Best 'old guards' of all-time
Three over-35 guards had impact on their playoff teams this season
Thanks in large part to advances in sports medicine and conditioning, more and more NBA players are extending their careers into their mid-to-late 30s. For example, in the 1970s, players age 35 or older were on the court for just 1.4 percent of all minutes played, but by the 2000s, that number had risen sharply to 5.25 percent.
But these cases are not equally distributed among the five positions. As players age, speed and quickness almost always fade before strength. Thus, players at positions that tend to rely more on speed and quickness (guards) are likely to have shorter careers than players who play positions that rely more on strength (post players).
The numbers back this up: Since the 1979-80 season, there have been 126 cases where a power forward or center age 35 or older qualified for the league leaderboard in minutes per game, but just 66 such cases for point guards and shooting guards.
In other words, guards who are able to retain their effectiveness into their mid-to-late 30s are both rare and exceedingly valuable. Here are the top five guards in NBA history based on their performance from age 35 to the end of their career, with three of the five having had profound impact on playoff-bound teams this season: