sports 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
1,700 544
Brett Favre is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Brett Favre age 48

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2
994 428
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Muhammad Ali age 75

3
911 362
Evander Holyfield is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

4
600 288
Larry Holmes is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added Larry Holmes age 68 - 1949

5
803 427
Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Mike Tyson age 51

6
868 531
Shaquille O'Neal is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

7
469 215
Hulk Hogan is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Dark Orion added Hulk Hogan age 64

8
367 194
Ric Flair is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Dark Orion added Ric Flair

9
359 196
Kobe Bryant is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
jaden-long added Kobe Bryant age 39

10
620 401
Chuck Liddell is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Chuck Liddell age 48

11
555 475
Terrell Owens is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
PhilMortenson added Terrell Owens age 44

12
538 483
Barry Bonds is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
AdamKoalaSchoenberg added Barry Bonds age 53

13
642 559
Allen Iverson is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Allen Iverson age 42

14
240 218
Patrick Ewing is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Patrick Ewing age 55

15
209 201
Sugar Ray Leonard is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
dwayne.blankenship added Sugar Ray Leonard age 61

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16
449 446
O. J. Simpson is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
O. J. Simpson age 70

17
126 100
Joe Louis is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
omh755 added Joe Louis Died at 67 (1914-1981)

18
395 409
George Foreman is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

19
325 343
Johnny Unitas is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Johnny Unitas Died at 69 (1933-2002)

20
526 669
Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

21
84 76
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 46

22
181 225
Steve Carlton is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
bene added Steve Carlton age 71

23
231 266
Jesse Orosco is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added Jesse Orosco age 58

24
357 470
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Deion Sanders age 50

25
207 207
Alex Rodriguez is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KXB13 added Alex Rodriguez age 42

26
366 454
Emmitt Smith is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Emmitt Smith age 48

27
124 183
Rickey Henderson is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Rickey Henderson age 57

28
142 168
Karl Malone is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KXB13 added Karl Malone age 54

29
142 195
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Warren Sapp age 45

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30
68 75
Peyton Manning is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
will-avila added Peyton Manning age 41

31
133 172
Babe Ruth is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Babe Ruth Died at 53 (1895-1948)

32
129 193
Jimmy Connors is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
blanktape4_18min added Jimmy Connors age 63

33
176 235
Willie Mays is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
RobLein added Willie Mays age 86

34
81 101
Shawn Michaels is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
NickGuthrie added Shawn Michaels age 52

35
101 131
Hakeem Olajuwon is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Hakeem Olajuwon age 54

36
93 119
Pete Rose is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Dave_7672 added Pete Rose age 76

37
206 318
Randy Moss is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Joshballinhard12 added Randy Moss age 40

38
92 142
Mickey Mantle is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Mickey Mantle Died at 64 (1931-1995)

39
139 217
Eric Lindros is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added Eric Lindros age 42

40
47 56
David Beckham is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
real madrid added David Beckham age 42

41
111 177
Joe Montana is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Joe Montana age 61

42
118 190
LaDainian Tomlinson is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
wiabux added LaDainian Tomlinson age 38

43
83 115
Wade Boggs is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Wade Boggs age 59

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44
53 71
Frank Thomas is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
jaysem1031 added Frank Thomas age 49

45
42 57
Martin Brodeur is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Charlie FQ added Martin Brodeur age 45

46
94 159
Phil Niekro is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
blanktape4_18min added Phil Niekro age 76

47
94 136
Gaylord Perry is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added Gaylord Perry age 77

48
51 72
Roberto Alomar is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Roberto Alomar age 49

49
22 29
Sir Stanley Matthews is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
IanHarvey added Sir Stanley Matthews Died at 85 (1915-2000)

50
57 83
Wally Hammond is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
RodneyBlair added Wally Hammond Died at 62 (1903-1965)