athletes Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire  

The Round Mound
Originally by
32.8k votes 3.8k voters 86.4k views 141 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
1,745 559
Brett Favre is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Brett Favre age 49

2
1,031 438
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Muhammad Ali age 76

3
931 373
Evander Holyfield is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

4
619 294
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
827 434
Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Mike Tyson age 52

6
894 546
Shaquille O'Neal is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

7
499 221
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
393 199
Ric Flair is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Dark Orion added Ric Flair

9
377 219
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
631 408
Chuck Liddell is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Chuck Liddell age 49

11
567 485
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
546 493
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
251 224
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
647 572
Allen Iverson is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Allen Iverson age 43

The Best Current Soccer Players

15
409 412
George Foreman is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

16
218 207
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
455 454
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
132 105
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
540 683
Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

20
331 349
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
89 84
Roy Jones Jr. is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
IanHarvey added Roy Jones Jr. age 49

The Best Men's Fashion Magazines

22
234 269
Jesse Orosco is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added Jesse Orosco age 61

23
183 229
Steve Carlton is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
bene added Steve Carlton age 74

24
358 476
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Deion Sanders age 51

25
373 458
Emmitt Smith is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Emmitt Smith age 49

26
211 213
Alex Rodriguez is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KXB13 added Alex Rodriguez age 43

27
80 82
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

28
127 188
Rickey Henderson is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Rickey Henderson age 60

America's Most Attractive Female Athletes

29
147 172
Karl Malone is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KXB13 added Karl Malone age 55

30
145 199
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Warren Sapp age 46

31
183 238
Willie Mays is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
RobLein added Willie Mays age 87

32
97 162
Phil Niekro is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
blanktape4_18min added Phil Niekro age 79

33
136 178
Babe Ruth is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Babe Ruth Died at 53 (1895-1948)

34
54 76
Roberto Alomar is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Roberto Alomar age 50

35
132 196
Jimmy Connors is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
blanktape4_18min added Jimmy Connors age 66

37 Celebrities Who Played High School Basketball

36
96 140
Gaylord Perry is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added Gaylord Perry age 80

37
104 135
Hakeem Olajuwon is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Hakeem Olajuwon age 55

38
85 109
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
95 123
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
51 61
David Beckham is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
real madrid added David Beckham age 43

41
95 147
Mickey Mantle is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Mickey Mantle Died at 64 (1931-1995)

42
131 186
Gordie Howe is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
TRENT13 added Gordie Howe age 90

The Top NBA Players Of All Time

43
208 326
Randy Moss is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Joshballinhard12 added Randy Moss age 41

44
141 222
Eric Lindros is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added Eric Lindros age 45

45
114 182
Joe Montana is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Joe Montana age 62

46
35 57
Rico Carty is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Rico Carty age 79

47
6 4
Derek Fisher is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
TRENT13 added Derek Fisher age 44

48
54 74
Frank Thomas is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
jaysem1031 added Frank Thomas age 50

49
45 61
Martin Brodeur is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Charlie FQ added Martin Brodeur age 46

50
84 119
Wade Boggs is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Wade Boggs age 60