For years, Vince Carter’s resolve to keep his NBA dream alive made him the oldest player in the league. But after hanging up the sneakers at the end of the 2019-20 season, he ceded the title of the elder statesman. That distinction now belongs to a Miami Heat staple, one who has long defined the organization’s culture and decades of excellence.
Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem is the oldest active player in the NBA
Udonis Haslem signed with the Miami Heat as an undrafted free agent back in 2003. Over 18 years later, he’s one of the most definitive players in franchise history, and the oldest active player in the NBA today.
The 41-year-old is, to this point, a three-time champion. He ranks fourth in franchise history in win shares. He’s second in both games and minutes played while ranking first all-time in rebounds.
Haslem never filled up the scoring sheet, but he still played a pivotal role in Miami’s three championships. His relentless work ethic on the offensive glass and the defensive side of the ball set the tone for the rest of the group. That same grit and hard-nosed approach remain defining descriptors of the guys on the current Heat roster and manifest themselves how Pat Riley conducts basketball business.
But Haslem is all the more important to Miami because he’s homegrown. Haslem grew up in the city and went to the University of Florida. His local roots and allegiance to the community make his role with the Heat all the more special.
Although UD doesn’t play much — he made just one memorable appearance in 2020-21 and rarely sees the floor this season — his presence in the locker room means more than any contribution in the box score.
Haslem is the seventh-oldest player to suit up for an NBA game
Only six players in the history of the NBA were older than Udonis Haslem when they played their final NBA games. The names above and just below him are pretty reputable.
Some of the players older than Haslem include Carter, Robert Parish, Dikembe Mutombo, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Below him are Bob Cousy, Karl Malone, John Stockton, and Dirk Nowitzki.
Haslem might not be a Hall of Famer such as the guys in that company, but the quality of those names still speaks to his impact and longevity. He is as important to the Heat as any other player has been to a single franchise.
Interestingly enough, it might not be long until one of Haslem’s former teammates takes up the mantle of oldest player in the NBA.
LeBron James is among the next-oldest players in the NBA
Time will tell when Udonis Haslem decides to retire from the NBA. However, a former teammate could eventually take his place as the oldest player when he does.
Golden State Warriors swingman Andre Iguodala is the second-oldest player in the league. Immediately after him are Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.
LeBron and Haslem shared the floor from 2010 to 2014, winning back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013. Soon enough, he could take the crown once held by Haslem. King James is almost as dominant in Year 19 as ever before, and his desire to play with his son, Bronny, could propel him to play into his 40s.
For now, James is likely hoping to etch his name into Los Angeles Lakers lore. Meanwhile, Haslem is already well ingrained in Heat history and will continue to provide both the organization and the city of Miami with leadership and benevolence.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.