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. 
list ordered by
1
1,797 582
Brett Favre is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
age 50
2
1,082 448
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
age 77
3
960 388
Evander Holyfield is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
4
869 442
Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
age 53
5
641 307
Larry Holmes is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added age 70
1949
6
927 560
Shaquille O'Neal is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
7
531 228
Hulk Hogan is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Dark Orion added age 66
8
425 210
Ric Flair is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Dark Orion added Ric Flair
9
394 253
Kobe Bryant is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
jaden-long added age 41
10
651 416
Chuck Liddell is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
age 50
11
582 499
Terrell Owens is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
PhilMortenson added age 46
12
561 512
Barry Bonds is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
AdamKoalaSchoenberg added age 55
13
259 238
Patrick Ewing is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added age 57
14
657 592
Allen Iverson is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
age 44
15
423 424
George Foreman is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
16
230 212
Sugar Ray Leonard is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
dwayne.blankenship added age 63
17
145 110
Joe Louis is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
omh755 added Dec. at 67 (1914-1981)
18
463 468
O. J. Simpson is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
age 72
19
555 707
Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
20
341 356
Johnny Unitas is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Dec. at 69 (1933-2002)
21
96 90
Roy Jones Jr. is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
IanHarvey added age 50
22
188 235
Steve Carlton is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
bene added age 75
23
239 273
Jesse Orosco is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added age 62
24
364 486
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
age 52
25
382 467
Emmitt Smith is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
age 50