Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon People In Sports
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16  reranks 18,242 votes 1,907 voters 181,371 views by  Power
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Athletes Whose Careers Ended Too Soon

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.
List is ranked by a combination of each item's votes & positioning in reranks
  • 16 ReRanks
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  1. 36
    Up 76
    Down 59

    Adam Petty

    49
    added by: psytce2
  2. 51
    Up 69
    Down 55

    ranked low on reranks
    Alan Kulwicki

    41
    added by: willyboymcoy
  3. 72
    Up 3
    Down 7

    Barry Ashbee

    34
    added by: themightyjobu
  4. 4
    Up 659
    Down 123
    1968 More
    92
    added by: Frostbite
  5. 41
    Up 25
    Down 58

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Bert Jones

    1951 More
    45
    added by: willyboymcoy
    1951
  6. 1
    Up 819
    Down 133

    most listed
    Bo Jackson

    1962 More
    100
  7. 59
    Up 84
    Down 84
    1971 More
    37
    added by: PW Punk
  8. 33
    Up 227
    Down 81

    ranked low on reranks
    Bobby Orr

    1948 More
    53
    added by: willyboymcoy
  9. 40
    Up 98
    Down 100

    ranked low on reranks
    Brandon Roy

    1984 More
    47
    added by: PW Punk
  10. 9
    Up 352
    Down 87
    1943 More
    82
    added by: KirkSaw
  11. 31
    Up 106
    Down 96

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Cam Neely

    1965 More
    58
    added by: KirkSaw
  12. 47
    Up 29
    Down 28
    1965 More
    43
  13. 42
    Up 53
    Down 86
    1972 More
    45
    added by: PW Punk
  14. 12
    Up 348
    Down 104

    Dale Earnhardt

    76
    added by: wiabux
  15. 58
    Up 48
    Down 41
    1951 More
    37
  16. 32
    Up 145
    Down 68
    56
    added by: Harry W
  17. 11
    Up 377
    Down 110
    1967 More
    76
  18. 64
    Up 8
    Down 6

    Dizzy Dean

    35
    added by: themightyjobu
  19. 70
    Up 3
    Down 7

    Don Wilson

    34
    added by: themightyjobu
  20. 63
    Up 2
    Down 0
    1982 More
    35
    added by: alfeyerabend
  21. 49
    Up 9
    Down 15
    1955 More
    42
    added by: udontneedtoknowmyname
  22. 27
    Up 135
    Down 51
    1955 More
    62
    added by: willyboymcoy
  23. 79
    Up 14
    Down 53
    1966 More
    30
    added by: amanchatani
  24. 43
    Up 77
    Down 67

    ranked low on reranks
    Eric Lindros

    1973 More
    44
    added by: Dave_7672
  25. 22
    Up 195
    Down 70
    1939 More
    65
    added by: KirkSaw
  26. 69
    Up 10
    Down 7

    Fireball Roberts

    34
    added by: RodneyShifflett
    nascar racer died in fiery crash in his prime. 
  27. 6
    Up 502
    Down 81
    1943 More
    88
  28. 75
    Up 21
    Down 49
    1964 More
    32
    added by: KirkSaw
  29. 19
    Up 225
    Down 105
    1967 More
    70
  30. 44
    Up 12
    Down 12
    1950 More
    44
    added by: udontneedtoknowmyname
  31. 54
    Up 46
    Down 71
    1972 More
    40
    added by: Pallknowing1
  32. 76
    Up 16
    Down 21

    Jason Leffler

    32
    added by: gamedemon24
  33. 52
    Up 72
    Down 88
    1981 More
    41
    added by: PW Punk
  34. 38
    Up 23
    Down 41

    Jerome Brown

    1965 More
    48
    added by: jerseyboy
  35. 37
    Up 77
    Down 84
    1938 More
    48
    added by: toycannon18
  36. 73
    Up 3
    Down 8

    Jim Bouton

    34
    added by: themightyjobu
  37. 13
    Up 283
    Down 143
    1936 More
    74
    added by: KirkSaw
  38. 61
    Up 40
    Down 66
    1958 More
    36
    added by: KirkSaw
  39. 35
    Up 122
    Down 80
    1949 More
    50
  40. 62
    Up 53
    Down 44
    1957 More
    36
    added by: willyboymcoy
  41. 17
    Up 233
    Down 97
    1960 More
    71
    added by: BobBrooks
  42. 66
    Up 10
    Down 11
    1971 More
    35
    added by: udontneedtoknowmyname
  43. 57
    Up 24
    Down 13
    1956 More
    37
    added by: StephenOsgood
  44. 14
    Up 337
    Down 127
    1963 More
    73
    added by: wiabux
  45. 2
    Up 622
    Down 98

    the people's #1
    Lou Gehrig

    1903 More
    99
  46. 24
    Up 85
    Down 96

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Lyman Bostock

    1950 More
    64
    added by: bojanthebest
  47. 18
    Up 348
    Down 196
    1959 More
    70
  48. 65
    Up 2
    Down 1
    1977 More
    35
    added by: CaitlinDwyer
  49. 21
    Up 127
    Down 85

    often listed
    Mark Fidrych

    1954 More
    66
    added by: KirkSaw
  50. 34
    Up 81
    Down 79
    1980 More
    50
    added by: bojanthebest
  51. 80 +

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