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
1,717 550
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
1,006 435
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Muhammad Ali age 75

3
918 367
Evander Holyfield is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

4
609 290
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
813 431
Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Mike Tyson age 51

6
874 538
Shaquille O'Neal is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

7
481 217
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
365 206
Kobe Bryant is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
jaden-long added Kobe Bryant age 39

9
378 195
Ric Flair is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Dark Orion added Ric Flair

10
627 404
Chuck Liddell is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Chuck Liddell age 48

11
561 480
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
541 490
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
244 220
Patrick Ewing is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Patrick Ewing age 55

14
645 567
Allen Iverson is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Allen Iverson age 42

15
403 410
George Foreman is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

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16
212 205
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 61

17
451 451
O. J. Simpson is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
O. J. Simpson age 70

18
130 103
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
532 676
Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

20
329 346
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
87 78
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 48

22
232 268
Jesse Orosco is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added Jesse Orosco age 60

23
182 227
Steve Carlton is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
bene added Steve Carlton age 71

24
358 473
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Deion Sanders age 50

25
209 209
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
369 457
Emmitt Smith is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Emmitt Smith age 48

27
125 185
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
75 77
Peyton Manning is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
will-avila added Peyton Manning age 41

29
145 170
Karl Malone is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KXB13 added Karl Malone age 54

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30
143 198
Warren Sapp is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Warren Sapp age 45

31
136 174
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
179 236
Willie Mays is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
RobLein added Willie Mays age 86

33
95 138
Gaylord Perry is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added Gaylord Perry age 77

34
83 104
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
52 74
Roberto Alomar is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Roberto Alomar age 49

36
95 161
Phil Niekro is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
blanktape4_18min added Phil Niekro age 76

37
130 195
Jimmy Connors is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
blanktape4_18min added Jimmy Connors age 65

38
94 121
Pete Rose is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Dave_7672 added Pete Rose age 76

39
102 134
Hakeem Olajuwon is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Hakeem Olajuwon age 54

40
94 143
Mickey Mantle is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Mickey Mantle Died at 64 (1931-1995)

41
49 58
David Beckham is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
real madrid added David Beckham age 42

42
207 322
Randy Moss is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Joshballinhard12 added Randy Moss age 40

43
128 182
Gordie Howe is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
TRENT13 added Gordie Howe age 89

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44
114 179
Joe Montana is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Joe Montana age 61

45
139 219
Eric Lindros is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
UnclScrewtape added Eric Lindros age 42

46
35 55
Rico Carty is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Rico Carty age 76

47
54 72
Frank Thomas is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
jaysem1031 added Frank Thomas age 49

48
5 3
Derek Fisher is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
TRENT13 added Derek Fisher age 41

49
83 117
Wade Boggs is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Wade Boggs age 59

50
118 194
LaDainian Tomlinson is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
wiabux added LaDainian Tomlinson age 38