Top 20 Retired Athletes Who Could Still Play Today

The oft-used phrase "the hardest part is letting go" could not be more perfectly applicable to the idea of an athlete retiring from a professional sports career.

When an athlete retires, they aren't simply retiring from the "x" amount of years they played in the pros. They are letting go of the entirety of the first chapter of their life - their upbringing as a star athlete, the countless hours of training and preparation, the physical and emotional sacrifices that shaped them as individuals.

The other issue that athletes are forced to face with when retiring is the fact that most are still physically capable of performing at the highest level; mentally, though, they are ready for a break. The body is ready for another summer of running, lifting and getting ready for an upcoming season, but the mind wanders to exotic beach locations, a park where the athlete can spend some long-overdue family time with his or her children, or maybe it wanders to a bedroom without an alarm clock waking them before the sun is even up, reminding them of the onset of another grueling day of pushing themselves to their limits.

They say retiring is the hardest thing an athlete will ever have to do - and judging by reactions of past athletes facing the media frenzy one last time to make the announcement, it probably is harder that anything they ever had to do to make it to the peak of their sport.

One thing is for certain though - many of them are still able to compete at the highest level, so just for fun, wouldn't it be interesting to see them come back and show these young, cocky stars how the legends used to do it, old-school?

20 Dontrelle Willis

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

19 Oliver Kahn


18 Joe Girardi

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

17 Alex Kovalev

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

16 Shaquille O'Neal

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

15 Chipper Jones

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

14 Chris Chelios

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

13 Zinedine Zidane


12 Brett Favre


It was never a sure thing that Brett Favre would be on this list. First he was on it, but then we said "nah, forget it". He then found his way back on the list. We took him off the list again but ultimately decided that Favre should be on the list.

11 Paolo Maldini


10 Yao Ming

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

9 Tracy McGrady

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

8 Ken Griffey Jr.

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

7 Joe Sakic

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

6 Michael Jordan

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

5 Kurt Warner

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

4 Nicklas Lidstrom

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

3 Ruud van Nistelrooy


2 Randy Moss

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

1 Ray Lewis

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Ray Lewis has had a pretty sweet ride through life over the past couple of years. He ended his incredible NFL career with an improbable Super Bowl Championship in 2012, and since then has been working one of the cushiest jobs in professional sport - NFL analyst for ESPN. Perhaps with a few years of rest, relaxation and rehab out of the way he can marvel us all again with his ability and his famous pre-game dance that only Lewis could make look threatening.

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Top 20 Retired Athletes Who Could Still Play Today