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
1,689 539
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
984 425
Muhammad Ali is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Muhammad Ali age 75

3
904 362
Evander Holyfield is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

4
597 286
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
801 426
Mike Tyson is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Mike Tyson age 51

6
865 527
Shaquille O'Neal is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

7
462 214
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
361 194
Ric Flair is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Dark Orion added Ric Flair

9
356 194
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
619 399
Chuck Liddell is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Chuck Liddell age 48

11
554 473
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
535 482
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
640 557
Allen Iverson is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Allen Iverson age 42

14
237 217
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
207 200
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
445 445
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
123 98
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
392 408
George Foreman is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

19
323 340
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
523 667
Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire

21
82 74
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
179 224
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
229 265
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
355 468
Deion Sanders is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Deion Sanders age 50

25
205 204
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
366 450
Emmitt Smith is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Emmitt Smith age 48

27
123 181
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
141 166
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
141 194
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
66 74
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
131 170
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
128 192
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
80 100
Shawn Michaels is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
NickGuthrie added Shawn Michaels age 52

34
100 129
Hakeem Olajuwon is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Hakeem Olajuwon age 54

35
92 117
Pete Rose is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Dave_7672 added Pete Rose age 76

36
174 234
Willie Mays is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
RobLein added Willie Mays age 86

37
92 140
Mickey Mantle is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Mickey Mantle Died at 64 (1931-1995)

38
206 317
Randy Moss is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
Joshballinhard12 added Randy Moss age 38

39
138 216
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
118 189
LaDainian Tomlinson is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
wiabux added LaDainian Tomlinson age 38

41
109 175
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
45 56
David Beckham is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
real madrid added David Beckham age 42

43
53 70
Frank Thomas is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
jaysem1031 added Frank Thomas age 49

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44
83 114
Wade Boggs is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Wade Boggs age 59

45
41 56
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
93 158
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
93 135
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
50 71
Roberto Alomar is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
KirkSaw added Roberto Alomar age 47

49
7 0
Jason Terry is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
TRENT13 added Jason Terry age 38

50
21 28
Sir Stanley Matthews is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list Great Athletes Who Waited Too Long To Retire
IanHarvey added Sir Stanley Matthews Died at 85 (1915-2000)