Athletes 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. 

1
1,763 567
Brett Favre is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Brett Favre age 49

2
1,050 443
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Muhammad Ali age 76

3
940 380
Evander Holyfield is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

4
628 299
Larry Holmes is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added Larry Holmes age 69 - 1949

5
844 436
Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Mike Tyson age 52

6
906 553
Shaquille O'Neal is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

7
509 224
Hulk Hogan is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Dark Orion added Hulk Hogan age 65

8
405 204
Ric Flair is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Dark Orion added Ric Flair

9
384 229
Kobe Bryant is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
jaden-long added Kobe Bryant age 40

10
635 411
Chuck Liddell is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Chuck Liddell age 49

11
572 489
Terrell Owens is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
PhilMortenson added Terrell Owens age 45

12
550 500
Barry Bonds is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
AdamKoalaSchoenberg added Barry Bonds age 54

13
251 229
Patrick Ewing is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Patrick Ewing age 56

14
650 580
Allen Iverson is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Allen Iverson age 43

America's Most Attractive Female Athletes

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413 415
George Foreman is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

16
221 209
Sugar Ray Leonard is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
dwayne.blankenship added Sugar Ray Leonard age 62

17
458 458
O. J. Simpson is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
O. J. Simpson age 71

18
136 107
Joe Louis is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
omh755 added Joe Louis Died at 67 (1914-1981)

19
544 692
Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

20
333 350
Johnny Unitas is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Johnny Unitas Died at 69 (1933-2002)

21
186 230
Steve Carlton is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
bene added Steve Carlton age 74

The Best Strategy Games of All Time, Ranked

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91 85
Roy Jones Jr. is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
IanHarvey added Roy Jones Jr. age 49

23
361 478
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Deion Sanders age 51

24
235 270
Jesse Orosco is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added Jesse Orosco age 61

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375 460
Emmitt Smith is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Emmitt Smith age 49

26
127 190
Rickey Henderson is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Rickey Henderson age 60

27
86 86
Peyton Manning is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
will-avila added Peyton Manning age 42

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150 174
Karl Malone is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KXB13 added Karl Malone age 55

The Best Current Soccer Players

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146 199
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Warren Sapp age 46

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212 217
Alex Rodriguez is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KXB13 added Alex Rodriguez age 43

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99 162
Phil Niekro is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
blanktape4_18min added Phil Niekro age 79

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55 76
Roberto Alomar is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Roberto Alomar age 50

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133 196
Jimmy Connors is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
blanktape4_18min added Jimmy Connors age 66

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185 239
Willie Mays is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
RobLein added Willie Mays age 87

35
140 180
Babe Ruth is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Babe Ruth Died at 53 (1895-1948)

37 Celebrities Who Played High School Basketball

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96 141
Gaylord Perry is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added Gaylord Perry age 80

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97 147
Mickey Mantle is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Mickey Mantle Died at 64 (1931-1995)

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88 110
Shawn Michaels is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
NickGuthrie added Shawn Michaels age 53

39
97 123
Pete Rose is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Dave_7672 added Pete Rose age 77

40
104 136
Hakeem Olajuwon is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Hakeem Olajuwon age 55

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54 62
David Beckham is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
real madrid added David Beckham age 43

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210 328
Randy Moss is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Joshballinhard12 added Randy Moss age 41

The Greatest Baseball Players of All Time

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142 222
Eric Lindros is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added Eric Lindros age 45

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115 185
Joe Montana is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Joe Montana age 62

45
36 59
Rico Carty is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Rico Carty age 79

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118 197
LaDainian Tomlinson is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
wiabux added LaDainian Tomlinson age 39

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46 62
Martin Brodeur is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Charlie FQ added Martin Brodeur age 46

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54 75
Frank Thomas is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
jaysem1031 added Frank Thomas age 50

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84 120
Wade Boggs is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Wade Boggs age 60

50
24 31
Sir Stanley Matthews is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
IanHarvey added Sir Stanley Matthews Died at 85 (1915-2000)