New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is poised to make potential history as the first 40-year-old quarterback to lead his team to a Super Bowl championship. But that makes him the latest in a long line of sports greats to defy age and excel after hitting the milestone birthday. To celebrate those other physical wonders, ESPN put together a tribute for 40 of them.
Among those celebrated: Atlanta Brave great Hank Aaron, who tuned out racial insults and death threats as a 40-year-old to hit his 715th home run on April 8, 1974, breaking Babe Ruth’s once-untouchable career record. Then there’s Los Angeles Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who led his team to three NBA Finals, winning twice, after turning 40. It took Pete Rose until he reached 44 to break Ty Cobb’s career hits record. Boxer George Foreman regained the heavyweight title at the age of 45 by knocking out Michael Moorer. Tennis great Martina Navratilova used to joke that “the ball doesn’t know how old I am,” winning her last mixed doubles Grand Slam title in 2006, one month before her 50th birthday. Gordie Howe, widely considered the second greatest hockey player of all time behind Wayne Gretzky, played alongside his sons Mark and Marty in six World Hockey Association seasons before making his final NHL appearance at age 52. After Major League Baseball desegregated, Negro League pitching great Satchel Paige played in the majors at 42 and went 28-31 with a 3.29 ERA in six seasons with the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns and Kansas City Athletics. He didn’t hang up his glove until he turned 59.