20-Season Salute

As Kobe Bryant wraps up his two-decade career as a Laker, we tip our caps to 11 stars who played their 20th season with the same team in the past 20 years.


laying 20 seasons in any professional sport is rare. Playing 20 seasons for just one team? Now that's an exclusive club. In the last 20 years, 11 players in the four major U.S. pro leagues have played their 20th season with the same team, with Kobe Bryant and Shane Doan the latest to join the list.

Three more stars might reach that milestone in the near future: Tom Brady, who recently signed a contract extension through 2019 that would take him through his 20th season with the New England Patriots; Tim Duncan, who would be the second NBA player to reach 20 seasons with one team if he returns to the San Antonio Spurs next season; and Dirk Nowitzki, who has discussed playing two more seasons to make it an even 20 with the Dallas Mavericks.

Here's a look at the 11 stalwarts who have played their 20th season with the same team in the past two decades and how sports and society changed during their careers. (Note: Two New Jersey Devils players -- Patrik Elias and Ken Daneyko -- also qualify, technically, but we haven't included them because each had one season with just a single appearance.)

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant turned 18 less than three months before making his NBA debut in 1996. Photography by: Getty Images

Season 1: 1996-97

The Player: Bryant was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 draft and subsequently was traded to the Lakers for Vlade Divac. The teams had agreed to the trade the day before the draft, with the Lakers telling the Hornets to draft Bryant five minutes before the pick was made. Because Bryant was just 17, his parents had to co-sign his first contract with the Lakers. Bryant only started six games his first season and just seven over his first two seasons. He averaged just 7.6 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists during his rookie season while earning about $1 million.

The Game: Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won their fifth championship, beating Karl Malone, John Stockton and the Utah Jazz. The Seattle SuperSonics won the Pacific Division title, and the Vancouver Grizzlies (14-68) finished with the league's worst record. The 20-62 San Antonio Spurs, however, won the NBA lottery and the right to draft Wake Forest center Tim Duncan.

The World: Bill Clinton was president, and the heated East Coast-West Coast hip-hop rivalry came to a head when Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. were fatally shot six months apart.

Bryant will enter retirement ranked third on the NBA's career scoring list. Photography by: Getty Images

Season 20: 2015-16

The Player: It took 15 games, but Bryant finally announced that his 20th season would be his last. Bryant is in the last year of a two-year, $48.5 million deal that many thought was a parting gift from an organization he had helped win five championships. Bryant has averaged 17 points during his final season, but he has not been the same player since rupturing his Achilles tendon in 2013. He played in a total of just 41 games in 2013-14 and 2014-15. He has averaged just over 36 percent from the field the past two seasons.

The Game: Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors are chasing their second straight title and the record for most wins in a season. During Bryant's career, the Seattle SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder, the Grizzlies moved from Vancouver to Memphis and the Hornets moved from Charlotte to New Orleans. The New Orleans Hornets, however, later became the New Orleans Pelicans, allowing the expansion Charlotte Bobcats to revive the Charlotte Hornets moniker; at least some things remain the same.

The World: Barack Obama is serving his final year in office; Adele's "25" was released on Nov. 20 and in just over a month became the top-selling album in the United States for 2015; and "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" is the most popular film so far in 2016.

In His Words: "I've just been extremely fortunate. How many kids can say growing up that when you turn pro, you're going to play for your favorite team in the world and spend your entire career there? It's been a dream."

Shane Doan, Winnipeg Jets/Arizona Coyotes

Shane Doan turned 19 early in his rookie season with the Jets. Photography by: Getty Images

Season 1: 1995-96

The Player: Doan was selected with the seventh overall pick in 1995 NHL draft by the Winnipeg Jets. He was the last first-round pick of the original Jets, who moved to Phoenix the following year. He tallied 17 points as a rookie, with his most memorable being the winning goal in Winnipeg's last regular-season home game against the Los Angeles Kings to clinch a playoff berth.

The Game: The Colorado Avalanche defeated the Florida Panthers to win the Stanley Cup. It was the team's first season as the Avalanche after the Quebec Nordiques relocated to Denver in 1995.

The World: FBI agents arrested Ted Kaczynski at his remote cabin outside Lincoln, Montana, in the Unabomber case; the average price of gas to start 1996 was $1.08; and "Braveheart" won the 1996 Academy Award for best picture.

Doan became the Coyotes' franchise record holder for goals during his 20th season. Photography by: Getty Images

Season 20: 2015-16

The Player: Doan, the NHL's longest-serving current captain, led the Coyotes in 2015-16 with 28 goals, his highest output since 2008-09. It remains to be seen whether he will return for a 21st season.

The Game: During Doan's career, the Hartford Whalers became the Carolina Hurricanes, the Nashville Predators joined the league, the Atlanta Thrashers joined the league and later became the new Winnipeg Jets and the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild joined the league.

The World: "Spotlight" won the 2016 Academy Award for best picture; Taylor Swift's "1989" won the Grammy for album of the year; and 2016 started with the average price of gas at $1.99.

In His Words: "Even after 20 years, it's easy for me to come to work with a smile on my face because it always feels like I'm visiting my extended family when I come to the rink. Good people work here." -- in an article he wrote for The Players' Tribune

Derek Jeter, New York Yankees

Derek Jeter made 15 appearances in 1995, and the Yankees went 5-10 in those games. Photography by: Getty Images

Season 1: 1995

The Player: He was drafted sixth overall in 1992 by the New York Yankees and made his debut with the team on May 29, 1995. Jeter played in just 15 games and batted .250, but he opened the next season as the Yankees' starting shortstop -- the first rookie to start at shortstop for New York since Tom Tresh in 1962 -- and was named American League Rookie of the Year. In 1996, the Yankees would go on to win their first of five World Series with Jeter.

The Game: The Atlanta Braves won their only World Series in 1995, one year after the MLB strike wiped out the entire postseason.

The World: Timothy McVeigh was arrested and indicted after the Oklahoma City terrorist bombing killed 168 people; "Forrest Gump" won the Academy Award for best picture; and a Los Angeles jury found O.J. Simpson not guilty of murder charges.

Jeter appeared in 16 postseasons during his 20-year career. Photography by: Getty Images

Season 20: 2014

The Player: Posting a message on Facebook before the season, Jeter announced that 2014 would be his last season. The message would be a precursor to his new website, The Players' Tribune, which athletes have used to announce their retirements and tell their stories. Jeter, who earned $130,000 as a rookie, made $12 million in his final season. He batted .256 in 145 games and hit a walk-off single in his last game at Yankee Stadium.

The Game: The San Francisco Giants won their third World Series title in five years. The Washington Nationals, who were the Montreal Expos for the first half of Jeter's career, won the NL East for the second time in three years. Mike Trout, who was 4 when Jeter made his major league debut, won the AL MVP award.

The World: The shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer set off social unrest in Ferguson, Missouri; Pharrell Williams' "Happy" topped the charts; and the U.S. announced its intention to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba.

In His Words: "From the time I was a kid, my dream was always very vivid and it never changed: I was going to be the shortstop for the NY Yankees. It started as an empty canvas more than 20 years ago, and now that I look at it, it's almost complete. In a million years, I wouldn't have believed just how beautiful it would become." -- from his retirement announcement on Facebook

Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings

Nicklas Lidstrom was already a world champion with Sweden before lacing up his skates in the NHL. Photography by: Getty Images

Season 1: 1991-92

The Player: A star in Sweden, he was drafted with the 53rd pick in the 1989 draft by Detroit and joined the Red Wings in 1991. Before his NHL debut, he helped lead Sweden to the gold medal in the 1991 IIHF World Championships. Lidstrom scored 60 points in his rookie season, finishing second to Pavel Bure in rookie of the year voting.

The Game: The 1991-92 season was the 75th anniversary for the NHL and saw the league's first expansion since 1979 when the San Jose Sharks began their first season. It was also the last season for John Ziegler as NHL president. He would be succeeded by Gil Stein, who served one season before Gary Bettman replaced him and became the NHL's first commissioner.

The World: George H. W. Bush entered what would be his final year as president; During Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas, Anita Hill testified about alleged inappropriate sexual comments by the nominee; and the Soviet Union broke up.

Lidstrom turned down an invitation to what would have been his 12th All-Star Game during his 20th season. Photography by: Getty Images

Season 20: 2011-12

The Player: Lidstrom remained a productive player for the Red Wings until his 20th and final season in Detroit. The previous season, at age 40, he was named an All-Star and won the Norris Trophy as top defenseman. In his final season, he recorded 34 points and finished his career playing 1,564 games for the Red Wings, the most by any NHL player who played for the same team his whole career.

The Game: The Los Angeles Kings won the franchise's first Stanley Cup, defeating the New Jersey Devils after entering the postseason as the eighth seed. The Atlanta Thrashers relocated to Manitoba and became the new Winnipeg Jets.

The World: Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died the day before the season opener; the Occupy Wall Street movement began in New York; and Vladimir Putin won the presidential election in Russia after four years out of office.

In His Words: "I do take a lot of pride being in one organization, and I never really wanted to leave Detroit and play anywhere else. I was comfortable here." -- to before his Hall of Fame enshrinement

Jason Hanson, Detroit Lions

Since Jason Hanson in 1992, only two place-kickers have been selected in the first two rounds of the NFL draft (Sebastian Janikowski, 2000; and Mike Nugent, 2005). Photography by: Getty Images

Season 1: 1992

The Player: Selected out of Washington State in the second round of the 1992 draft, Hanson made 21 of 26 field goals in his rookie season.

The Game: Instant replay was repealed for the 1992 season after being used since 1986. The Raiders and the Rams finished below .500 for just the second time since both called Los Angeles home in 1982. The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Buffalo Bills to win Super Bowl XXVII.

The World: Bill Clinton was elected as the 42nd president; four LAPD officers were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King, leading to riots; and Euro Disneyland opened in Paris.

Hanson was a career-best 54-for-54 on extra points during his 20th season. Photography by: Getty Images

Season 20: 2011

The Player: Hanson played 21 seasons with the Lions before retiring. No NFL player has played more games with one team (327). In his 20th season, Hanson connected on 82.8 percent of his field goal attempts, a shade over his career rate, and was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month in September.

The Game: During Hanson's career, the Los Angeles Raiders moved back to Oakland, the Los Angeles Rams moved to St. Louis, the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars joined the league as expansion teams, the Cleveland Browns relocated to Baltimore to become the Ravens, Cleveland got a new Browns team three years later, the Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee and became the Titans, Houston got an expansion team in the Texans and Roger Goodell replaced Paul Tagliabue as the league's commissioner.

The World: Arab Spring protests and uprisings spread across the Middle East and Northern Africa; James "Whitey" Bulger was found and arrested after a 16-year international search; and Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Special Forces.

In His Words: "I never thought I'd be playing for 20 years and then on top of that with the same team. I've really been blessed to be able to do that." -- to Hour Detroit during the 2011 season

Joe Sakic, Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche

Joe Sakic spent his first seven seasons in Quebec. The Nordiques became the Colorado Avalanche in 1995. Photography by: Getty Images

Season 1: 1988-89

The Player: Sakic was drafted with the 15th overall pick in the 1987 draft by the Quebec Nordiques and made his debut for the team on Oct. 6, 1988, against the Hartford Whalers, recording an assist. He had 62 points in 70 games during his rookie season.

The Game: The Calgary Flames defeated the Montreal Canadiens in what is still the most recent all-Canadian Stanley Cup finals. The Edmonton Oilers dealt Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings in the biggest hockey blockbuster of all time.

The World: George H. W. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis to become the 41st president; the Soviet Union pulled its troops out of Afghanistan; and CDs outsold vinyl records for the first time.

Sakic played a career-low 15 games his 20th season. He had only three previous seasons with fewer than 60 games. Photography by: Getty Images

Season 20: 2008-09

The Player: Sakic missed a significant chunk of his 20th and final season because of a bad back that required surgery and a snowblower accident that resulted in three broken fingers. He played in just 15 games in 2008-09, recording 12 points.

The Game: The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Detroit Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup, and Washington's Alexander Ovechkin won the Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP).

The World: Barack Obama began his first term as president; former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin resigned as Alaska's governor; and Michael Jackson died at age 50.

In His Words: "It was just a goal of mine, really, to make the NHL. The championships, the Olympic gold -- obviously, those are the best memories, for sure. Just enjoying 20 years of hockey."

Craig Biggio, Houston Astros

Craig Biggio had 26 of his 3,060 career hits during his first season in the majors. Photography by: Getty Images

Season 1: 1988

The Player: He was the 22nd pick in the first round of the 1987 draft and made his debut midway through the 1988 season as a catcher. Biggio, 22, batted .211 in 50 games that season while making $78,000. He became the Astros' starting catcher in his first full season in 1989, before converting to second base in 1992.

The Game: The Los Angeles Dodgers, propelled by Kirk Gibson's walk-off homer in Game 1, defeated the Oakland A's in the World Series. There were still just two divisions in each league, with the winners meeting in the league championship series.

The World: Stephen Hawking's book "A Brief History of Time" was released; "Rain Man" came out (it won 1989 Academy Award for best picture); and George Michael topped the singles chart with four different songs throughout the year: "Faith," "Father Figure," "One More Try" and "Monkey."

Biggio appeared in at least 100 games in each of his final 19 seasons. Photography by: Getty Images

Season 20: 2007

The Player: On July 24, 2007, Biggio announced he would be retire at the end of the season. Later that day, with the Astros and Dodgers tied 3-3, Biggio hit a go-ahead grand slam in the sixth inning of Houston's 7-4 win. In his second-to-last game, Biggio returned to his roots by starting at catcher and doubled in his first at-bat. Biggio made $5.2 million in his last season and batted .251 with 10 home runs.

The Game: The Boston Red Sox won their second World Series in four seasons, Barry Bonds surpassed Hank Aaron as all-time home run leader and Alex Rodriguez won AL MVP.

The World: Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize; the first iPhone went on sale; and the minimum wage saw its first increase in 10 years, going from $5.15 to $5.85 per hour.

In His Words: "I'm a pretty lucky guy. I played 20 years in the big leagues with one organization. I got to change the culture and make this a baseball town with my teammates." -- to the Houston Chronicle before his Hall of Fame enshrinement

Steve Yzerman, Detroit Red Wings

Steve Yzerman played two full seasons, without missing a game, before turning 20. Photography by: Getty Images

Season 1: 1983-84

The Player: Yzerman was drafted by Detroit with the fourth overall pick in 1983. He scored 39 goals and recorded 87 points as a rookie and was one of the youngest All-Stars in NHL history.

The Game: The Edmonton Oilers defeated the New York Islanders to win the Stanley Cup, and Wayne Gretzky claimed the Art Ross Trophy (most points) and Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP).

The World: Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday became a national holiday after Ronald Reagan signed it into law; "Terms of Endearment" won the 1984 Academy Award for best picture; and approximately 106 million viewers tuned in for the final episode of "M*A*S*H."

Yzerman was slowed by injuries during his 20th season but came back for two more years with the Red Wings. Photography by: Getty Images

Season 20: 2002-03

The Player: "Stevie Y" underwent a knee realignment surgery and missed the first 66 games of the 2002-03 season but earned the Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game. He returned to play two more seasons, even coming back for one last year after the 2004-05 season was wiped out by a labor dispute. He wore the "C" as Detroit's captain for 1,303 games (19 seasons), the most in NHL history.

The Game: The New Jersey Devils beat the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim for the Stanley Cup, and Colorado's Peter Forsberg was named MVP.

The World: Seven astronauts were killed in the space shuttle Columbia disaster; the U.S. invaded Iraq; and Norah Jones won eight 2003 Grammy Awards.

In His Words: "I've enjoyed every aspect. My whole career has really been a highlight in that I've really enjoyed playing. At the age of 5, and before that, I really wanted to be an NHL player. It's all I ever wanted to do."

Darrell Green, Washington Redskins

Darrell Green never surpassed the 109 tackles he accumulated as a rookie. Photography by: Getty Images

Season 1: 1983

The Player: Green was drafted with the 28th overall pick in 1983. He returned a punt 61 yards for a touchdown the first time he touched the ball in the preseason and introduced himself to a national audience on "Monday Night Football," when he ran down Tony Dorsett to prevent a touchdown in his first regular-season game. He started all 16 games as a rookie and led the team in solo tackles (79) and was fourth in total tackles (109).

The Game: The Raiders defeated the Redskins to claim the first and only Super Bowl title for a Los Angeles team.

The World: Sally Ride became the first American woman in space as a Challenger crew member; the FCC approved the first hand-held cellphone; and Toto's "Rosanna" won the Grammy for record of the year.

Green intercepted 54 passes in his career, with six returned for touchdowns. Photography by: Getty Images

Season 20: 2002

The Player: Green played in all 16 games during each of his final two seasons and retired just before his 43rd birthday. He recorded one interception in his final season, and in his last game, he had a 35-yard punt return on a trick play.

The Game: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII. The NFL expanded to 32 teams, adding the Houston Texans, and realigned to eight divisions with four teams in each.

The World: The Department of Homeland Security was created; "A Beautiful Mind" won the Academy Award for best picture; and newcomer Alicia Keys collected five Grammy Awards.

In His Words: "For 20 seasons, I have played cornerback for the best fans. You always kept RFK rocking! And it warms my heart every time I remember you chanting my name at FedExField, 'Darrell, Darrell, Darrell.' This is the best community in the world!" -- in his farewell letter to Redskins fans

Tony Gwynn, San Diego Padres

Tony Gwynn never hit below .300 after hitting .289 as a rookie. Photography by: Getty Images

Season 1: 1982

The Player: The player: Gwynn was selected in the third round of the 1981 draft and made his debut with the team on July 19, 1982. He finished his first season batting .289 in 54 games -- the only season in his career that he hit below .300.

The Game: The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers in the World Series, Robin Yount won AL MVP and Cal Ripken was the American League Rookie of the Year.

The World: Michael Jackson's "Thriller" came out; "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" was released to great success; and the average price of a loaf of bread was 54 cents.

Only 74 of Tony Gwynn's 3,141 career hits came over his final two seasons.Photography by: Getty Images

Season 20: 2001

The Player: "Mr. Padre" was hampered by injuries at the end of his career. He played in 71 games in his final season and 107 over his final two seasons. Despite being limited to just 112 plate appearances in his final season, Gwynn finished with a .324 average, his 19th consecutive season batting at least .300.

The Game: The Arizona Diamondbacks beat the New York Yankees in the World Series, Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs to top Mark McGwire's season record and the Seattle Mariners won a record-tying 116 games during the regular season.

The World: George W. Bush was sworn in as the 43rd president; the meaning of Sept. 11 forever changed after terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; and Apple introduced the first iPod.

In His Words: "I wanted an opportunity to play my whole career here. When you think about all the options that you have, that was foremost in my mind. I'm glad that it worked out. Ultimately, the thing that kept me here was the fact that I'm happy here." -- after signing on for his 20th season in San Diego

Cal Ripken Jr., Baltimore Orioles

Cal Ripken Jr. played in only 23 games his first season. His famous iron man streak didn't commence until the following year. Photography by: Getty Images

Season 1: 1981

The Player: Ripken was drafted by the Orioles in the second round of the 1978 draft and made his debut with the team in 1981. He finished his first season with a .128 batting average and no extra-base hits in 23 games. He started the following season at third base, homering in his first at-bat.

The Game: The Dodgers beat the Yankees in the World Series, riding the wave of "Fernandomania" after Fernando Valenzuela led the league in strikeouts en route to winning the National League Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards.

The World: Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the 40th president; 52 U.S. hostages held in Iran since 1979 returned home; and MTV broadcast for the first time.

The Orioles could rely on Ripken's power throughout his long career. He hit 15 home runs in just 83 games during his 20th season and added 14 more long balls the following season. Photography by: Getty Images

Season 20: 2000

The Player: "The Iron Man" showed the effects of playing every day. He joined the 3,000-hit club during his 20th season but only played in 83 games because of a back injury. He returned for his 21st and final season in 2001, winning the All-Star Game MVP for hitting a home run in his first at-bat.

The Game: The Yankees beat the Mets in the Subway Series. A record 5,693 home runs were hit in the majors, and no pitcher threw a no-hitter for just the fifth time since 1949.

The World: George W. Bush won a historically close presidential election over Al Gore; AOL bought Time Warner for more than $160 billion to complete the largest merger in U.S. history; and "American Beauty" won the Academy Award for best picture.

In His Words: "Every player in this game has only a small window in time to do what he can. That's the truth for all of us. What I've been able to do is to expand that window a little bit, make it a little larger." -- to Sports Illustrated during his 20th season

Arash MarkaziArash Markazi is a senior writer for ESPN. Prior to joining ESPN in 2009, he spent six years at Sports Illustrated covering the NBA, NFL and colleges, as well as the cross between sports and pop culture. He first covered the Los Angeles Lakers in 2003 for Slam Magazine while he was a student at the University of Southern California.

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