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Which player had the longest professional career, in terms of years? For example, Sachin Tendulkar played cricket professionally for 24 years. Are there any players (across all professional sports) which have had longer careers?

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    I'm sure some golfers have had 40+ year professional careers. Also, in cricket, Bradman had a career that stretched over twenty years (though I think Tendulkar's was longer).
    – Stephen
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 6:58
  • Even in cricket, Sachin's career isn't the longest career. (I don't even think he's in the top 10)
    – Yaitzme
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 7:05
  • Not exactly what you are looking for, but Wikipedia has some stats on mots matches played for ODI and Test. Also on Wikipedia: List of oldest professional athletes by sport
    – Martin
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 7:42
  • This article might also have some interesting information: Tendulkar 16th in all-time longest careers list
    – Martin
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 7:45
  • We'd have to define 'sport' to answer this, wouldn't we?
    – DA.
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 8:00

3 Answers 3

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There are a significant number of athletes who have professional careers longer than 24 years. Going for the longest by sport:

  • Basketball: Vince Carter, 22 years
  • American Football: George Blanda, 26 years
  • Baseball: The MLB record is 27 years by both Cap Anson and Nolan Ryan. Julio Franco played for 29 years, 23 in MLB and 6 in non-US leagues.
  • Ice hockey: Gordie Howe, 33 years, including 1972 when Howe didn't play. If Howe's one shift for the Detroit Vipers in 1997 is included, then his career spans 50 years.
  • Cricket: The longest first-class career was possibly WG Grace, 43 years from 1865-1908. The longest Test career was Wilfred Rhodes just over 30 years, from 1 Jun 1899 to 12 Apr 1930.
  • Golf: Gary Player, 56 years. Player turned professional in 1953 and competed in his last professional tournament in 2009.

Sources: The Roosevelts Longest Sports Careers, linked Wikipedia and Cricinfo articles.

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  • Community wiki answer - please add in other sports.
    – Philip Kendall
    Commented Nov 19, 2014 at 20:32
  • At least for baseball, the term "professional" implies you should count more than just MLB service time. For example, Julio Franco played in MLB for 23 different seasons, but also played in 6 additional seasons in Japan, Mexico, and Korea.
    – chepner
    Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 21:41
  • @chepner Fair point. But if we're going to that level, a player's first professional game is their first rookie league game.
    – Philip Kendall
    Commented Dec 18, 2023 at 21:45
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The challenge is defining 'sport'. The more physical the sport, the more likely for it to be considered a sport, but the longer careers would naturally be in the sports that require less stamina and strength. These also tend to be where some would not call them a sport.

I can't say I follow any of those particular sports too intently. I can't say if those are the longest careers in each one, just that they appear to be notable player with notably long runs.

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  • Welcome to Sports SE. Everyone's opinion of how "sports" are defined will be different. If you would like to address "the challenge [of] defining 'sport'" on Sports SE and voice your input, please see this meta question and perhaps contribute to this meta question.
    – user527
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 14:34
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Wilfred Rhodes played test cricket for nearly 31 years. http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/19376.html

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  • Sorry,I am asking not only cricket, I am asking in all sports, Which player had the longest professional career, in terms of years?
    – johnson316
    Commented Nov 20, 2014 at 12:11

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