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?
There are a significant number of athletes who have professional careers longer than 24 years. Going for the longest by sport:
- Basketball: Robert Parish, 21 years
- American Football: George Blanda, 26 years
- Baseball: Cap Anson and Nolan Ryan, 27 years
- 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.
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.
- bowling: Pete Weber, 35 years
- poker: Doyle Brunson, over 50 years
- snooker: Steve Davis, 46 years
- auto racing: Larentiu Moldovan, 1 day shy of 40 years
- darts: Billy O'Brien, 34 years
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.
Wilfred Rhodes played test cricket for nearly 31 years. http://www.espncricinfo.com/england/content/player/19376.html