Sports

Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire 

The Round Mound
Originally by
Updated January 27, 2020 34.4k votes 3.9k voters 88.6k views 82 items

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
Brett Favre is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Age: 50

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: Gulfport, Mississippi, United States of America

Teams: Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings

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2
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Age: 77

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: Louisville, Kentucky, United States of America

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3
Evander Holyfield is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Age: 57

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: USA, Alabama, Atmore

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4
Hulk Hogan is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Dark Orion added Age: 66

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: Augusta, Georgia, United States of America

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5
Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Age: 53

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York City, New York, United States of America

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6
Larry Holmes is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added Age: 70

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: Georgia, USA, Cuthbert

1949

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7
Ric Flair is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Dark Orion added Ric Flair
8
Shaquille O'Neal is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Age: 47

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, United States of America

Teams: Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, + more

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9
Chuck Liddell is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Age: 50

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: USA, California, Santa Barbara

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10
Kobe Bryant is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
jaden-long added Dec. at 41 (1978-2020)

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America

Teams: Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Lakers

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11
Terrell Owens is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
PhilMortenson added Age: 46

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: Alexander City, Alabama, United States of America

Teams: San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, + more

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12
Barry Bonds is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
AdamKoalaSchoenberg added Age: 55

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: USA, Riverside, California

Teams: San Francisco Giants, San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Pirates

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13
Allen Iverson is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Age: 44

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: USA, Virginia, Hampton

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14
Patrick Ewing is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Age: 57

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: Kingston, Jamaica

Teams: New York Knicks, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Orlando Magic, Seattle Supersonics, + more

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15
Joe Louis is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
omh755 added Dec. at 67 (1914-1981)

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: La Fayette, Alabama, United States of America

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16
George Foreman is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Age: 70

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: Texas, USA, Marshall

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17
Sugar Ray Leonard is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
dwayne.blankenship added Age: 63

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: Rocky Mount, North Carolina, United States of America

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18
O. J. Simpson is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Age: 72

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: California, United States of America

Teams: San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills

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

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America

Teams: San Diego Chargers, Louisville Cardinals football, Baltimore Colts

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20
Alex Rodriguez is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KXB13 added Age: 44

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: New York City, USA, New York, Washington Heights

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21
Roy Jones Jr. is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
IanHarvey added Age: 50

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: Pensacola, Florida, United States of America

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22
Jesse Orosco is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added Age: 62

Birthplace: Santa Barbara, California

Teams: New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, + more

23
Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Age: 56

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States of America

Teams: Chicago Bulls, Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards, Washington Wizards, North Carolina Tar Heels men's basketball, + more

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24
Karl Malone is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KXB13 added Age: 56

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: Summerfield, Louisiana, United States of America

Teams: Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, Utah Jazz

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25
Peyton Manning is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
will-avila added Age: 43

Nationality: United States of America

Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States of America

Teams: Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts

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