Sports

35 Star Athletes Who Stayed Around For Too Long

Darren - December 2, 2020
Sports

35 Star Athletes Who Stayed Around For Too Long

Darren - December 2, 2020

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

12. Evander Holyfield

The definition of a boxer who couldn’t stay away from the sport. Obsessed by the pursuit of glory and burdened with massive expenses, Holyfield fought on for a long time. The only undisputed two-weight champion in boxing history, it’s also indisputable that he should have retired earlier. At the age of 48, Holyfield finally stepped down from the fight game. He wanted to become a five-time world champion but fell short in that pursuit.

Mandatory Credit: Sportsnet

After his controversial WBA Championship loss to Nikolai Valuev, the door finally shut on his title hopes. But he still fought several more times after this point. As boxers get older, their reflexes slow down, and the risk of sustaining damage increases. Every match enhances the possibility of life-changing consequences. That’s what makes it so compelling for fans but also is why fighters shouldn’t stay in the game too long.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

11. Shaquille O’Neal

By the time he retired, ‘Diesel’ looked like a totally different player from the one who ignited the NBA with the L.A. Lakers. After his relationship with Kobe Bryant soured to the extent the Lakers cut him loose, he moved to Miami where he won another championship with the Heat. However, after this his body steadily declined. That massive frame no longer resembled a charging bear but instead a lumbering tractor.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

It’s possible to argue that he should have retired anytime after his season with Phoenix. But he definitely was a shadow of his former self by the time he left Cleveland for the Boston Celtics. Sometimes an athlete has to find for themselves the right time to stop and try not to hang onto their former glories for too long. It’s better to go out when they still matter instead of when everybody says that they’re a liability.

Mandatory Credit: The Independent

10. Mike Tyson

We’re not talking about his November 2020 comeback against Roy Jones Jr. because that was just for fun. However, ‘Iron Mike’s’ actual professional career did go on too long. It was ludicrous to see him lose against Irish journeyman Kevin McBride in 2005 after Danny Williams knocked him out the year before. The legendary heavyweight was no longer a force of nature and fell out of love with the sport.

Mandatory Credit: Boxing Scene

He definitely stuck around for too long and should have retired after losing against Lennox Lewis or even Evander Holyfield five years earlier. The truth is that McBride didn’t beat Tyson, Tyson beat Tyson. In short, the feared ‘Iron Mike’ was a broken man. It’s easy to say he should have quit earlier for the sake of his legacy and his health. But Tyson knew nothing else and couldn’t pull himself away.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

9. Michael Jordan

There was simply no need for M.J. to join the Washington Wizards. He was already super-rich and his legacy speaks for itself. Meanwhile, Jordan and the Chicago Bulls go hand-in-hand. While you can admire the fact that he loved the sport enough to stick around a bit longer to play with a rubbish franchise, there isn’t much to say about his time there.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Sure, he still averaged over 20 points per season during his two years in the capital but he didn’t look like the old M.J. That’s because he was now old. He never was going to perform to the same level as before but fans always have unrealistic expectations. Did he play too long? While the long-term physical consequences on his body definitely weren’t the same as football players or boxers, it didn’t enhance his legacy anyway.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

8. Tom Brady

Many believe Brady is the greatest quarterback of all-time. However, there’s no doubt he’s a fading force. After 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, he finally walked away with his head held high. Then he joined the Tampa Bay Buccanneers as a free agent. While he hasn’t been terrible, he is nowhere near his previous standard. Of course, this is natural, but it does feel a bit like Brady has nothing left to prove.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

First of all, we know about Florida’s tax situation and a two-year contract with $20 million guaranteed is exciting. But in terms of legacy, 20 seasons would have been the perfect number to quit the NFL. Meanwhile, there would be no risk of tarnishing his legacy and it would have been perfect to retire as a Patriot. Furthermore, it would have forced Bill Belichick to sing his praises. Who wouldn’t have wanted to see that?

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

7. B.J. Penn

There was a time when ‘The Prodigy’ was one of the most exciting fighters on the planet. However, the former king of the UFC welterweight and lightweight divisions saw one of the worst deteriorations in combat sports history. After breaking multiple records, Penn entered the Hall of Fame. But he is no longer the same fighter or person. The once-feared champion lost his last eight fights in the UFC.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The turning point was back-t0-back defeats against Frankie Edgar. He did bounce back to beat Matt Hughes but failed to win a single fight between 2011 and 2019. Meanwhile, he endured problems outside the cage including multiple street fights. There comes a time when promotions should take responsibility for an athlete. Unfortunately, the UFC should accept some blame for booking Penn so many times despite his evident downfall.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

6. Ryan Howard

Time isn’t kind to any sports star, not even franchise legends. Howard spent the entirety of his career in MLB with the Philadelphia Phillies, but by the end of his time there he was a liability. It’s difficult for an athlete to recognize their physical decline and even worse when a franchise has to cut them loose. But that’s exactly what the Phillies did after choosing not to take up an extension option after his poor final two seasons with the team.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

In Howard’s case, one of MLB’s greatest players deteriorated into one of the worst. His batting average became one of the worst in the entire league and fans cringed to watch him play. It was a sad state of affairs because he was phenomenal in his prime. Then he went to the Atlanta Braves on a minor league contract but failed to make any kind of impact. After hanging around too long, his career fizzled out.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

5. Patrick Ewing

Ewing prolonged his career to an unnecessary degree. It’s true that elite athletes will spend the majority of their life retired from the sport they love. So it’s impossible to hate on Ewing for wanting to milk his time as a superstar. But a look at the cold, hard numbers paints a grim picture. Ewing could have retired earlier and made the Hall of Fame quickly. An 11-time All-Star, he found it almost impossible to walk away.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

But he could have done so easily after 15 seasons with the New York Knicks. He was a legendary figure for the franchise and it would have been perfect to end things there. However, he continued to play another two pointless seasons with the Seattle Supersonics and Orlando Magic. While he made the playoffs with the latter, he didn’t do much otherwise. Ewing is a hero but he hung around for too long.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

4. Jerry Rice

According to Chron.com, the average length of an NFL wide receiver’s career is just three years. However, Rice played for an insane 20. His decline began in 1999 and continued into 2000. Then Terell Owens broke out as a leading talent in San Francisco and he departed for pastures new. After setting more records than any other player, Rice did prove he could play outside of the 49ers.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

After two strong seasons with the Oakland Raiders, he moved to Seattle where he didn’t do much. There was still time to join the Denver Broncos, but he didn’t make their final roster. In the end, he was clutching for the memories of his previous brilliance. Nobody can take his career away from him, but nobody thinks of his latter days either. He would have served his legacy and body better if he didn’t play for so long.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

3. Chuck Liddell

Before Conor McGregor came along, the likes of ‘The Iceman’ and Randy Couture helped to make the UFC the world’s most popular MMA promotion. Liddell had a savage, relentless style that helped him to win the UFC light-heavyweight championship. However, he failed to evolve and when the losing streak started it all turned nasty. Liddell won one of his last six fights with the UFC. Even worse, four of those defeats were by knockout.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Then, after eight years on the sidelines, Oscar De La Hoya convinced the 48-year-old to return against the active Tito Ortiz. It was terrible to watch as Ortiz won by KO. Liddell looked old and it was grim viewing. Overall, ‘The Iceman’ stayed around too long and should never have returned for the sake of his own health. There were no winners from this event because it just left a bad taste.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

2. Brett Favre

The irony is that Favre retired for the second time at the perfect time in 2008. The 11-time Pro Bowler departed Green Bay as one of the greatest in history. But then he decided that he wanted back in. The Packers said no because they had a young gun named Aaron Rodgers ready to go. Then the three-time NFL MVP joined the New York Jets before a spell with the Minnesota Vikings. However, he definitely should have stayed retired.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Favre hung around too long for two reasons. Firstly, his numbers rapidly declined, apart from interceptions which skyrocketed. The sad truth is that people have very short memories and it’s easy to forget success when you don’t see it. Meanwhile, it also undoubtedly had an effect on his long-term health. Favre received multiple concussions throughout his career and only time will tell what effect they have upon him.

Mandatory Credit: Sports Illustrated

1. Muhammad Ali

The greatest boxer ever to step into a ring, you have to wonder what his last couple of fights did to his health. Ali endured classic wars and took incredible punishment against the likes of Joe Frazier and George Foreman. Meanwhile, he had three years on the sidelines after refusing to go to Vietnam. But this could have contributed to him staying in the sport longer than he should have.

Mandatory Credit: Washington Post

We all know about his sad battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He absorbed a lot of damage before his last few fights, but unfortunate matchups against Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick only stung fans’ hearts. This twentieth-century icon definitely stayed around too long. Legendary Boxers often struggle to resist the lure of the ring, the fame, and the glory. ‘The Greatest’ was no exception.

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