As much as sports fans wish their favourite players could play forever, retirement is inevitable with every pro athlete.

Like every year, 2014 had no shortage of important athletes and sports figures that finally stepped away from the game they love. Retirement is the biggest question that comes into play when an athlete gets older. At what time is it the right time to retire?

Should an athlete retire at the top of their game like Barry Sanders or should they drag on their career until they don’t have anything left in the tank like Brett Favre? This question is tough for many athletes to answer, but when the time comes, they know.

Retirement is a bitter time for many fans. Obviously seeing your favourite player walk away from the game is tough to swallow, but it doesn’t have to be this way. When a player retires, it should be a time of celebration and a time to reflect on all of the great things that the player accomplished during their career.

Even though retirement should be a time for celebrating the athlete, after they retire, it can have a huge impact on the future of a sports franchise. Sometimes it takes months, or sometimes years, for a team to recover from their departure because of what they meant to that city. There are many external components that come with a retired athlete that many teams immediately struggle with.

However, with another year in the books, here are the top 15 sports figures that retired during 2014.

15. Mike Montgomery, NCAA Basketball Head Coach

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

After 32 years as collegiate head coach, the great Mike Montgomery retired this year as one of college basketball’s most winningest coaches. Montgomery ranks third in all-time Pac-12 wins with 282 league wins, only behind Arizona’s Lute Olsen and UCLA’s John Wooden. Montgomery was a four-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year and served as an assistant coach for Team USA at the 2002 World Basketball Championships. Montgomery’s 32-year journey saw him coach eight years at Montana, 18 years at Stanford and six years with California.

14. Daniel Alfredsson, NHL

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

At the tender age of 41-years-old, Daniel Alfredsson retired in a classy way, signing a one-day contract to end his career with the Ottawa Senators. He took the pre-game skate with the team before addressing the crowd one last time. After spending 18 seasons in the NHL (17 with the Sens and one with the Red Wings), the Gothenburg, Sweden native ended his career with 1,157 points in 1,246 games played. Career highlights for Alfredsson include winning the Calder Trophy and an Olympic Gold Medal in 2006.

13. Lance Berkman, MLB 

Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports

After having some injury problems in recent years, Lance Berkman retired this year after a long 15-year career in the MLB. Berkman was a six-time all-star and member of the 2011 World Series winning St. Louis Cardinals, which was the same year he won NL Comeback Player of the Year. Berkman was a solid career hitter compiling a .943 OPS, which is the 26th best of all-time. In 1,879 career games, Berkman hit 366 homeruns, 1,234 RBI’s, with a .293 average.

12. Becky Hammon, WNBA

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Hammon was one of the most decorated WNBA players in league history. During her 16-year career in the WNBA, she was named as one of the Top 15 Players of All-Time in 2011 and ifourth in all-time assists and second all-time for career playoff games. After retiring, Hammon continued her stardom in the sport of basketball, being hired as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs, making her the first full-time women’s coach in the NBA.

11. Alfonso Soriano, MLB

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Hitting 30-plus home runs during seven of his 16 years in the MLB, Soriano had impressive power throughout his entire career. Soriano’s 2002 season of falling one homerun short of the 40/40 club (40 homeruns and 40 stolen bases) was one of the best of the early 2000s. As a long-time member of the Yankees, you’d assume he won a World Series in his career, but the Yankees lost in his two World Series appearances. Soriano had a great career finishing with 412 homeruns, 1,159 RBI’s, 289 stolen bases and a career .270 batting average.

10. Jason Collins, NBA

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

He wasn’t the best athletically gifted or skilled basketball player to ever live, but historically he is a first ballot role model Hall-of-Famer. As the first openly gay NBA player, Collins retired after 735 career games, played with the Nets, Grizzlies, Timberwolves, Hawks, Celtics and Wizards.. The 7’0”, 255 lbs., Northridge, California native was known for his defensive skills, and averaged 3.6 points, 0.5 blocks and 3.7 rebounds per game during his career.

9. Chauncey Billups, NBA

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

After 17 seasons in the NBA, “Mr. Big Shot” finally retired after an excellent career. Billups’ star moment during his career came in the 2004 NBA Finals, winning the Finals MVP, while guiding his Detroit Pistons to an NBA Championship. Billups was a five-time all-star and played in 1,043 career games. He averaged 15.2 points, 5.4 assists and 1.0 steal per game while playing for the Celtics, Raptors, Nuggets, Timberwolves, Pistons, Knicks, and Clippers.

8. Rashard Mendenhall, NFL

Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

In one of the most unexpected retirements of 2014, 26-year-old running back Rashard Mendenhall retired from the NFL due to his dislike of how the game was being shifted toward entertainment and away from fundamentals. He also explained that he been the target of racial attacks via social media. In six short seasons, Mendenhall recorded 37 touchdowns and ran for 4,236 yards. Mendenhall also played in two Super Bowls in his six career seasons, winning one championship.

7. Josh Beckett, MLB

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Early in his career with the Florida Marlins, Beckett looked like a God. At only 23-years-old, Beckett took down the New York Yankees and won a World Series MVP, including a five-hit shutout to close the series. While he never became the multiple Cy Young winner some expected him to be, Beckett still compiled a solid 14-year career in the MLB, winning two World Series rings, with a career 3.88 ERA, and .566 winning percentage.

6. Champ Bailey, NFL

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Champ Bailey is a future Hall-of-Famer and finally retired after 15 years in the NFL. He began the 2014 season on the roster of the New Orleans Saints, but was released before week 1. In hindsight, considering how bad the Saints secondary was, maybe they should’ve hung on to Bailey. After being drafted seventh overall by the Washington Redskins, Bailey played five years with the Redskins and 10 years with the Denver Broncos. Bailey compiled 52 interceptions in his career, including 12 Pro Bowl selections, which is the record for a Cornerback.

5. Landon Donovan, Soccer

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

After announcing his retirement in August, Landon Donovan went out on top, winning his sixth career MLS Cup title, which is a record, to finish his career. Donovan is the greatest player in MLS and United States men’s soccer history and retired with the all-time record in MLS goals and assists. Not many athletes are able to win a championship in their last game, but the 32-year-old delivered retiring a champion. The only sour note of his retirement is that he wasn’t with the USMNT for their World Cup run in Brazil.

4. Teemu Selanne, NHL

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Arguably the greatest Finish hockey player to ever live, Selanne finally retired at the age of 43 after playing in 1,451 career NHL games. Averaging over a point per game in his NHL career, Selanne recorded 684 goals, 773 assists for 1,457 career points. In the 1992-93 season, Selanne erupted onto the NHL scene scoring 76 goals and 132 points his rookie season. The certain Hall of Famer was given a proper send off with the Ducks, as in their last home game of the 2013-14 season, he and Avalanche netminder Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who used to play with the Ducks, took a lap around the ice together while the crowd applauded.

3. Thierry Henry, Soccer 

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Henry is one of the most recognized soccer players in the world and finally called it quits this year. His last game was with the New York Red Bulls, when they lost the Eastern Conference Championsip to the New England Revolution. Henry’s soccer career will be defined by his time with Arsenal, where he is the team’s leader with 228 goals in 377 career games. Henry was a member of France’s 1998 World Cup winning team and also won a European Championship in 2000.

2. David Stern, NBA

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

As one of the most influential people in the history of the NBA, David Stern announced his retirement this year 30 years to day of his first shift. Stern revolutionized the game of basketball and turned the once dying brand into a multi-billion dollar industry that is continuing to expand globally. If it weren’t for Stern, the NBA would never be in the successful state that it currently is in today.

1. Derek Jeter, MLB

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Captain, Mr. November, Captain Clutch (or whatever other nicknames you had for him) meant everything to the city of New York. How did Jeter choose to go out? By hitting a walk-off single in his last appearance at Yankee Stadium. Expanding over a 20-year career, Jeter compiled five World Series rings, 14 All-Star appearances, a 1996 Rookie of the Year award and 3,465 career hits. Jeter will be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and an MLB season devoid of Jeter will be a weird one to fathom.

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