Like every year, some all-time greats decided to call it a day and retire, as two great linebackers in Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher left the NFL, legendary Yankees like Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte left Major League Baseball and NBA stars like Jason Kidd and Allen Iverson left the game of basketball.
Even Major League Soccer had one huge retirement as David Beckham left the sport after almost 20 years, although he did spend a short time with French champions PSG after leaving Los Angeles, where he won two MLS Cups to leave a mixed tenure with a good taste on everyone’s mouths.
Say what you will about Ray Lewis the person, but there were few players as dominant on the football field over the last 15 years. He is a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Baltimore Ravens, retiring at the top. He has one Super Bowl MVP to go with 13 Pro Bowl appearances, 7 First-Team All-Pro selections and two defensive player of the year awards during his 17 seasons with the Ravens.
There is a very tiny minority that doesn’t call Rivera the greatest closer the sport of Baseball has ever seen. He played 19 seasons for the New York Yankees, making the All-Star game 13 times and winning the World Series five times, which includes winning the World Series MVP in 1999. His 652 career saves are an MLB record as well.
Kidd managed to win an NBA title in the end, helping the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 against the Miami Heat. Now the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, Kidd played for them, the Suns, the Mavs and the Knicks during his 19-year career, making the All-Star game 10 times and leading the league in assists five times. He averaged 8.7 assists during his career, eighth all-time.
In truth, Iverson has been retired for quite a while, only he didn’t officially announce it. ‘The Answer’ spent almost 14 years in the NBA, most of the time with the Philadelphia 76ers. The 2001 MVP, a year in which he took a very mediocre Sixers team to the NBA finals, was his crowning achievement, in a career that included 11 All-Star appearances and being a 4-time NBA scoring champion, retiring with an average of 26.7 points per game, ranked sixth all-time.
Most of Beckham’s soccer achievements came during the first half of his career, although his popularity had a lot to do with his good looks and marketability, and not just his football. He played 115 times for the English national team, including three World Cups and two European championships. He won six league titles with Manchester United and also the Champions League in 1999; two league titles with Real Madrid, two MLS Cups with the Galaxy and helping push the sport further than ever before in the United States before some cameo appearances for PSG, winning another championship in France.
Unlike most players on this list, Thome spent his baseball career with plenty of teams: Indians, Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers, Twins and Orioles. Unlike most of the sluggers in recent years, he has avoided any allegations of steroid use and is one of only eight players to hit for more than 600 home runs, retiring with 612. He is a five-time All Star, a one-time Silver Slugger recipient and a home run champion once as well.
Like Rivera, Pettitte is mostly known for his Yankees fame, although he did play for the Houston Astros from 2004 to 2006. He played in MLB from 1995 to 2013, taking a year off in 2011 before coming back and playing quite well for someone who’s been out of the game for some time. He retired as baseball’s all-time leader in postseason wins, with 19. He is a five-time World Series champion, making the All-Star game three times and leading the AL in wins once, in 1996.
The 2012-2013 season was McGrady’s best in terms of playoff performance, sitting on the bench while the San Antonio Spurs made the NBA finals. For a seven year stretch he was one of the best scorers in the NBA, but age and injuries caught up with him too quickly. A two-time NBA scoring champion and 7-time All-Star, McGrady will be mostly remembered for not making it past the first round of the playoffs during his prime.
The heart of the Chicago Bears for over a decade, Urlacher got cut and eventually retired after the 2012 season. He made the Pro Bowl eight times during his 13-year career, and was a first-team All-Pro selection four times, also winning the NFL’s defensive player of the year once (in 2005). He got to lead the Bears to the Super Bowl once, losing to the Indianapolis Colts.
Spending your entire career in Tampa Bay means you probably didn’t get too many chances at the spotlight. However, the less famous of the Barber twins won the Super Bowl with the Bucs, playing 16 seasons in Tampa Bay. He made the Pro Bowl five times and was an All-Pro three times, and holds the record for most consecutive starts by a cornerback (224) and the most sacks by a cornerback, retiring with 26.