Sports

Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire 

The Round Mound
Originally by
34.4k votes 3.9k voters 88.5k 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
2
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
3
Evander Holyfield is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
4
Hulk Hogan is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
5
Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
6
Larry Holmes is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
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
9
Chuck Liddell is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
10
Kobe Bryant is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
11
Terrell Owens is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
12
Barry Bonds is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
13
Allen Iverson is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
14
Patrick Ewing is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
15
Joe Louis is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
16
George Foreman is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
17
Sugar Ray Leonard is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
18
O. J. Simpson is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
19
Johnny Unitas is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
20
Alex Rodriguez is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
21
Roy Jones Jr. is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
22
Jesse Orosco is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added
age 62
23
Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
24
Karl Malone is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
25
Peyton Manning is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire