40/40: The top 40 athletes after turning 40

George Foreman in 1995. George Foreman in 1995. Photo Credit: AP

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Receiving a paycheck for being on a professional sports roster after turning 40 years old is accomplishment enough. But there some athletes who, after they hit the big 4-0, still get it done as they did when they were 25 years old.

That's the basic requirement for membership in this 40/40 Club. Whether it was baseball, football, basketball, hockey or even horse racing, these 40 athletes performed at, above or near their career levels as they got older.

They're listed in alphabetical order. (To see the list in visual form, click on the related photo gallery on the left side.)

1. HANK AARON, Baseball

Aaron turned 40 on Feb. 5, 1974. Eight weeks later, he was the all-time home run king, breaking Babe Ruth's mark of 714. Of Aaron's 755 career homers, 42 of them came after he turned 40.
-- Baseball's 600 home run club

2. KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR, Basketball

By the time Abdul-Jabbar turned 40, it was time to do some stat padding. Having already scored 35,000 career points, the league's all-time scoring leader added two more efficient seasons, averaging 14.6 points and 10.1 points at 40 and 41 years old. He was also 2-for-2 on All-Star teams after turning 40, and won the 1988 NBA Championship with the Lakers.

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3. MORTEN ANDERSEN, Football

Anderson actually got better with age. From age 40-47, he hit field goals at 80 percent or better each season, all of which were better than his career average (79.7). In terms of range, Andersen hit 70 percent (42-for-60) of field goals between 40-49 yards in his 40s. From age 22-39, he hit 68.1 percent (147-for-216) from the same range.

4. GEORGE BLANDA, Football

Blanda, a quarterback and place-kicker, played professional football until he was 48 years old -- which is even more impressive when you realize he played from 1949-75 when player safety wasn't exactly a big concern. In his 40s, Blanda led the NFL five times in extra points; in his 20s and 30s, just three times. In a span of five consecutive games in 1970, the 43-year-old reserve QB led the Oakland Raiders to four wins and a tie with last-second TD passes or field goals.

5. BARRY BONDS, Baseball

In 2006 and 2007, at age 41 and 42, Bonds led the major leagues in on-base percentage at .454 and .480, respectively. Bonds totaled 54 home runs, 143 RBIs and 247 walks those two seasons with the Giants and his last in the majors. With the taint of suspected use of performance-enhancing drugs, Bonds broke Hank Aaron's all-time career home run record and finished with 762.
-- Baseball's 600 home run club

6. CHRIS CHELIOS, Hockey

One of the great defensemen in NHL history, Chelios retired with his 50th birthday in sight. He played eight seasons after turning 40, culminating in a brief stint with the Thrashers for the 2009-10 season as a 48-year-old. He remained productive until he was 46, playing in 69 games that season with the Red Wings, finishing with a plus-minus of +11. Chelios totaled 113 points in 470 games after turning 40.

7. ROGER CLEMENS, Baseball

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His federal perjury case was declared a mistrial, yet his inclusion here may earn an asterisk in your eyes. Keep in mind, Clemens never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and the record books will never be changed. So, here goes: After turning 40 on Aug. 4, 2002, as a Yankee, Clemens pitched through 2007. He was 66-36, including partial seasons in 2006 and 2007. Clemens won the Cy Young in 2004 (18-4, 2.98 ERA) and led the majors with a 1.87 ERA in 2005, both while with the Houston Astros.
-- Roger Clemens photos, videos and more

8. EAMONN COGHLAN, Track

In his prime, Coghlan was one of the fastest milers in history, holding the world record from 1979 until 1997. After his prime, he was still one of the fastest men in the world. At 41 years old, Coghlan ran a sub-four-minute mile at Harvard University's indoor track. He is the only man over 40 to break the four-minute barrier.

9. RANDY COUTURE, Mixed martial arts

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Couture won the UFC light heavyweight title at age 41 in 2004, then won the heavyweight title three years later before retiring in 2011.
-- Randy Couture photos | Randy Couture videos

10. BABE DIDRIKSON, Golf

Didrikson, one of the greatest female athletes of all-time, was a force on the LPGA Tour during her later years. She turned 40 during the 1951 season, and won eight events, including all three major championships that season (the Titleholders Championship, Women's Western Open and U.S. Women's Open). The next year, she won nine tournaments. Didrikson added another five victories from 1953-55.

11. BRETT FAVRE, Football

Age 41 wasn't too kind to Favre -- consecutive starts streak over at 297, a concussion, a sexting scandal -- but 40 was pretty sweet. He led the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship Game behind a career-best 68.4 completion percentage and a career-low seven interceptions. His 4,202 passing yards was his best in 12 years and the third highest in his 20-year career.
-- Brett Favre photos | Right athletes, wrong jerseys

12. JEFF FEAGLES, Football

Age was no obstacle for this punter. In fact, Feagles had some of his best seasons after turning 40. In 2008 with the Giants, at age 42, he averaged 44 yards per punt, the second best of his career. He also made the Pro Bowl for the first time since 1995.

13. GEORGE FOREMAN, Boxing

Forget about his salesman's pitch skills for a moment. The former heavyweight champion still could punch well into his 40s. At age 45 in 1994, Foreman knocked out Michael Moorer, 26, to win the IBF and WBA heavyweight titles. Foreman amassed a career record of 76-5, including a post-40 record of 17-3.

14. JULIO FRANCO, Baseball

Franco was a career .298 hitter and he twice hit above that after turning 40. He retired in 2007 at the age of 48, but not before he hit .300 in 2001 (age 42) and .309 in 361 at-bats in 2004 (age 45). Of his 173 career home runs, 33 came after he turned 40 -- an impressive 19.1 percent. Franco is also the oldest regular playing non-pitcher in MLB history.

15. DARRELL GREEN, Football

As a cornerback for the Redskins, Green was known for his incredible speed. He never lost a step after turning 40 in 2000, and Green still covered the league's premier receivers. Green played in 45 games -- starting in 10 -- from the 2000 season on, the year he turned 40. He had four interceptions over that span, extending his NFL record to 19 straight seasons with a pick. He also forced a pair of fumbles.

16. DAN HENDERSON, Mixed martial arts

The two-time U.S. Olympic wrestler (Greco-Roman) won the Strikeforce light heavyweight title via technical knockout in March 2011 at the age of 41. Four months later, he knocked out Russian MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko, seven years his junior.
-- Dan Henderson stories, photos and videos

17. RICKEY HENDERSON, Baseball

The "Greatest of All-Time" could still get it done, despite playing for five different teams in his five seasons after turning 40. He played in at least 121 games three times and stole bases as a 76.2 percent rate (109-143), just a smidge below his career 80.8 success rate. Henderson, who redefined how baseball teams looked at the leadoff position, had an on-base percentage of .366 or higher in four of his last five seasons, including .422 as a 40-year-old with the Mets in 1999.
-- Rickey Henderson photos

18. CHARLIE HOUGH, Baseball

Imagine any pitcher today in MLB throwing 252 innings. Now, imagine that pitcher was 40 years old. Not a chance. Hough accomplished the feat in 1988, though. He went 15-16 that season, and racked up another 52 wins before retiring in 1994 at 46.

19. BERNARD HOPKINS, Boxing

On May 21, 2011, Hopkins decisioned Jean Pascal to win the WBC light heavyweight title and became the oldest boxer to win a world championship. Hopkins was 46, Pascal 28. Hopkins (52-5-2) is 7-3-1 since turning 40 on Jan. 15, 2005.
-- Bernard Hopkins keeps fighting

20. GORDIE HOWE, Hockey

Howe retired from the NHL after the 1970-71 season as a 42-year-old. Two seasons later, he joined the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association, played six full seasons, amassed 508 points (174 goals) and won a pair of championships. Before calling it quits at age 51, he played in all 80 games (67 points) in one last season in the NHL with the Hartford Whalers.

21. TOMMY JOHN, Baseball

Surgery to repair John's ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching shoulder not only remarkably changed the game of baseball -- it extended his career. John spent 1988 and 1989 as the oldest pitcher in the game, retiring after the 1989 season at 46. He won 55 games after turning 40, pitching over 175 innings four different seasons.

22. MARK MESSIER, Hockey

After a three-season stint in Vancouver, Messier returned to the Rangers as a 40-year-old. In 2000-01, his first season back in Blue, he improved his numbers across the board, finishing with 24 goals and 67 points. At 43, he had 25 assists for the first time in three seasons, and for the 22nd time in his career. In all, Messier netted 67 goals and totaled 173 points in his final four seasons.
-- Mark Messier photos

23. WARREN MOON, Football

In his last game as a 39-year-old with the Vikings on Nov. 11, 1996, Moon broke his collar bone. But in his first full season as a 40-something in 1997 with the Seahawks, Moon started 14 of 15 games he played, threw for 25 TDs against 16 INTs, led the NFL in passing yards per game with 245.2 and made the Pro Bowl. Moon started 10 games the following season, then had just three appearances over the next two seasons with Kansas City before retiring.

24. ARCHIE MOORE, Boxing

An otherworldly 131 career knockouts? Yeah, that takes a long career. Moore turned professional in 1938 at 21 years old, and fought for the final time in 1963, at 46 years old. He went 27-1-2 after turning 40, including 15 wins by knockout or technical knockout.

25. JAMIE MOYER, Baseball

Moyer won 56.7 percent of his games for his career, a number boosted by his 60.1 winning percentage after turning 40. From 2003-10, Moyer went 119-79, including a 21-7 season with Seattle in 2003 as a 40-year-old. In the 2008 World Series with the Phillies, at age 45, Moyer went 61/3 innings and struck out five in a no-decision.

26. MARTINA NAVRATILOVA, Tennis

Navratilova, arguably the greatest female tennis player ever, retired at age 40 only to return three years later. In her six years playing a somewhat limited schedule, Navratilova added these bullet points to her already amazing resume: 12 women's doubles titles victory (seven in 2003) with a half-dozen different partners; three mixed doubles championships at majors (Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open a month before turning 50); her first Olympics.
-- Martina Navratilova photos

27. JACK NICKLAUS, Golf

"The Golden Bear" is the gold standard when it comes to winning major championships in golf. His 18 major victories is still unrivaled as Tiger Woods (14) hasn't won a major since 2008. Nicklaus famously came from six strokes back and shot a final-round 65 to win the 1986 Masters at age 46. He also won the 1980 PGA Championship by seven strokes at age 40.
-- Lundquist called Nicklaus making history

28. PHIL NIEKRO, Baseball

The knuckleballer and Hall-of-Famer pitched until he was 48 years old. At age 40 (1979), Niekro led the majors with 21 wins, 20 losses, 23 complete games and 342 innings pitched, plus six other statistical categories. After turning 40, Niekro went 121-103 with a 3.85 ERA.
-- Yankees' all-time Opening Day starters

29. SATCHEL PAIGE, Baseball

Baseball's color barrier prevented the legendary Negro League pitcher from making it to the majors until he was 42. But Paige debuted with the Cleveland Indians on July 9, 1948. He went 6-1 with a 2.48 ERA as the Indians won the World Series. In 1952, the Hall-of-Famer went 12-10 with a 3.07 ERA. He was named to the All-Star team in both 1952 and 1953. Then in 1965, at age 58, Paige came out of retirement to start one game for the Kansas City Athletics. He pitched three innings, gave up one hit, struck out one and faced just 10 Boston Red Sox.

30. RICHARD PETTY, NASCAR

"The King" was around a long time, driving in 1,184 races over 35 years. After he turned 40, he was still a top NASCAR contender, too. In 1979, at age 42, he placed first in the Winston Cup series. He also won the Daytona 500 at both 41 and 43.

31. LAFFIT PINCAY JR., Horse racing

After turning 40 in December 1986, Pincay Jr. won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (1988), Distaff (1989-90) and Juvenile Fillies (1993). Pincay Jr. was 53 years old when he broke Willie Shoemaker's record for career wins by a jockey with 8,834. Pincay Jr. retired in 2003 with a then-record 9,580 career wins.

32. JERRY RICE, Football

Already the greatest wide receiver in NFL history, Rice caught 92 passes for 1,211 yards and 7 touchdowns the year he turned 40 in Oakland. In the next two seasons, he totaled 93 receptions for 1,298 yards and five touchdowns with Oakland and Seattle.

33. MARIANO RIVERA, Baseball

In 2010, Rivera's first as a 40-something, he posted a 0.83 WHIP, the best of his 16-year career at that point. He was 3-3 with a 1.80 ERA in 60 innings, gave up 39 hits, walked 11 and struck out 45.
-- The Mariano Rivera 600 saves database

34. PETE ROSE, Baseball

Rose was 44 years old when he broke Ty Cobb's all-time hits record in 1985, and he did it while hitting .264 in 500 at-bats, not just as a hanger-on. At age 40, Rose led the National League in hits with 140 and batted .325. At age 41, Rose played in all 162 games. Of Rose's 4,256 career hits, 699 of them (16.4 percent) came after he turned 40. He also hit .327 (17-for-52) in three postseason series after turning 40. Of course, there's still that little matter of being banned from baseball for life for gambling.
- Baseball's 3,000 hits club

35. NOLAN RYAN, Baseball

The world's greatest strikeout pitcher earned 1,437 of his record 5,714 career Ks (25.1 percent) after turning 40. From ages 40-43, he led the majors in strikeouts. Ryan also went 71-68 in his seven seasons since turning 40.

36. WILLIE SHOEMAKER, Horse racing

At age 43, Shoemaker rode Avatar to win the 1975 Belmont Stakes. At age 54, Shoemaker had the mount on Ferdinard en route to the 1986 Kentucky Derby victory. One year later, Ferdinard led Shoemaker to the win in the Breeders' Cup Classic. More than 2,500 of his 8,833 career wins came after "Shoe" turned 40. Not bad for a guy who was born on Aug. 19, 1931, weighing 2.5 pounds.

37. WARREN SPAHN, Baseball

Spahn won 21 games in 1961 as a 40-year-old, and also pitched his second career no-hitter. The Hall-of-Famer led the National League in wins, ERA (3.02), complete games (21) and shutouts (4) that season for the Milwaukee Braves. Spahn finished second in the Cy Young Award voting. Of his 363 career wins, 75 came in the five seasons after he turned 40 -- including a 23-7 mark with seven shutouts in 1963.

38. DARA TORRES, Olympic swimming

In the span of one hour on Aug. 17, 2008, Torres won two silver medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. In the 50-meter freestyle, her time of 24.07 seconds set an American record. And her 52.27 split in the 4x100 medley relay is the fastest 100-meter freestyle split in relay history. Not bad for a 41-year-old swimmer who hadn't competed in the Olympics since 2000.

39. TIM WAKEFIELD, Baseball

Never the greatest pitcher from a statistical perspective, Wakefield was as consistent in his 40s and he was his 30s. In 2008, at age 41, Wakefield posted a 4.13 ERA, the fourth best of his career. Since turning 40 in August 2006, Wakefield is 42-42.

40. TOM WATSON, Golf

As late as 1998, at age 49, Watson was still winning PGA Tour events. Watson led the British Open in 2009 after three rounds, making the then 59-year-old the oldest man to ever lead a major championship that late. He also has six wins in majors on the Champions Tour.

Honorable Mention

Meadowlark Lemon (basketball), Eddie Feigner (softball), Merlene Ottey (track), Herschel Walker (mixed martial arts).

With Bobby Bonett

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