When to hang it up

By Eric Dowdall – The Brock Press

Retirement has been a hot topic in the world of sports as of late. Whether it’s the recent official retirements of Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady from the National Basketball Association (NBA), or the constant questions that face guys like Teemu Selanne and Roger Federer, retirement can’t be avoided.

NFC ChampionshipIt’s a question all professional athletes must face at some point in their careers. Some hang on too long, tarnishing their careers or reputations. Others quit prematurely for various reasons, leaving doubt on what may have been. And finally you have the rare perfect retirements, where guys retire on top, leaving their sport with no regrets.

Whether its attempting a comeback, or simply holding on to a career that’s floundering, many athletes have waited too long to retire. One prime example of this is National Football League (NFL) quarterback Brett Favre. Favre could have ended his career when the Packers decided to move on to new QB Aaron Rodgers after the 2007 season, however he chose to continue playing. He played three seasons for other teams with mild success, however his reputation in Green Bay was somewhat tarnished due to the way in which he left the Packers.

The same can be said for McGrady and Iverson as well. Once two of the most dominant players in the NBA, both retired last week to minimal attention or recognition. Iverson a former Most Valuable Player, and Mcgrady a two-time scoring champion, are now remembered by many for their abysmal final few seasons rather than their previous greatness.

While those athletes may have hung on too long, others have retired abruptly and interrupted promising careers. Two examples of this are former tennis player Bjorn Borg and Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders. Each player was at the peak of their careers when they retired, leaving many wanting more from the players.

Sanders retired just one season after winning the NFL MVP award, leaving the opportunity to break many prominent NFL records on the table. Similarly, Borg and 11-time grand slam champion, retired at age 26, right in the prime of his career.

While these examples leave some left to be desired, some rare athletes have managed to perform the act of retirement perfectly. Tennis legend Pete Sampras finished his career by improbably winning the 2002 U.S Open, retiring after the amazing victory.

Similarly, after failing in several Super Bowls early in his career, Denver Broncos Quarterback John Elway managed to conclude his career by winning back-to-back championships, retiring after the second victory in the 1998 season. Michael Jordan bettered this feat (lets try to forget the comeback with the Washington Wizards) by retiring not once, but twice following winning three consecutive NBA titles.

These are just some of many examples of legacies being affected by the way in which players retire. While not all athletes can retire on top, players like Favre, McGrady and Iverson should serve as an example of how not to be remembered.

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