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Top 20 Athletes Who Went Out on Top

Every year, prominent athletes from every sport contemplate moving on to the next phase of their lives. They have given everything they could possibly give to their sport and are now looking towards retirement rather than training camps or offseason conditioning programs.

But while the competitive fire has begun to fizzle and flame out, there is still an ember that glows, just enough for them to think about making one final push - one last kick at the can. The can, of course, representing one more shot at a championship, so that they can go out on top and ride off into the sunset with a big grin on their faces instead of a soft smile traced with regret and sorrow.

Over the years, there have countless examples of athletes trying to achieve this final goal. Some have failed miserably, while some gave it a good go. Some came within feet, or inches, of winning that "retirement" championship - the one thing that might be worse than calling it quits and spending the rest of your life thinking "what if?"

There are also those who have succeeded in their goal - one last year culminating in the raising of a hallowed trophy, an outpouring of years of pent up emotion, and a final, sweet goodbye, to teammates, coaches, and fans. It's the picture perfect ending that many dream of, but few get to enjoy.

Sometimes, the players who achieve this grand exit are bit actors in the grandiose play and no one can blame some of the players who've "gone along for the ride," as for years they were the ones pulling the wagon, and it's nice to let someone else do the grunt work every once in awhile. Others, though, still yearn for notoriety as "the best" (or at least "contributory") and not only finish their career with a championship but also play a significant role in doing so.

20 Lorena Ochoa

via zimbio.com

19 Ned Jarrett

via newsday.com

18 David Robinson

via playmakeronline.com

17 Marion Bartoli

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

16 Jerome Bettis

via sports.espn.go.com

15 Florence Joyner

via britannica.com

14 Dominik Hasek

via nypost.com

13 Michael Strahan

via nypost.com

12 Landon Donovan

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

11 Lennox Lewis

via thesweetscience.com

10 Ray Bourque

via back9network.com

9 Ray Lewis

Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports

8 Pete Sampras

via espn.co.uk

7 Bill Russell

via youtube.com

6 Mark Spitz

via dailymail.co.uk

5 Michael Jordan

via outsidethehype.com

4 Jean Béliveau

via sportsnet.ca

3 John Elway

via galleryhip.com

2 Joe DiMaggio

via commons.wikimedia.org

1 Rocky Marciano

via boxingnewsonline.net

Rocky Marciano is the greatest boxer most have never heard of - partially because he fought such a long time ago. Marciano was the most dominant fighter of his era, and perhaps of all-time. It's hard to dispute the fact, since he never lost a professional fight. A 49-0 record (with 43 knockouts, to top it off) and a final title defense in 1955 against Archie Moore, make him the greatest of all-time to go out while at the top of the mountain.

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Top 20 Athletes Who Went Out on Top