Athletes Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire  

The Round Mound
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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
1,778 574
Brett Favre is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
age 49

2
1,058 447
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
age 76

3
948 384
Evander Holyfield is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

4
854 439
Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
age 52

5
634 303
Larry Holmes is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added age 69 - 1949

6
913 559
Shaquille O'Neal is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

7
520 226
Hulk Hogan is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Dark Orion added age 65

8
415 206
Ric Flair is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Dark Orion added Ric Flair

9
387 243
Kobe Bryant is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
jaden-long added age 40

10
640 415
Chuck Liddell is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
age 49

11
576 496
Terrell Owens is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
PhilMortenson added age 45

12
556 505
Barry Bonds is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
AdamKoalaSchoenberg added age 54

13
254 233
Patrick Ewing is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added age 56

14
653 585
Allen Iverson is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
age 43

15
418 419
George Foreman is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

16
224 211
Sugar Ray Leonard is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
dwayne.blankenship added age 62

17
139 108
Joe Louis is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
omh755 added Died at 67 (1914-1981)

18
459 465
O. J. Simpson is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
age 71

19
548 700
Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

20
336 353
Johnny Unitas is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Died at 69 (1933-2002)

21
187 232
Steve Carlton is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
bene added age 74

22
92 87
Roy Jones Jr. is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
IanHarvey added age 49

23
236 271
Jesse Orosco is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added age 61

24
363 482
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
age 51

25
378 463
Emmitt Smith is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
age 49

26
128 193
Rickey Henderson is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added age 60

27
89 90
Peyton Manning is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
will-avila added age 42

28
150 177
Karl Malone is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KXB13 added age 55

29
146 201
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added age 46

30
212 222
Alex Rodriguez is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KXB13 added age 43

31
99 164
Phil Niekro is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
blanktape4_18min added age 79

32
186 239
Willie Mays is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
RobLein added age 87

33
133 198
Jimmy Connors is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
blanktape4_18min added age 66

34
55 78
Roberto Alomar is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added age 50

35
97 141
Gaylord Perry is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added age 80

36
140 181
Babe Ruth is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Died at 53 (1895-1948)

37
98 147
Mickey Mantle is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Died at 64 (1931-1995)

38
98 123
Pete Rose is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Dave_7672 added age 77

39
89 112
Shawn Michaels is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
NickGuthrie added age 53

40
143 223
Eric Lindros is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added age 45

41
104 137
Hakeem Olajuwon is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added age 55

42
210 329
Randy Moss is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Joshballinhard12 added age 41

43
54 64
David Beckham is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
real madrid added age 43

44
37 59
Rico Carty is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added age 79

45
116 188
Joe Montana is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added age 62

46
48 64
Martin Brodeur is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Charlie FQ added age 46

47
118 198
LaDainian Tomlinson is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
wiabux added age 39

48
55 75
Frank Thomas is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
jaysem1031 added age 50

49
25 31
Sir Stanley Matthews is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
IanHarvey added Died at 85 (1915-2000)

50
84 121
Wade Boggs is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added age 60