What is the Average NBA Retirement Age?

The average NBA retirement age ranges from the mid to late thirties. Multiple factors determine NBA players' retiring age; such as injuries, inability to adapt to the game dynamics, failure to perform at the highest level and migrating overseas. 

Another critical factor that affects a player's retirement age is the player's position. For instance, the average retiring age of the forwards and centers will vary from those of the guards and wings.

Therefore, several facets affect the average NBA retirement age. In this article, we will look at the various factors separately that affect an NBA player's retirement age. 

We will also look at what NBA players do in the post-retirement phase. You will also know if NBA players get a pension, and if yes, how much is the NBA pension.

Factors Influencing Retirement of NBA Players

For a professional athlete, the average retirement age is thirty-three years. Basketball being a sport that takes quite a toll on the players' bodies, this early retirement age number applies to NBA players as well.

However, it's not just the physical wear out. As mentioned above, multiple other factors influence an NBA player's early retirement. Let's look at these factors individually.

  • Injuries

Physical injuries are the main reason that affects the careers of all athletes, and basketball is no different. The NBA is a physically demanding sport, and it takes a toll on the players.

Players often undergo injuries, and surgeries often help players get back on the basketball court. One such example is Stephen Curry.


But all players aren't that lucky. Sometimes injuries are severe, and surgeries don't get perfect. In such cases, the player has to retire early. 

  • Position of the Player

Guards often play longer than centers and forwards, and that's because guards can quickly adapt to the game changes. Nevertheless, some guards pay more attention to physical training and may often undergo wear and tear, and such guards will retire early.

The average retirement age of guards is about the mid-thirties. However, the average retirement age is around the early-thirties for the forwards and centers.

The position of the forwards and centers compel them to undergo constant banging which thus causes many injuries. However, the skilled ones often manage to play longer than the average retirement age.

nba retirement age

So, typically big players in an NBA game like power forwards or centers retire early due to a heavy toll on their bodies. However, these players can prolong their careers by changing their gameplay strategy.

Recent examples of NBA players who concluded a long career include the likes of Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Jamal Crawford, Andre Miller, etc.

  • Inability to Adapt

Basketball is a dynamic game with changing dynamics. If you cannot keep up with trends, you will be outdated and not compete well. In such a situation, the player's performance deteriorates, and he has to retire early.

  • Inability to Perform at the Highest Level

Often, certain players perform brilliantly at the high school level. However, when it comes to the highest level and playing overseas, they cannot serve as good.

Hence, along with physical abilities, psychological understanding also matters big time when performing at the highest level. A player who can't keep grounded finds it hard to sustain and retire early.

The longevity of an NBA career is about 4 to 6 seasons on average. Many other factors influence the length of an NBA player's career. 

The average retirement age of NBA players is almost twice the number in 2010 compared to half a century back. Similarly, factors like the length of rotational roles and the height of players also influence the longevity of players' careers. 

Do NBA Players Get a Pension?

The NBA is known for providing one of the most lucrative pension plans. The NBA recently revised its pension plan, which was targeted at including more benefits for the players. The added benefits also apply to players who retired before the revision.

The pension plan applies to NBA players who have played for a minimum of three years in the league. A single year counts if the player has signed a contract for at least one game in the entire season. It doesn't matter if the player was active or not during the whole season.

Retired players are eligible to get pensions from as early as 45 years. Furthermore, there is also the 401(K) plan, and it helps retired NBA players to earn an impressive additional income. 

Since 1965, NBA players have been covered under the pension plan. Along with a monthly pension payment, the players are also entitled to other benefits. These include reimbursement of college tuition fees, lifelong health coverage, etc. 

There is a requirement of an additional cost of $33 million to be borne annually as a result of the improvements to the pension plan. The NBA and the current players agreed to split the amount equally. 

How Much Is the NBA Pension?

The National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) supports former professional basketball players after retiring. The association also aids the process whereby these players can use their influence to promote basketball in their communities.

According to the NBRPA, the pension amounts increased after the 2017 reforms in the payment structure. 

The pensions increased by as much as fifty percent for those players who started receiving their pensions after fifty years of age. Similarly, there is a corresponding increase in the pension amount for those who start receiving their pensions later.

The current minimum pension is $56,988 per annum, and that amount's more than double the pension of retired US federal government employees.

The pension incentives are higher for players who play for a longer duration. For instance, an NBA player who has played for more than ten years can get as much as $195,000 as a pension amount annually.

Players are incentivized to hold off from receiving payments until they reach the age of sixty-two, and pensions after that come with the highest payment amounts. 

Players aged above sixty-two and played for more than a decade can get a pension of more than $200,000 annually. To cite a standard, we can compare NBA pension amounts with the NFL's.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, NFL players retiring before 1993 receive a pre-tax pension of around $30,000 to $40,000 at fifty-five years. It stands to prove how handsomely the NBA pays its veterans.

Post-Retirement Engagements for NBA Players

After retirement, NBA players can either choose to stay occupied in the NBA or invest in ventures outside of the NBA. NBA-related jobs include NBA analysts, announcers, commentators, and team coaches. Retired NBA players have also taken positions to coach high school teams.

On the other hand, many retired NBA players have chosen to move to different career paths. For instance, some like Michael Jordan have decided to move into the restaurant business. Jordan's restaurant goes by the name 'Michael Jordan's Steakhouse' in a few cities around United States. 


Others like J.R. Smith have gone on to complete their higher education. Smith has enrolled himself in the North Carolina A&T State University to pursue a degree in liberal studies. He is also trying his hand in the game of golf.

In another instance of moving on to a different sport, former Houston Rockets first-round draft pick Royce White is transitioning into mixed martial arts (MMA).

Many NBA players also engage in charity and community activities post-retirement.

Many NBA players have gone on to open their ventures. Some of the popular businesses of current and ex NBA superstars are Kevin Durant's Thirty-Five Ventures, Tim Duncan's BlackJack Speed Shop, SpringHill Entertainment of LeBron James, and Charlotte Hornets of Michael Jordan

Wrapping Up: Average NBA Retirement Age

There is no water-tight retiring age limit for NBA players. You can go on playing till you are fit and performing. Also, to have a long career, a player must avoid serious injuries.

If all the factors favor a player and secure his position in the league by signing new contracts, he can eventually have a pretty long career.

While it is rare to find NBA players professionally playing in their forties, some do. For instance, Vince Carter, who called it a career last year (2020), played for twenty-two years until forty-three.

Also, a handful of other players in the game's history had retired in their forties. Here is a list of 10 such players in the NBA's history who had a long career and made a late retirement call. Nevertheless, these are rare cases, and the average retirement age is in their mid to late-thirties.

Retirement is not a voluntary decision for most players, and only players who adapt and evolve to a rapidly changing league can survive and sustain a long career.

While players move on to take up alternate career paths, others take up roles within the game itself. The latter includes announcers, commentators, game analysts, and coaches of basketball teams at various levels.

Have a look at some of the youngest NBA players this season.

Featured Image Creator: Jeff Hahne | Credit: Getty Images

Joshua Bast

My name is Joshua Bast and I have been playing basketball ever since I was 7 years old. I love the game play, I love the feeling whenever I score a basket, but what made me fell in love was the camaraderie with my team mates. This blog is dedicated to help any up-and-coming basketball players maximize their potential.

Joshua Bast