Four Athletes Who Had Amazing “Un-Retirements”


Retiring is one of the most significant moments in any athlete’s life. The sudden loss of the highly competitive environments that they had become so accustomed to plus the abrupt stop to the tremendous amount of attention that they had received can be tough for many of them to handle as they start to transition into the next stage of their lives.

As a result, some top athletes decide to unretire and return to the spotlight. A few are even able to accomplish tremendous things after returning to the playing fields.


Michael Jordan

Few would argue that Michael Jordan had the most post-retirement success of any athlete in history. He retired from basketball in 1993 after having just completed a rare three-peat, leading his Chicago Bulls to NBA titles in 1991, 1992 and 1993, the first three championships in the franchise’s history. But the legendary player must have also had enough of all of the stresses that come with that and retired in October 1993. He then embarked on an unimpressive (although not as unimpressive as you’d think) minor league baseball career before retiring from that in March 1995.

A week later, Jordan famously declared “I’m back,”and the very next day, he was indeed back with the Bulls. The 32-year-old clearly had plenty of game left as he scored 19 points in his first game back, had 55 in his fifth game upon returning and helped pull his team from mediocrity to a playoff series win over the Charlotte Hornets. He and the Bulls then started the next season with a 41-3 record.

You could say he didn’t have any trouble finding his stride, as he led the Bulls to another three-peat, with NBA titles in 1996, 1997 and 1998. The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls are widely viewed as the best NBA squad ever assembled, having recorded the best record of any team who would go on to the win the title: 72-10.

Jordan also claimed as many NBA Finals MVP awards post-retirement as he did before he hung up his shoes: three before and three after. Two of his five NBA MVP awards were earned after he had retired. He was named to the All-NBA First Team three times after retiring, seven before. Five of his 14 NBA All-Star Game appearances took place post-retirement. He averaged more than 30 points a game in his first full post-retirement season and scored 20+ points per game in each of his six post-retirement seasons.


George Foreman

This may be the most incredible post-retirement sports story in history.

Boxer George Foreman retired in 1977 at the age of 28 after he suffered heatstroke and had a near-death experience following a loss to Jimmy Young in Puerto Rico. The former heavyweight champion and participant in epic fights with Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier spent the next 10 years of his life focused on his religious beliefs as he became an ordained minister.

He then unexpectedly came out of retirement in 1987 just two years shy of turning 40, looking to climb the boxing ladder and fight boxers like Mike Tyso. This was done partly to show the world that being a top-notch athlete is possible at the age of 40. Although it did take him a few times in the ring to get into a groove, he would win his first 24 post-retirement fights to set up a title bout with Evander Holyfield in 1991. He was 42; Holyfield was 28. Although Foreman lasted all 12 rounds, he lost in a unanimous decision. Three succeeding wins set up another title fight, this one with Tommy Morrison for the then-less prestigious WBO belt, but the result was the same: Foreman lasted all 12 rounds, but Morrison won a unanimous decision.

Then came a fight with Michael Moorer on Nov. 5, 1994, for the WBA, IBF and lineal heavyweight titles. Moorer had taken those belts from Holyfield seven months earlier. Foreman, now 45, had not fought in 17 months, since that loss to Morrison. However, he was more than ready, knocking out then-undefeated Moorer (35-0) in the 10th round and becoming the oldest heavyweight champion in history.

Foreman would win his next three fights before staying on his feet but losing to Shannon Briggs. Now 48, he announced his second and final retirement shortly thereafter.


Dara Torres

This swimmer has actually retired multiple times. At the age of 17, Dara Torres won a gold in the 1984 Olympics as part of the 4×100 freestyle relay team. Four years later, she took home a bronze in the same event and a silver in the 4×100 medley relay. Just 21, she retired. However, that did not last long as she was back in the pool in time for the 1992 Olympics where she claimed gold in the 4×100 freestyle relay.

The California native then spent seven years barely being in a pool at all, much less engaging in world-class training. But the 2000 Olympics caught her attention. She got into shape to compete within months and took home five medals, including her first individual ones: bronzes in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly. She also earned gold medals in the 4×100 freestyle and medley relays.

She then retired again, partly because she “thought 33 was really old.” But it did not last. Incredibly, she qualified for the 2008 Olympics at age 41, where she claimed three silver medals, in the 50 freestyle and as part of the 4×100 freestyle and medley relays. Then she called it quits for good.


Brett Favre

Quarterback Brett Favre had put together quite an NFL career before he announced his retirement in 2008. He had led the Green Bay Packers to the Super XXXI title in 1997, had been named to the Pro Bowl nine times and earned NFL MVP honors on three occasions.

However, his retirement was short-lived as he changed his mind within months and even admitted that he was “guilty of retiring early.” Complicated circumstances led to his departure from Green Bay, and he played the 2008 season with the New York Jets and the 2009 and 2010 campaigns with the Minnesota Vikings. The latter move to an intra-division foe of the Packers allowed him to knock off his former team and become the first quarterback to defeat all 32 NFL squads at least once.

After unretiring, Favre was twice named to the Pro Bowl. He led the 2008 Jets to a 9-7 season after they had gone 4-12 the previous campaign before helping the Vikings to a 12-4 campaign in 2009 and a 34-3 win over the Cowboys in the playoffs. Minnesota then came within a hair of the Super Bowl, losing to the New Orleans Saints, 31-28 in overtime, in the NFC title game. The 2010 campaign was a forgettable one, however, as the Vikings went just 6-10, and Favre retired for the final time.

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