They say that age is just a number. It’s a real cliché, but it just might be the truth when it comes to certain elite athletes reaching the end of their career. In fact, many athletes continue to compete professionally well into their forties, beyond what most people consider to be their physical prime. Many assume that a person who’s forty years of age or older lacks the physical edge of a younger player. While it’s clear that younger players are often preferred for their future potential, older players can prove to be an invaluable asset due to their greater experience in the game.
What these veterans may lack in physicality and robustness they more than make up for with knowledge and experience. One thing that often lives on in older players is a desire to compete that can never be taken away from them. For instance, George Blanda and Morten Andersen played in the NFL after they turned 45 and Jamie Moyer didn’t retire from baseball until he reached the age of 49.
Interestingly enough, there are currently no NBA players in their forties, although Steve Nash will reach that milestone in the early part of 2014. Still, the world of professional sports is filled with many athletes from around the world who are content to delay their retirement for as long as they can. The following is a list of professional athletes who are not only currently playing into their forties, but getting paid millions to do so.
10. Adam Vinatieri (40) – Indianapolis Colts: $2.7 Million This Year
Adam Vinatieri is the only player in the NFL as of the start of the 2013 season who is at least forty-years-old. Vinatieri played for the New England Patriots for the first ten years of his career as the team’s kicker. He won two Super Bowls with the team, kicking game-winning field goals in both games. Since 2006 Vinatieri has been the kicker for the Indianapolis Colts and won one Super Bowl with the team. He is one of only eight kickers in NFL history to have 400 or more field goals over his career. Even as the oldest player in the league, he still pulls in $2.7 Million.
9. Raul Ibanez (41) – Seattle Mariners: $2.75 Million This Year
Raul Ibanez once had a substantial salary with the Philadelphia Phillies before he returned to the Seattle Mariners, a team he had played with for eleven seasons. Ibanez was earning $11 million a year a few years ago but his salary has substantially declined as a result of his increasing age. However, in 2013 Ibanez did hit 29 home runs tying Ted Williams’ record for most homers in a season by a player at least 40-years-old.
8. Bartolo Colon (40) – Oakland Athletics: $3 Million This Year
Bartolo Colon has been floating around the baseball world since 1997, and while he did win the Cy Young Award in 2005, it has been tough for him to find a steady job with a single team. He had a strong 2013 season with the Oakland Athletics though, and could potentially return for next season. Colon is a rare example of a 40-year-old who is making considerably more than the $900,000 he made two years ago. The A’s likely won’t mind paying Colon the extra dough for next season as they had the fifth-lowest payroll in the MLB this past year at $69 million.
7. Daniel Alfredsson (40) – Detroit Red Wings: $3.5 Million This Year
Daniel Alfredsson had played with the Ottawa Senators for more than fifteen seasons before heading out to play for the Detroit Red Wings this year. Although he was beloved by his fans in Ottawa, it was hard for the Senators to justify his salary with his declining performance in recent years. Alfredsson did earn $7 million three years ago as captain of the Sens, so his current paycheck of $3.5 million with the Wings is a substantial decrease. In fact, part of his salary with the Senators was bought out before he left.
6. Martin Brodeur (41) – New Jersey Devils: $4.5 Million This Year
Martin Brodeur has been in front of the net for the New Jersey Devils since 1991. In addition to having three Stanley Cup titles, he also holds the NHL’s records for the most wins, saves, games played and shutouts by a goalie. Brodeur has also led the NHL in goaltender wins for nine seasons. In fact, he has over a hundred wins more than Patrick Roy, the second player on the NHL’s career goalie wins-list and nearly twenty more shutouts than Terry Sawchuk. His current salary is a real change from the $140,000 that he got in 1993 but he still earns less today than his career-high $6.9 million in 2003.
5. Ray Whitney (40) – Dallas Stars: $4.5 Million This Year
Ray Whitney has played for eight NHL teams since entering the league in 1991. He has a little more than a thousand career points and has consistently scored at least fifty points a season throughout his career. He won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 but has since played with both the Phoenix Coyotes and Dallas Stars. His longest tenure was a six-year run with the San Jose Sharks at the start of his career, followed by five years with the Hurricanes. Whitney’s current contract is worth $1.5 million more than what he had three years ago with Phoenix.
4. Jaromir Jagr (41) – New Jersey Devils: $4.55 Million This Year
Jaromir Jagr was a prominent figure for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1990s, winning two Stanley Cups with the team. He has more than 680 goals in his career in the NHL, spanning from time with Pittsburgh to six other teams including the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers. Jagr also has five Art Ross Trophies forbeing the player with most points in a season. He also played for three seasons with the KHL’s Avangard Omsk Region and tallied 145 points with the team. Even with his history, his $4.55 million salary is much smaller than the $11 million he earned with the Capitals in 2001.
3. Brad Friedel (42) – Tottenham Hotspur: $6.6 Million This Year
Brad Friedel is an Ohio native and UCLA graduate who has played as a goalkeeper for various Premier League soccer teams in England over the years. He played 287 games with Blackburn Rovers and 114 more with Aston Villa. He has been playing as the goalkeeper for Tottenham Hotspur since 2011. Friedel went to a Turkish team for a $1.1 million transfer fee in 1996 and the amount of money he has earned while in Europe has been increasing ever since.
2. Mariano Rivera (43) – New York Yankees: $10 Million This Year
Although Mariano Rivera had been earning $15 million a year prior to 2013, his $10 million salary for the past season was still one of the highest in the game. This was Rivera’s farewell season as he retired after having pitched for nineteen years as the Yankees’ closer. Rivera’s 652 saves are the most of any player in baseball history and is 51 higher than Trevor Hoffman, who ranks second on the all-time list.
1. Andy Pettitte (41) – New York Yankees: $12 Million This Year
Andy Pettitte, who retired at the end of the 2013 season, was paid $12 million by the New York Yankees in his last year. Pettitte played with the club for fifteen seasons and had more than 250 career wins. Pettitte was part of a team that had the highest payroll in the league at the start of the season. The Yankees paid $229 million in players salaries. This is more than ten times the Houston Astros’ league lowest payroll of $24.3 million.
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