidable as death or taxes, and every player will retire at some point. In order to revisit history over the past decades, it is time to discuss and name the last NBA player to retire from every draft class. More surprisingly, we will name the last NBA player to retire from every draft class from the 1980 season until the 2005 NBA season. While some of the names are expected to appear, others on the list might be surprising.
1980 NBA Draft – Rick Mahorn (35th Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 6.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.9 BPG
Accolades: 1988-89 NBA Champion, 1989-90 All-Defensive Team Selection
A solid enforcer with a tough-minded attitude, Rick Mahorn was remembered for being a valued member of the Detroit Pistons that won the championship in 1989. Standing 6’10” and weighing 240 lbs, Mahorn was always a factor in the post.
Mahorn was selected with the No. 35 overall pick in the 1980 NBA Draft and ended up retiring following the 1999 season as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. He had a long career, but Mahorn’s stint with the Pistons is what people remember most.
1981 NBA Draft – Danny Schayes (13th Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 7.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.7 BPG
The son of legendary big man Dolph Schayes, Danny Schayes was taken No. 13 overall in the 1981 Draft and lasted 18 years as a professional in the NBA. Standing 6’11” and weighing 235 lbs, Schayes was always a threat when he was in the paint on both ends of the floor.
Mainly a role player over his career, Danny Schayes averaged 7.7 PPG and 5.0 RPG while playing in over 1,100 games across stints with 7 different franchises. His best season came in 1988 when he posted 13.9 PPG and 8.2 RPG for the Denver Nuggets. Schayes retired following the 1999 season at age 39.
1982 NBA Draft – Terry Cummings (No. 2 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 16.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Accolades: 2x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Team Selection, 1982-83 Rookie of the Year, 1982-83 All-Rookie Team Selection
A 6’9” forward, Terry Cummings created a spot for himself as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks. Cummings made 2 All-Star Teams with the Bucks, averaging 23.6 PPG and 22.9 PPG in both of those seasons. A talented scorer, Cummings was a reliable offensive player in his early days.
Cummings would then join the San Antonio Spurs where he would average at least 17 PPG for 3 straight seasons. The forward lasted an impressive 18 years in the NBA, retiring following the 2000 season at age 38.
1983 NBA Draft – Dale Ellis (No. 9 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 15.7 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Accolades: 1x All-Star, 1988-89 All-NBA Team Selection, 1986-87 Most Improved Player
A 6’7” small forward and shooting guard, Dale Ellis made his name as a member of the Seattle SuperSonics. Ellis won Most Improved Player in 1987, made the All-NBA Team in 1989, and also earned his first All-Star berth in 1989.
Ellis averaged 27.5 PPG and 4.2 RPG with the SuperSonics in the 1988-89 season, appearing in all 82 games at an average of 38.9 MPG. The talented scorer would soon see his numbers decline, eventually retiring following the 2000 season at age 39.
1984 NBA Draft – Kevin Willis (No. 11 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 12.1 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Accolades: 2002-03 NBA Champion, 1x All-Star, 1991-92 All-NBA Team Selection
A 7’0” big man who had an extremely long career that spanned 21 years, Kevin Willis played for 8 different franchises. The big man played 11 seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, making the All-Star Team in 1992 by posting 18.3 PPG and 15.5 RPG.
Willis was always capable of defending the rim and using his length to be a bother in the paint, a reason why he always seemed to keep an NBA job. The big man retired following the 2007 season when he was 44 years old, something we might not see again for a while.
1985 NBA Draft – Charles Oakley (No. 9 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 9.7 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Accolades: 1x All-Star, 2x All-Defensive Team Selection, 1985-86 All-Rookie Team Selection
One of the toughest players to ever step foot on an NBA court, Charles Oakley was an enforcer and defensive-minded big man over his career. Starting his career with the Chicago Bulls, he was a protector for a young Michael Jordan.
Eventually, Oakley helped the New York Knicks develop a championship core because he could score inside and also use his defensive intangibles to defend the rim. He eventually retired following the 2004 season at age 40, as he was a member of the Houston Rockets at the time.
1986 NBA Draft – Dell Curry (No. 15 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 11.7 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Accolades: 1993-94 Sixth Man of the Year
One of the greatest shooters ever and the father of Steph and Seth Cury, Dell Curry had a very long career that spanned 16 years. The shooting guard shot a career 40.2% from three and 84.3% from the free-throw line, elite numbers from a shoot-first player.
Curry is remembered for being a player for the Charlotte Hornets where he lasted 10 years as a valuable contributor. Dell averaged 14.0 PPG with the Hornets over those 10 years and is still to this day one of the most consistent marksmen of all time.
1987 NBA Draft – Reggie Miller (No. 11 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 18.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Accolades: 5x All-Star, 3x All-NBA Team Selection, Hall Of Fame
A Hall of Famer and top player from the 1990s, Reggie Miller did it all except winning an NBA championship. Had the shooting guard managed to overcome the dynamic Chicago Bulls teams led by Michael Jordan, his legacy would have taken a totally different level.
Miller made 5 All-Star Teams and 3 All-NBA Teams, but his career will be recognized for having some of the most iconic clutch moments in NBA history. Reggie has to be named among the greatest clutch players ever along with being a top-3 shooter of all time because he ranks 4th all-time in three-pointers made.
1988 NBA Draft – Rod Strickland (No. 19 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 13.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 7.3 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Accolades: 1997-98 All-NBA Team Selection, 1997-98 Assist Champion, 1988-89 All-Rookie Team Selection
One of the most talented offensive players of his generation, Rod Strickland is greatly respected by his peers and opponents he played against during the 1990s. The guard led the NBA in assists in 1998 and also made the All-NBA Team when posting 17.8 PPG and 10.5 APG.
Strickland had a career that spanned 17 years and he retired following the 2005 season when he appeared in 16 games with the Houston Rockets. The guard was 38 years old, and he was clearly a shell of himself by then.
1989 NBA Draft – Clifford Robinson (No. 36 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 14.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG
Accolades: 1x All-Star, 2x All-Defensive Team Selection, 1992-93 Sixth Man of the Year
A 6’10” big man with solid defensive intangibles, Clifford Robinson averaged a career 14.2 PPG and 4.6 RPG with stints across 5 different franchises. The big man won a Defensive Player of the Year award and made 2 All-Defensive Teams in his career.
Robinson lasted 18 years in the league, retiring following the 2007 season when he was age 40. The big man was always capable of using his size and defensive IQ to be an impact player in the lineup, even as he aged and lost his youth and explosiveness.
1990 NBA Draft – Gary Payton (No. 2 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 16.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 6.7 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Accolades: 2006 NBA Champion, 9x All-Star, 9x All-NBA Team Selection, 9x All-Defensive Team Selection, 1995-1996 Defensive Player of the Year, 1995-1996 Steals Champion, 1990-1991 Rookie of the Year, Hall of Fame
One of the best point guards of all time, Gary Payton achieved everything in the NBA game as a floor general and defensive-minded star. Payton has to be recognized as one of the best defenders of all time, as he is one of two point guards to ever win the Defensive Player of the Year award.
Along with being a defensive enforcer, Payton was a bonafide All-Star and Hall of Famer who was also a tremendous scorer. Known as “The Glove”, Payton had a tremendous career by being a two-way point guard that was known to deliver in the biggest games. The 2006 NBA championship was the icing on the cake for his tremendous career.
1991 NBA Draft – Dikembe Mutombo (No. 4 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 9.8 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 1.0 APG, 0.4 SPG, 2.8 BPG
Accolades: 8x All-Star, 3x All-NBA Team Selection, 6x All-Defensive Team Selection, 4x Defensive Player of the Year, 2x Rebounding Champion, 3x Blocks Champion, Hall of Fame
A dominant defensive player with a whopping 4 Defensive Player of the Year awards, Dikembe Mutombo was literally a mountain to climb when he was in the post. For years, he deterred hundreds of shots from going in by blocking them or contesting them.
With his signature finger wag, Dikembe would demoralize teams with his defense as he was a multiple-time All-Star with franchises including the Denver Nuggets, Atlanta Hawks, and Philadelphia 76ers. With a host of impressive individual achievements, Mutombo was a valued member of the Hall of Fame.
1992 NBA Draft – Shaquille O’Neal (No. 1 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 23.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 0.6 SPG, 2.3 BPG
Accolades: 4x NBA Champion, 3x Finals MVP, 1999-2000 MVP, 15x All-Star, 14x All-NBA Team Selection, 3x All-Defensive Team Selection, 2x Scoring Champion, 1992-1993 Rookie of the Year, Hall of Fame
Considered a top-5 center and top-10 player of all time, Shaquille O’Neal accomplished literally everything on an individual to a team level. He won an MVP award, 2 scoring titles, and 3 Finals MVP awards to go along with his 4 NBA championships. Very few big men were as dominant as The Diesel.
Shaq retired following the 2011 season when he played 37 games with the Boston Celtics. After his stint with the Miami Heat where he won his 4th NBA title, he bounced around a couple of times trying to win his 5th championship. It never did happen, and Shaq retired at age 38 in order to ride off into the sunset.
1993 NBA Draft – Lindsey Hunter (No. 10 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 8.5 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Accolades: 2x NBA Champion, 1993-94 All-Rookie Team Selection
Defensive-minded point guard Lindsey Hunter was taken No. 10 overall in his career, making the All-Rookie Team in 1994 by posting 10.3 PPG and 4.8 APG. He would become a solid contributor for the Detroit Pistons, before joining the 2002 Lakers where he won the championship as a role player.
The following year, Hunter won the 2003 championship as a member of the Detroit Pistons, using his defensive intangibles and veteran leadership to make an impact off the bench. Hunter retired following the 2009 season when he was a member of the Chicago Bulls after appearing in 6 games.
1994 NBA Draft – Jason Kidd (No. 2 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 12.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 8.7 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Accolades: 2010-11 NBA Champion, 10x All-Star, 6x All-NBA Team Selection, 9x All-Defensive Team Selection, 5x Assist Champion, 1994-1995 Rookie of the Year, Hall of Fame
One of the greatest passers and floor generals of all time, Jason Kidd had a first-ballot Hall of Fame career. A two-way point guard who did anything to win games including bending the rules, Kidd was an obsessed winner who made his teammates better. After all, he made 10 All-Star Teams over his career.
Kidd made an impressive 9 All-Defensive selections and also led the NBA in assists 5 times. His biggest achievement came in 2011 when he finally won the NBA title after failing in the NBA Finals on two prior occasions. The point guard retired following the 2013 season after a one-year stint with the New York Knicks at age 39.
1995 NBA Draft – Kevin Garnett (No. 5 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 17.8 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.4 BPG
Accolades: 2007-08 NBA Champion, 2003-2004 MVP, 15x All-Star, 9x All-NBA Team Selection, 12x All-Defensive Team Selection, 2007-2008 Defensive Player of the Year, 4x Rebounding Champion, Hall of Fame
Kevin Garnett is one of the greatest power forwards of all time, earning everything on an individual and team level. The Big Ticket made his name with the Minnesota Timberwolves, winning the MVP award and thrusting himself into the conversation of being a top-five player in the world.
Garnett also won the championship with the 2008 Boston Celtics along with winning the Defensive Player of the Year award. The superstar big man retired following the 2016 season when he joined the Timberwolves for 38 games. No doubt, Garnett’s intensity is missed because they do not make players like him anymore.
1996 NBA Draft – Kobe Bryant (No. 13 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 25.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 4.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.5 BPG
Accolades: 5x NBA Champion, 2x Finals MVP, 2007-2008 MVP, 18x All-Star, 15x All-NBA Team Selection, 12x All-Defensive Team Selection, 2x Scoring Champion, Hall of Fame
A top-10 player of all time and a top-two shooting guard, Kobe Bryant was a once-in-a-lifetime NBA talent. He had every skill in the book and basically mimicked what Michael Jordan accomplished in his own career. Bryant won 5 NBA titles, 2 Finals MVP awards, and the MVP award in 2008 to go along with 2 scoring titles.
Kobe was a shell of himself over the last 3 seasons of his career as he averaged under his usual 25 PPG, but he still made the All-Star Team each time. Of course, Bryant played his last game in the 2016 season when he dropped 60 points in his farewell game at age 37.
1997 NBA Draft – Tim Duncan (No. 1 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 19.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.0 APG, 0.7, 2.2 BPG
Accolades: 5x NBA Champion, 3x Finals MVP, 2x MVP, 15x All-Star, 15x All-NBA Team Selection, 15x All-Defensive Team Selection, 1997-1998 Rookie of the Year, Hall of Fame
The greatest power forward of all time, Tim Duncan retired following the 2016 season at age 39. Duncan had won the championship in 2014 with the San Antonio Spurs, earning his 5th NBA championship. But in his prime, Duncan won 3 Finals MVP awards, 2 MVP awards, and earned an impressive number of All-Star selections.
The Big Fundamental made an impressive 15 All-Star and 15 All-NBA Teams over his career, impressive achievements for a superstar that lasted a whopping 19 years in the NBA. Duncan was a dominant defensive player from his rookie season until his 19th season because he simply knew how to defend the paint and win games.
1998 NBA Draft – Vince Carter (No. 5 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 16.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Accolades: 8x All-Star, 2x All-NBA Team Selection, 1998-1999 Rookie of the Year
Considered the greatest dunker of all time, Vince Carter retired after an impressive 22-year career. Carter will likely end up in the Hall of Fame in due time because he made 8 All-Star Teams and 2 All-NBA Teams while winning the iconic 2000 Slam Dunk Contest.
Carter had the knack for bringing the house down with his offensive explosions and terrific slam dunks, but he wasn’t just a player who brought the hype. He is one of the most iconic scorers of his era and his All-Star selections reflect that because his impact was truly impressive.
1999 NBA Draft – Jason Terry (No. 10 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 13.4 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Accolades: 2010-11 NBA Champion, 2008-09 Sixth Man of the Year, 1999-00 All-Rookie Team Selection
Known as “The Jet”, Jason Terry had a tremendously successful NBA career. The guard made a name for himself as a sharpshooter and scorer for the Dallas Mavericks, winning the 2011 NBA championship and also the 2009 Sixth Man of the Year.
Terry also made the All-Rookie Team and had 8 seasons of averaging at least 16 PPG. A clutch scorer with heart and a winning attitude, Jason has to be one of the most popular Dallas Mavericks players of all time although he also had stints with the Atlanta Hawks and Houston Rockets which many will remember.
2000 NBA Draft – Jamal Crawford (No. 8 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 14.6 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 3.4 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.2 BPG
Accolades: 3x Sixth Man of the Year
Arguably the most impactful 6th Man of all time, Jamal Crawford retired recently despite getting drafted No. 8 overall in the 2000 Draft. The shooting guard might have the best crossover we have ever seen, and he terrorized defenders for years in his prime.
Over his career, Crawford averaged 14.6 PPG on 41.0% from the field and 34.8% from three. The shooting guard was capable of creating shots for himself and that is a reason why he won 3 Sixth Man of the Year awards. No doubt, Crawford is one of the most talented offensive players of his generation.
2001 NBA Draft – Tyson Chandler (No. 2 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 8.2 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.2 BPG
Accolades: 2010-11 NBA Champion, 1x All-Star, 2011-12 All-NBA Team Selection, 3x All-Defensive Team Selection, 2011-12 Defensive Player of the Year
A 7’0” shot-blocking machine, Tyson Chandler had a very successful player. No doubt about it, Chandler helped his team win games as he was a vital member of the 2011 Dallas Mavericks. In 2012, he won Defensive Player of the Year with the New York Knicks.
Chandler was always a very solid player during his prime, starting most games and using his length and defensive IQ to have an immediate impact. Even as he aged, Chandler was a locker-room veteran who helped create a winning culture. It is no surprise that the big man lasted an impressive 19 years in the league.
2002 NBA Draft – Nene (No. 8 Overall Pick)
Career Statistics: 11.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.7 BPG
Accolades: 2002-03 All-Rookie Team Selection
Big man Nene Hilario was a powerhouse for most of his career because he stood 6’11” and weighed 250 lbs. An active big man in the post who had a solid offensive game in his prime with the Denver Nuggets, Nene was a very solid role player.
He made the All-Rookie Team by posting 10.5 PPG and 6.1 RPG with the Nuggets and went on to have multiple seasons scoring in double-digits. Nene also played a nice role as a veteran backup big man for franchises including the Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets which is why he played so long.
Credit for the idea: Wilson Sy/Youtube