Open Mic: Which Athletes Retired in Their Prime?

David HalprenAnalyst IJuly 23, 2008

There is a fine line in sports between going out on top and hanging on for too long. All this Brett Favre talk (besides making me nauseous) has gotten me thinking about athletes who called it quits before their time. 

Let's take a look: 


Barry Sanders

At the very top of this list has to be Sanders. At the age of 30, he already rushed for over 15,000 yards and promptly retired in his prime. He was about 1,500 yards shy of Walter Peyton's all-time rushing record (now owned by Emmitt Smith). 

Barry was extremely elusive and never seemed to get hurt. In his final year in the NFL, he rushed for nearly 1,500 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. He shocked us all when he hung up his cleats and undoubtedly had a few good years left in him.


Michael Jordan

His first retirement shocked the world. At the age of 30, he was fresh from winning back-to-back-to-back NBA titles and the guy tells the world he's going to play baseball. Huh? 

As we all know, the experiment for the White Sox's AA team failed and he was back in the NBA a few years later, winning three more titles in the process. That initial retirement probably cost him and the Bulls a few more rings, but he definitely gave up the game way too quickly.

He then retired again at age 36, once again, going out off a three-peat. 

This retirement was probably the right timing for him, although it was not permanent, as he came back two years later to play with the Wizards (he was co-owner as well).


Jim Brown

Widely considered the best running back in the history of the game, Brown opted to retire at the age of 30, in order to begin his movie career.

He departed the NFL as the record holder for both single-season and career rushing yards, as well as the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns, and all-purpose yards.

All of these feats accomplished without playing a single game past the age of 29. Remarkable!


Annika Sorenstam

Annika called it quits earlier this year at the young golfing age of 37. Her 90 international tournament wins as a professional make her the female golf player with the most wins to her name.

She's the LPGA's career money-list leader, with earnings of over $22 million, over $8 million ahead of the next closest golfer. She had won three tournaments this year as well.


Bjorn Borg

Retired at the age of 26 after losing consecutive tournaments to John McEnroe. Borg cited he was no longer the No. 1 player in the world, and hence, called it quits.

During a nine-year career, Borg won 41 percent of the Grand Slam singles tournaments he entered (11 of 27) and 90 percent of the Grand Slam singles matches he played. Both are men's tennis, open-era records.

He was the only player in the open era to have won both Wimbledon and the French Open in the same year more than once, as he won both in three consecutive years.


This list could undoubtebly be added upon, feel free to bring your own names to the table