Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon People In Sports

Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

Originally By 22k votes 2.2k voters 211k views 136 items tags f p @

List Criteria: Only athletes whose career was cut short by injury or worse

This list of athletes whose careers ended too soon includes dozens of promising athletes who for one reason or another were forced to leave the sports they loved well before they should have. Their stories are often tragic and leave their family members, teammates, opponents and fans wondering what could have happened had their careers continued. Sadly, we'll never know the answer to that one as these athletes all left their respective sports prematurely.

Some of the greatest players to ever compete in sports like football, basketball, hockey and baseball were forced into retirement due to an injury. Even others were taken not only from professional sports but also from this life following a tragic incident which caused their death. Be it an injury or a complete loss of life, all of these athletes had plenty left to give but a catastrophic event changed all that.

For many of these players, retiring at the top of their game was their decision after repeated injuries made it difficult to compete at a top level. Legendary Boston Bruins hockey player Bobby Orr, NBA star Yao Ming and Super Bowl-winning quarterback Troy Aikman are just a few who fall into that category. Others suffered a one-time injury, sometimes on national television during a big game, that gave them no choice but to retire. Joe Theismann, a legendary National Football League quarterback, fell into that category following what is perhaps the most memorable hit in league history.

While those players retired and often remained in the sport in a broadcasting role, others were not so lucky. Sadly, this list also includes athletes who died suddenly during their professional athletic careers. Those stories are heartbreaking, such as the up-and-coming Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart who was killed by a drunk driver and NFL-player turned U.S. Army soldier Pat Tillman who was killed serving his country.

As hard as it is to find something positive from these career-ending tragedies, each of them have raised awareness about ways that incidents like this can be prevented in the future. I can't think of any better way to honor these fine athletes than making the world a brighter place.
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  1. 1
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    Bo Jackson is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

    the people's #1 & most listed
    Bo Jackson age 53

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    Died at 38 (1903-1941)

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  3. 3
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    Barry Sanders is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

    added by Frostbite
    Barry Sanders age 47

  4. 4
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    Roberto Clemente is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon


    Roberto Clemente Died at 38 (1934-1972)

  5. 5
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    Gale Sayers is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon


    Gale Sayers age 72

  6. 6
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    Pat Tillman is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon


    Pat Tillman Died at 28 (1976-2004)

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    age 80

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  8. 8
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    Thurman Munson is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon


    Thurman Munson Died at 32 (1947-1979)

  9. 9
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    Died at 27 (1943-1970)

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  10. 10
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    added by MadameLil
    Died at 72 (1921-1993)

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  11. 11
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    Died at 33 (1967-2000)

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  12. 12
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    added by wiabux

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  13. 13
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    Len Bias is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

    added by wiabux
    Len Bias Died at 23 (1963-1986)

  14. 14
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    Terrell Davis is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

    added by Pallknowing1
    Terrell Davis age 43

  15. 15
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    Died at 42 (1957-1999)

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  16. 16
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    Jim Brown is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

    added by KirkSaw
    Jim Brown age 79

  17. 17
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    added by BobBrooks
    Died at 46 (1960-2006)

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  18. 18
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    Magic Johnson is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon


    Magic Johnson age 56

  19. 19
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    Hank Gathers is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon


    Hank Gathers Died at 23 (1967-1990)

  20. 20
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    added by DouglasShibut
    Died at 45 (1945-1990)

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  21. 21
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    ranked low on reranks & added by Kenne_W
    Died at 24 (1983-2007)

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  22. 22
    + 221
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    added by KirkSaw
    Died at 24 (1939-1963)

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    often listed & added by KirkSaw
    Died at 55 (1954-2009)

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  24. 24
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    - 65
    Earl Campbell is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

    added by willyboymcoy
    Earl Campbell age 60

  25. 25
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    Died at 64 (1887-1951)

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  26. 26
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    Reggie Lewis is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

    added by dsylvia
    Reggie Lewis Died at 28 (1965-1993)

  27. 27
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    ranked low on reranks & added by willyboymcoy
    age 67

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  28. 28
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    Sterling Sharpe is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon


    Sterling Sharpe age 50

  29. 29
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    Yao Ming is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon


    Yao Ming age 35

  30. 30
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    often listed & added by bojanthebest
    Died at 28 (1950-1978)

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  31. 31
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    added by Harry W

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  32. 32
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    Steve Prefontaine is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

    added by KirkSaw
    Steve Prefontaine Died at 24 (1951-1975)

  33. 33
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    50

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  34. 34
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    Joe Theismann is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

    ranked low on reranks
    Joe Theismann age 66

  35. 35
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    - 79
    Adam Petty is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

    added by psytce2
    Adam Petty Died at 20 (1980-2000)

  36. 36
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    added by bojanthebest
    age 35

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  37. 37
    + 96
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    Ralph Sampson is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

    added by thething256
    Ralph Sampson age 55

  38. 38
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    Alan Kulwicki is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

    added by willyboymcoy
    Alan Kulwicki

  39. 39
    + 111
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    Brandon Roy is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

    added by PW Punk
    Brandon Roy age 31

  40. 40
    + 48
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    Larry Bird is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

    added by StephenOsgood
    Larry Bird age 59

  41. 41
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    Eric Lindros is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

    added by Dave_7672
    Eric Lindros age 42

  42. 42
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    Chris Spielman is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon


    Chris Spielman age 50

  43. 43
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    Jerry West is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

    added by toycannon18
    Jerry West age 77

  44. 44
    + 88
    - 94

    added by Foxcream
    Died at 34 (1955-1989)

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  45. 45
    + 30
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    added by udontneedtoknowmyname
    age 65

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  46. 46
    + 80
    - 91

    added by KirkSaw
    age 68

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  47. 47
    + 66
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    Pat LaFontaine is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

    added by willyboymcoy
    Pat LaFontaine age 50

  48. 48
    + 82
    - 106
    Jay Williams is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

    added by PW Punk
    Jay Williams age 34

  49. 49
    + 94
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    Bobby Hurley is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

    added by PW Punk
    Bobby Hurley age 44

  50. 50
    + 24
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    Dizzy Dean is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

    added by themightyjobu
    Dizzy Dean Died at 64 (1910-1974)

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