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 46

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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 73

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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 66 - 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 49

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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 62

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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 37

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Chuck Liddell is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Chuck Liddell age 46

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Ric Flair is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Ric Flair

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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 42

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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 53

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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 51

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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 40

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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 68

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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 71

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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 48

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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 58

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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 46

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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 46

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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 43

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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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Jimmy Connors is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Jimmy Connors age 63

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Mickey Mantle is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Mickey Mantle Died at 64 (1931-1995)

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Alex Rodriguez is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

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Randy Moss is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Randy Moss age 38

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Karl Malone is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Karl Malone age 52

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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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Babe Ruth is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Babe Ruth Died at 53 (1895-1948)

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Joe Montana is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Joe Montana age 59

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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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Willie Mays is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Willie Mays age 84

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Phil Niekro is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Phil Niekro age 76

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Pete Rose is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Pete Rose age 74

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Frank Thomas is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Frank Thomas age 47

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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 57

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Wally Hammond is listed (or ranked) 46 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) 47 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

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David Beckham is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
David Beckham age 40

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Sir Stanley Matthews is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Sir Stanley Matthews Died at 85 (1915-2000)

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Roberto Alomar is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire