Knowing when it's the right time to retire can be difficult, especially if you love your job. Even professional athletes have a hard time knowing when to walk away.
These four athletes thought they were ready to literally throw in the towel, but ended up "un-retiring" and coming back better than ever. Let's look at their non-traditional retirement stories.
Michael Phelps is one of the most decorated Olympic athletes of all time, and had claimed a total of 22 medals (18 of them gold) when he announced his retirement in 2012. But he dove into the pool once more for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games and went on to win six more Olympic medals, including five gold medals. Phelps then announced his official retirement after 16 years of competing in the Olympics. He's still close to Team USA and served as part of the NBC commentary team at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. is one of the most iconic boxers in the world and famously came out of retirement after his fourth retirement announcement to fight Conor McGregor in 2017. With an undefeated streak of 49–0, he figured why not take another crack at the ring. He won the fight and secured his 50–0 streak, surpassing Hall of Famer Rocky Marciano's 49–0 record.1
Despite announcing his retirement after the McGregor fight in 2017, he then came back to fight YouTuber Logan Paul in the summer of 2021. Technically, this was an exhibition fight, so it didn't count for his professional career, but Mayweather just can't seem to leave the ring for good.
Magic Johnson had a superstar NBA career and retired in 1991 after announcing that he was HIV positive. He then went on to play in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game, earning the MVP award. He wanted to play in the 1992–1993 season, but the comeback got scrapped in the preseason. Not only that, but he went on to play 32 games in the 1996 season and then retired for good.
Of course, we had to close with one of the most recent "un-retirements" in today's news, Tom Brady's. After the 2022 NFL season, missing out on another Super Bowl showing, Brady announced his retirement, only to roll it back about a month later. His retirement barely lasted 40 days. After reflecting, he stated that the time will come when he is ready to retire, but it's “not now.” Instead, fans can expect to see him playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for his 23rd season.2
Finding the right time to retire can be hard—just ask these athletes. It's an important life milestone that requires careful planning and consideration. But no one ever said you can't "un-retire" and come back better than ever.
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