sports Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

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List Rules Athletes who retired too late

Athletes who waited too long to retire for one reason or another made the choice to continue playing, sometimes for several years, when really they should have thrown in the towel. These football, basketball, baseball, and hockey players, along with fighters, were once at the top of their respective sports but couldn't quit while they were ahead. Instead they played into their 40s, 50s and sometimes 60s, and sometimes hurt their teams in the process of their denial.

Arguably, this list contains some of the best athletes ever to play in their respective sports. Professional basketball player Michael Jordan, hockey player Gordie Howe, and boxer Muhammad Ali are all regarded as some of the best ever but sadly they also come in as athletes who played well past their prime. Instead of stopping when they started to decline, they continued to compete and a small part of their legacy suffered because of it.

Perhaps the most erroneous case of not knowing when to stop is former National Football League quarterback Brett Favre. Number four played atop the league for 17 seasons, mainly with the Green Bay Packers, before retiring after the 2007 season. What followed was what was called the annual Brett Favre unretirement, a process that lasted THREE YEARS. In 2008 he played (poorly) for the New York Jets, then he retired again. A few months later he returned to the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings for the 2009 campaign. Lather, rinse, and repeat again in 2010. Spoiler: None of those final seasons led to a Super Bowl victory.

Athletes on this list prove that just because you are great at what you do does not mean you can do it forever. We feel bad for those athletes whose careers ended too soon due to circumstances out of their control but we also go sick of the athletes who refused to retire when they were old and washed up. 

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Brett Favre is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Brett Favre age 48

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Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Muhammad Ali age 75

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Evander Holyfield is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

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Larry Holmes is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Larry Holmes age 68 - 1949

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Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Mike Tyson age 51

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Shaquille O'Neal is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

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Hulk Hogan is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Hulk Hogan age 64

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Kobe Bryant is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Kobe Bryant age 39

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Ric Flair is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Ric Flair

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Chuck Liddell is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Chuck Liddell age 48

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Terrell Owens is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Terrell Owens age 44

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Patrick Ewing is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Patrick Ewing age 55

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Barry Bonds is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Barry Bonds age 53

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Allen Iverson is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Allen Iverson age 42

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Sugar Ray Leonard is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

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O. J. Simpson is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
O. J. Simpson age 70

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George Foreman is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

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Johnny Unitas is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Johnny Unitas Died at 69 (1933-2002)

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Joe Louis is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Joe Louis Died at 67 (1914-1981)

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Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

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Steve Carlton is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Steve Carlton age 73

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Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Deion Sanders age 50

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Rickey Henderson is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

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Jesse Orosco is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Jesse Orosco age 60

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Roy Jones Jr. is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Roy Jones Jr. age 48

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Emmitt Smith is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Emmitt Smith age 48

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Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Warren Sapp age 45

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Peyton Manning is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

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Alex Rodriguez is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

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Jimmy Connors is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Jimmy Connors age 65

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Mickey Mantle is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Mickey Mantle Died at 64 (1931-1995)

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Karl Malone is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Karl Malone age 54

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Randy Moss is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Randy Moss age 40

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Eric Lindros is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Eric Lindros age 42

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LaDainian Tomlinson is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

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Hakeem Olajuwon is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

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Joe Montana is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Joe Montana age 61

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Babe Ruth is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Babe Ruth Died at 53 (1895-1948)

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Shawn Michaels is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

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Pete Rose is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Pete Rose age 76

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Willie Mays is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Willie Mays age 86

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Frank Thomas is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Frank Thomas age 49

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Phil Niekro is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Phil Niekro age 76

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Martin Brodeur is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

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Wade Boggs is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Wade Boggs age 59

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David Beckham is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
David Beckham age 40

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Roberto Alomar is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

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Wally Hammond is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Wally Hammond Died at 62 (1903-1965)

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Sachin Tendulkar is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

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Gaylord Perry is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Gaylord Perry age 79