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Top 15 Times Athletes Retired Young

Earlier last week the San Francisco 49ers and the NFL world were shocked when Chris Borland, the 24-year old linebacker coming off his impressive rookie season, announced he would be retiring from football because of concerns for his health. Borland didn't suffer any career-ending injuries but rather decided he wanted to make the decision before his health crossed a line that it couldn't come back from. This comes after a recent string of players, including Patrick Willis, Jason Worilds and Jake Locker have also announced to be unexpectedly hanging it up early.

While the trend of early retirement is increasingly concerning for the NFL, all major sports have seen some of their stars hang it up early. The most common reason is because of injury, as some athletes' bodies fail them earlier than expected, robbing them of some of their prime years. The amount of effort and sacrifice it takes for athletes to reach their highest level is draining and at some point, it's not worth it. It is a difficult decision to walk away from something you know you can still excel at, but some players choose to leave while still on top, instead of fading into shells of the stars they once were. There always seems to be a catch 22 as to when a player should retire. Either they retire young and people say they should have played longer, or they retire several years after they've passed their prime and people fault the athlete for hanging on too long. Either way, it's no one's decision but theirs and people should accept it. No one would like someone to tell them when they should retire from their line of work.

Here is a list of 15 players that retired at a young age, be it due to injuries or they simply decided to go out on top, or they just felt they were done with the game.

15 Michael Jordan

via espn.com

14 Rocky Marciano

via celebritybase.info

13 Troy Aikman

via espn.com

12 Mike Bossy

via thenypost.com

11 Justine Henin

via picpicx.com

10 Bo Jackson

Mike Powell /Allsport

9 Isiah Thomas

via nba.com

8 Barry Sanders

via nextimeimpulsesports.com

Some retirements are so unexpected that they can set a franchise back for years, as Sanders's announcement did with the Lions. Sanders led the Lions to some of the best years in their franchise history, going to the playoffs five times in his career. During the 1997 season Sanders won co-MVP with Brett Favre after running for over 2,000 yards. Sanders is the most elusive runner in NFL history, routinely making tacklers miss the backfield. Today's most elusive runners, such as LeSean McCoy often get the Sanders comparison for his running style. The 10-time Pro-Bowler summed up his decision up nicely by saying:

7 Yao Ming

via wikimedia.org

6 Brandon Roy

via awolfamongwolves.com

5 Gale Sayers

vias espn.com

4 Bjorn Borg

via betfair.com

3 Bobby Orr

via espn.com

2 Jim Brown

AP Photo

1 Magic Johnson

via headlines365.com

Few athletes were as charismatic and fun as Magic Johnson was playing with the showtime Lakers. Magic took the league by storm winning the NBA championship, his first of five, in his first season, while picking up NBA finals MVP. After winning three MVPs and making 12 All Star games, Magic was forced to retire in 1991 at the age 32 after tests revealed he was HIV positive. Magic went on to attempt several comebacks but his largest achievements were what he did for reducing the stigma associated with HIV. Magic was voted to the All Star game in 1991 despite missing the season and the statement he made by playing and the support the other players showed him went a long way. Magic has gone on to become a successful businessman and sports commentator. Magic is easily one of the 10 best players of all time and his rivalry with Larry Bird helped grow the league to where it is today.

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Top 15 Times Athletes Retired Young