Professional Athletes Bounce Out of Retirement — The Top 15 Anti Retirement Stories in Sports

What is it with professional athletes? Why can’t they retire? They announce to the world that they are going to retire, and often do so for a little while. But then they go back to work. For top athletes, if it is not the money that keeps them working, what is it?

Some athletes return to their sports, others try new sports, some become coaches and many more transition into other highly successful careers.

Top 15 Anti Retirement Stories

Here are the Top 15 stories of athletes bouncing out of retirement:

  • Michael Jordan: The king of retirement remorse is of course Michael Jordan. He went from arguably the best basketball player ever to baseball player and then back to basketball player… Then he became a basketball manager – as owner of the Washington Wizards. And then he made the stunning announcement that he would return to play in 2001 – And play he did, racking up records. Jordan’s final pro-basketball season was the 2002-2003 season. But Jordan is only 44 years old; we don’t think this retirement story is over. What’s next for Jordan?
  • Lance Armstrong: Armstrong’s first retirement due to cancer clearly was not what or when he wanted it to be. He returned to professional cycling in 1998 and won SEVEN consecutive Tour de France titles. While we think Armstrong is officially retired from cycling, we are impressed with his new career as cancer fundraiser and we’ve heard the rumors that he may re invent himself as a civic leader – Governor Armstrong? Senator Armstrong? President Armstrong?
  • Roger Clemens: Clemens is the pitcher who gained most of his fame while playing for the Boston Red Sox and the NY Yankees. He has changed his mind about retirement three times, just like Michael Jordan! The difference between them though is that Clemens is still playing! Clemens is one of the oldest pitchers in major league baseball at 46. Will he ever actually retire?
  • Floyd Mayweather Jr: Just this weekend, after his fight for the WBC welterweight title, boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. announced for a second time that he would retire. “Just to be the face of boxing is a blessing, but I have to walk away. I was once told never to let boxing retire you”. But then he added: “If they give me a price I can’t resist…,” implying that he may fight again if paid enough money. Mayweather’s first retirement came after his “super-fight” against Oscar de la Hoya, which he won and for which he earned $35 million.
  • Brett Favre: Favre is currently in his 17th season in the NFL; during 16 of those 17 seasons he has been the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. After a series of personal tragedies throughout the 2003-2005 time period, Favre commented that the 2006 season would be his last. However, Favre continued to play in the 2007 season, which is still ongoing.
  • Martina Navratilova: Navratilovastarted playing professional tennis in 1975 and finally retired completely in 2006, just shy of her 50th birthday. In 1994 she announced her retirement from the singles tour but she continued playing doubles and mixed events. Years later, in 2002, she started playing a few single events and in 2004 she became the oldest player ever (47) to win a singles match at a Grand slam event.
  • Muhammad Ali: Nicknamed, the “Greatest of All Time”, Ali started his professional boxing career in 1960, after winning a gold medal at the Rome Olympics. His career reflects, besides endless athletic achievements, numerous controversial moments, including his 1964 announcement that he was a member of the Nation of Islam and his refusal to serve in the US army during the Vietnam War. Ali ended his career in 1981, after his first and only loss by anything other than a decision. Most younger folks know Ali not from his days as a boxing professional, but as a spokesman for Parkinson’s Disease.
  • Jim Thorpe: Thorpewas one of the most versatile athletes who ever existed. He won Olympic Gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon in 1912 and reinvented himself as a professional baseball, football and basketball player for many years. Professional athletes with Thorpe’s record usually have nothing to worry about when it comes to finances. However, Thorpe found it tough to support his family after he retired from sports – it was the era of the Great Depression – and the fact that he was an alcoholic did not help. He held various jobs, including a small role in the Warner Brother’s movie “Jim Thorpe – All-American”, but he eventually died broke.
  • Charles Oakley: Oakley, the basketball player famous for his quotes, played forward in the NBA as a member of five teams throughout his decade-long career. He retired in 2004 after a season with the Houston Rockets. This past year rumors were floating around about a potential comeback. Asked about it, Charles said: “I’m not going to come back for no veteran’s minimum. I’m coming back for a good salary. You can’t buy me. Money can’t buy me. But I’m not coming back for no bull—- money.” NBA team execs, anyone out there willing to pay him $10 million?
  • George Foreman: After an unexpected and hard fought loss to Muhammad Ali in the 1974 Rumble In The Jungle, Foreman retired. He came back in 1976, but retired again in 1977 after a physically exhausting fight against Jimmy Young. But, here is the real comeback story: in 1988, almost ten years after hanging up his gloves, he made his return into the ring. In 1994, at age 45, he became the oldest player in boxing history to win a heavyweight title. He retired for the third time in 1998. Although most of Foreman’s extensive fortune has been made for his other career – TV spokesman for the George Forman grill and other products.
  • Pele wasa former Brazilian soccer star, who received the title “Athlete of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee. After countless of individual and team awards throughout his 20-year career,Pele retired in 1977 and hassince been an ambassador for soccer and has also been involved in various acting and commercial ventures. So, what will Pele’s next role be?
  • Bjorn Borg: The former #1 tennis player had what can be considered one of the worst comebacks in the history of sports. Before retiring for the first time in 1983, Borg had an amazing 9-year stint, setting records that still stand today. Almost ten years after his first retirement he attempted a comeback on the men’s pro tour. He was completely unsuccessful and retired for the second time in 1993. However, Borg is still active on the seniors tour, and enjoys playing with friends such as John McEnroe. He also owns a clothing line with his name attached to it.
  • Wilt Chamberlain: After he retired from basketball, The Big Dipper transformed himself into a world-class volleyball player. For fun, he ran marathons. He also turned down multiple offers to return to basketball as well as to play pro football and box professionally. Though retired from sports, Chamberlain had successful subsequent careers as a coach, businessman, writer and even actor
  • Bob Cousy: Cousy joins Bjorn Borg in the worst comeback category. Cousy retired from the NBA for the first in 1963, after helping the Boston Celtics win 6 NBA titles. He returned after 6 years, at the age of 41, because he received an offer he could not refuse. His performance was terrible, but he boost ticket sales by 77 percent!
  • Ricky Williams:After playing for the New Orleans Saints, Williams retired iin 2004 after he tested positive for marijuana. But Williams returned to the NFL in July 20005 but in early 2006 it became clear that Williams had again violated the NFL’s drug policy, and he was suspended for the entire 2006 season. In October 2007 Williams made his return to the NFL, although he injured himself almost immediately. Can Williams recover and keep clean from now on and go for a fourth retirement?

Why Can’t Athletes Retire?

Research has shown that many professional athletes find the transition from a life of professional sports to a life without it very tough. A few reasons that athletes can’t stay retired include:

  • Age: Athletes retire when they are relatively young. They still have thirty, forty, fifty or more productive years ahead of them.
  • Addiction to the Limelight: Professional players – especially ones at the tops of their games – are adored by fans. Once retired, it can be lonely.
  • Addiction to the Thrill of the Game: Playing sports is undeniably thrilling. Retiring from that excitement can be tough.
  • Depression After Retirement: Transitioning out of professional sports is a huge adjustment. Changing one’s whole way of life is extremely stressful.


Anti Retirement Athletes Set Trends for Baby Boomers

It used to be that regular people – not professional athletes — worked until they were too frail to do so anymore. In fact, until recently only 16 percent of men in the United States worked past their 65th birthday.

However, many recent surveys show that 60 – 90 percent of today’s retirees will work after their retirement. And the reasons these people aren’t retiring are similar to the reasons cited by athletes. Somebody retiring today at age 65 probably has another 20 years of life. That is a long time without the money and satisfaction provided by a career. And many retirees report depression after retirement – citing that they miss the purpose and routine of their work.

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3 Responses to “Professional Athletes Bounce Out of Retirement — The Top 15 Anti Retirement Stories in Sports”

  1. 1 Jack Harrison

    I know these are retirement stories, and 14/15 actually did something in their careers afterwards…but, seriously, why is Ricky Williams on here? How about Randy “The Natural” Couture coming back, winning a UFC title fight, then a win defending it while suffering a broken arm during that fight?

  2. 2 max

    Where in the heck is Gordie Howe? I know the US doesnt much care about hockey but check this guy out he was as tough a man as you get

  3. 3 Kurt A. David

    This list, in my opinion, simply scratches the surface of the countless well-known or obscure professional athletes looking to return to their athletic craft.

    As a former professional athlete who now possesses an advanced degree in counseling, I personally and professionally understand this mindset.

    “Letting Go” is the second most difficult part of an athletes’ transition back into normal, everyday lives. Getting through the denial that prevents them from “letting go” is the first.

    Read about some Hall of Fame and World Champion athletes who have successfully made this transition at:

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