Do you ever wonder how many NBA players there are in the league at a given time? 

Thirty teams consisting of around 15 players per team come to 450 players. Ideally, if you play in the league, you stay with one team for the entire season. There are, however, several different scenarios that can occur during that time: 10-day contracts, players getting waived mid-season, two-way contracts being signed, etc.

This article will shed light on just how many players there are in a given NBA season. We’ll also look at the total player count and unearth some pretty cool findings on the topic. Enjoy!

2019-20 Season Total Player Count

During the 2019-20 season, the league’s last full season, five hundred and twenty-nine players suited up for at least one game in the NBA. League teams are allowed to carry 15 roster players during the regular season. As we stated earlier, that number comes out to 450. So, how is the total number of players off by almost seventy?

NBA in-season player movement is common. While it doesn’t come close to Major League Baseball rosters (with minor-league call-ups and available roster spots), basketball rosters still have some flexibility. So, between all of the movement and the increase of available roster spots during the playoffs (that number increases from 15 to 20), we end up with 529.

The current 2020-21 season doesn’t end until later this summer—but the total number of players this season increased by nine players. The past two NBA seasons have been unlike any other because of COVID and the global pandemic, which is one reason for the jump in roster spots.

As I think about total players each season, I am curious how many players in total have played an NBA game. Let’s dive into that right now.

Total NBA Players In League History

Since the league’s inception in 1946 through the 2018-19 season, 4,374 players have suited up for at least one NBA game. Here are some interesting numbers behind the 4,000+ NBA players:

Players In NBA History Who Played 20+ Seasons: 8

Sure, the Hall of Fame is the highest achievement in your basketball career. To me, though, a close second would be the 20-season club—and that club is pretty exclusive:

22 Seasons 

Vince Carter – 1,541 games

21 Seasons

Kevin Garnet – 1,462 games

Dirk Nowitski – 1,522 games

Robert Parish – 1,611 games

Kevin Willis – 1,424 games

20 Seasons

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 1,560 games

Kobe Bryant – 1,346 games

Jamal Crawford – 1,327 games

This list makes up 0.0018% percent of all of the players who ever played in the league; it’s the epitome of rarified air. 

That group may have some company in a couple of years if the following players continue for a few more years:

18 Seasons

Carmelo Anthony – 1,191 games

Udonis Haslem – 859 games

LeBron James – 1,310 games

17 Seasons

Trevor Ariza – 1,094 games

Dwight Howard – 1,182 games

Andre Iguodala – 1,192 games

Let’s say that all of the above players make it to the 20-season club. That would still only make up 0.003% of the history of the league. Amazing.

% of Players With An NBA Title: 11%

Around 1-in-10 players have ever won an NBA title, making the title club another exclusive group. Now, winning an NBA title doesn’t necessarily mean that you had an accomplished career. It is an unmatched experience, however, that no one can take away from you—whether you won Finals MVP or never saw the court during the Playoffs.

Vince Carter

When Vince Carter left fans speechless after his gravity-defying 2000 Slam Dunk Contest, you never would have believed that he would be in the league for another two decades. Carter’s career included many phases—the high flyer, the star, the diva, the role player, the veteran shooter. Many young fans never knew him at his peak.

Carter’s career spanned so many different generations of talent, dynasties, and storylines:

  • Entered the league during a lockout and still won Rookie of the Year
  • Played through two lockouts in total
  • Never made it to the NBA Finals in 22 seasons
  • Witnessed five dynasties: The Spurs, The Lakers (twice), the Heat (I’ll consider your argument against), and the Warriors
  • Saw Michael Jordan un-retire, then re-retire

Here is a crazy stat for you: during his 22-season career, Vince Carter played with or against 1,672 total NBA players. With 4,509 total players ever playing in the NBA at the time of Carter’s retirement, that means Carter has played against 37% of the players in league history. Wow.

I grew up watching Vince Carter. He played for UNC when I was a teenage hoops fanatic and entered the NBA the year before I went to college. 

When VC entered the league in 1998 for the Toronto Raptors, his oldest teammate was Kevin Willis, who was born in 1962. Carter’s final season, while playing for the Atlanta Hawks, Carter’s youngest teammate was Cam Reddish, who was born in 1999. A full thirty-seven years separate Willis and Reddish’s birth years, solidifying Carter’s longevity as a player.

Final Thoughts

The number of players in the league can vary substantially, depending on the year. Just think how rare the feat of playing NBA basketball is for aspiring hoopers. There are 7.6 billion people on earth—and only around 500 play in the NBA. The odds truly are stacked against the league’s next generation, making the players in the league’s skill that much more impressive.

Can you believe the numbers for Vince Carter’s career? Let us know your favorite memory of Vince Carter’s career below in the comments section!