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. 
list ordered by

1
+ - 1,683 536
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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2
+ - 978 425
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Muhammad Ali age 75

3
+ - 899 362
Evander Holyfield is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

4
+ - 592 286
Larry Holmes is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Larry Holmes age 68 - 1949

5
+ - 796 425
Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Mike Tyson age 51

6
+ - 860 525
Shaquille O'Neal is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

7
+ - 456 213
Hulk Hogan is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Hulk Hogan age 64

8
+ - 354 190
Kobe Bryant is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Kobe Bryant age 39

9
+ - 358 193
Ric Flair is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Ric Flair

10
+ - 615 398
Chuck Liddell is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Chuck Liddell age 48

11
+ - 550 473
Terrell Owens is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Terrell Owens age 44

12
+ - 532 482
Barry Bonds is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Barry Bonds age 53

13
+ - 639 554
Allen Iverson is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Allen Iverson age 42

14
+ - 234 217
Patrick Ewing is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Patrick Ewing age 55

15
+ - 206 199
Sugar Ray Leonard is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

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16
+ - 443 444
O. J. Simpson is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
O. J. Simpson age 70

17
+ - 391 406
George Foreman is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

18
+ - 121 98
Joe Louis is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Joe Louis Died at 67 (1914-1981)

19
+ - 322 338
Johnny Unitas is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Johnny Unitas Died at 69 (1933-2002)

20
+ - 522 664
Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

21
+ - 80 73
Roy Jones Jr. is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Roy Jones Jr. age 48

22
+ - 179 223
Steve Carlton is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Steve Carlton age 73

23
+ - 229 264
Jesse Orosco is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Jesse Orosco age 60

24
+ - 354 467
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Deion Sanders age 50

25
+ - 203 204
Alex Rodriguez is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

26
+ - 363 450
Emmitt Smith is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Emmitt Smith age 48

27
+ - 121 181
Rickey Henderson is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

28
+ - 139 166
Karl Malone is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Karl Malone age 54

29
+ - 139 194
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Warren Sapp age 45

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30
+ - 66 72
Peyton Manning is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

31
+ - 130 169
Babe Ruth is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Babe Ruth Died at 53 (1895-1948)

32
+ - 100 127
Hakeem Olajuwon is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

33
+ - 127 191
Jimmy Connors is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Jimmy Connors age 65

34
+ - 79 99
Shawn Michaels is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

35
+ - 92 138
Mickey Mantle is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Mickey Mantle Died at 64 (1931-1995)

36
+ - 91 116
Pete Rose is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Pete Rose age 76

37
+ - 172 234
Willie Mays is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Willie Mays age 86

38
+ - 204 317
Randy Moss is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Randy Moss age 40

39
+ - 109 172
Joe Montana is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Joe Montana age 61

40
+ - 136 215
Eric Lindros is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Eric Lindros age 42

41
+ - 117 188
LaDainian Tomlinson is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

42
+ - 82 113
Wade Boggs is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Wade Boggs age 59

43
+ - 43 55
David Beckham is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
David Beckham age 40

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44
+ - 51 70
Frank Thomas is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Frank Thomas age 49

45
+ - 93 156
Phil Niekro is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Phil Niekro age 76

46
+ - 40 55
Martin Brodeur is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

47
+ - 93 133
Gaylord Perry is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Gaylord Perry age 79

48
+ - 56 81
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)

49
+ - 62 90
Sachin Tendulkar is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

50
+ - 49 71
Roberto Alomar is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire