Which player who debuted in the '90s will be the last man standing?

Adam Vinatieri and Vince Carter are still going strong. As for Bartolo Colon? He's still a free agent and has yet to announce his retirement. ESPN Illustration

On Monday, 42-year-old Vince Carter agreed to a one-year contract to return to the Atlanta Hawks for what is expected to be his final NBA season. Vinsanity is making history simply by returning for a 22nd season -- as he will surpass the members of the prodigious 21-season club (Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Willis and Robert Parish) as the longest tenured NBA player.

But that's not the only major milestone on the table. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, if Carter plays in a game in 2020 he will be the first NBA player to appear in a game in four different decades. The phrase "like a fine wine" comes to mind. We're just saying, whatever longevity measures he has been taking are clearly working and we want in.

After getting over our initial "woah, that's impressive" reaction, we moved on to contemplating what other seasoned vets have been in the game as long as Vince. The findings? There's only three remaining active players in the four major North American sports who debuted during the 1990s. Yep, the decade is three legends short of being reduced to a VH1 special.

It is worth noting that despite his last MLB appearance being in 2018, Bartolo "Big Sexy" Colon is technically still a free agent and has yet to announce any retirement plans. The same goes for NHL stars Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton -- both of whom played last season and, at the moment, remain unsigned free agents.

However, when it comes to athletes who are still active in their respective leagues (with guaranteed homes for the upcoming season) there's just the three.

So who will be the last man standing?


Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis Colts

Pro debut: Vinatieri scored the first points of the Patriots' 1996 season during his NFL debut. He booted a field goal and an extra point in New England's 24-10 home loss to the Dolphins on Sept. 1, 1996.

Teammates of note: Before he teamed with two of the NFL's all-time great quarterbacks in Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, Vinatieri played with the likes of Drew Bledsoe (1996-2001), Tedy Bruschi (1996-2005) and Hall of Famer Curtis Martin (1996-97) in New England.

Vintage matchup: Prior to becoming a Super Bowl hero, Vinatieri showed in the 2001 playoffs how reliable he can be. Even in a blizzard. With the Patriots trailing the Raiders 13-10 in the final minute of their AFC divisional round game, Vinatieri blasted a 45-yard field goal off the snow-packed turf and into swirling winds at Foxboro Stadium. The kick hugged the right upright and sailed through to send the game into overtime. His 23-yard field goal with 6 minutes, 35 seconds left in OT delivered the Patriots to the AFC title game and helped make him a household name.

Why he's still valuable: Vinatieri, a three-time first-team All-Pro and four-time Super Bowl champion, has shown no signs of slowing down. Last season, Vinatieri set the NFL record for most career points and most career field goals made, passing Morten Andersen for each mark. The 46-year-old has made at least four field goals from 50 or more yards in five of the past seven seasons, including a combined 12-of-15 from 2016 to 2017. Vinatieri, who also is No. 1 all time for most postseason points scored, appears a shoo-in for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

When will it end? "As far as retiring, he said he's taking it on a year-to-year basis. Vinatieri is still kicking at a high level and he feels rejuvenated after a coaching change during the offseason." -- ESPN Colts reporter Mike Wells

Note: Free agent kicker Matt Bryant was eligible for the 1999 NFL draft but wasn't selected. He made his NFL debut in 2002 with the Giants.


Vince Carter, Atlanta Hawks

Pro debut: On Feb. 5, 1999, Carter was victorious in his first NBA game, scoring 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting as the Raptors earned a 103-92 road win over the Celtics.

Teammates of note: Wing defenders were likely wiped out after games against the Raptors from 1999 to 2000. Not only did they have to keep up with the high-flying Carter, they had to deal with the explosive Tracy McGrady, who turned 21 at the end of the 1999-2000 season. In 2001, Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon joined the Raptors for his final NBA season. He was 39 years old.

Vintage matchup: Vince Carter vs. Michael Jordan -- a North Carolina fan's fantasy. Well, the matchup between two of the most athletic Tar Heels (and players) in history actually happened four times from 2001 to 2003. Carter's Raptors split those four contests against Jordan's Wizards, with the youthful Carter winning the scoring battle each time. Carter, who averaged 40 minutes in each contest (11 more than Jordan), registered 23.5 points per game. Jordan scored 14 per game, including just four in their last matchup in 2003 -- his final season in the NBA.

Why he's still valuable: The days of Vinsanity might be long gone, but the 2000 slam dunk champ can still punish the rim at 42 years old. In fact, his bucket that entered him into the 25,000-point club came on a two-handed stuff at the end of regulation on Nov. 21, 2018. His true value to NBA teams, however, is with the experience and mentorship he brings. Which is why the Hawks, who tout one of the youngest rosters in the NBA with seven players under 23 years old, signed Carter to a one-year contract.

When will it end? "Carter will play his 22nd year at 42 years old -- with an expectation that he will retire after the 2019-20 season. ... Make no mistake: Next summer, the competition for Vince Carter -- the television analyst free agent -- will be intense." -- ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski


Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins

Pro debut: Chara played his first NHL game on Nov. 19, 1997, helping the visiting Islanders earn a win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Red Wings. The defenseman played 11 shifts in that game.

Teammates of note: As a rookie with the Islanders, Chara likely got a lesson in leadership from Trevor Linden, who played 19 NHL seasons. Linden, who was named a captain of the Canucks when he was 21 years old, served as president of the NHL Players' Association for eight years. He also served as Vancouver's president of hockey operations the past four years. Playing with Daniel Alfredsson for four seasons in Ottawa likely was a thrill for Chara, too. Alfredsson had a Hall of Fame-worthy career, which included recording 100 points in 124 career playoff games with the Senators.

Vintage matchup: Chara met The Great One late in his rookie season -- and Chara helped blank him. The young defender played 12 shifts in a 3-0 victory over Wayne Gretzky's Rangers on April 4, 1998. Even spent 15 minutes watching from the penalty box that night. It was Gretzky's second-to-last season in the NHL, but he was still great indeed. He led the league in assists with 67 -- the 16th time he achieved the feat in his career.

Why he's still valuable: Well, who wouldn't want a 6-foot-9, 250-pound defenseman? Oh, and one who can still play at a high level. Proof of that came when the Bruins signed their 42-year-old captain to a one-year contract extension through the 2019-20 season worth $2 million, plus an additional $1.75 million in performance-based incentives back in March. Chara, who won the Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman in 2009, is considered to still have one of the NHL's hardest shots. He won the hardest shot competition at the All-Star Game skills competition five times in a row, from 2007 to 2012. (There was no All-Star Game in 2010 due to NHL player participation in the Winter Olympics.)

When will it end? "Chara is still the captain of the Boston Bruins, imposing his size and will on opponents -- while giving zero indications of retirement, even as the NHL morphs quickly around him as a younger, faster man's game." -- ESPN hockey writer Emily Kaplan