The career of any professional athlete can be over in an instant. Bodies betray even the most in-shape of individuals for one reason or another, and time eventually catches up with everybody who makes a living in the professional sports world. It is because those realities exist that some athletes choose to hold onto their playing days for as long as possible even when it is clear to anybody watching that those pros should call it a day. Michael Jordan, Evander Holyfield and even beloved New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter are all examples of players who hung around after their gifts had disappeared into history.
2015 could be a memorable year regarding player retirements, if even a few of the men who are mentioned below choose to call time on their active careers before December 31 comes to an end. This includes respected figures who have found fame and fortune participating in the beautiful game, baseball players who are becoming shells of their former great selves before our very eyes, and even a couple of professional wrestlers who could potentially put themselves in danger if they do not see the writing on the wall and walk away from that industry with health intact.
20 Mark Schwarzer
Just because a goalkeeper can theoretically continue playing well into his 40s does not mean that doing so is the best idea. Mark Schwarzer has been a mainstay in English football for nearly two decades, and he has featured for clubs such as Fulham and Chelsea. Schwarzer is currently signed for Leicester City, and the 43-year-old is likely serving out the completion of a current contract before he heroically rides off into the sunset. Nobody would look negatively upon Schwarzer if he were to come to the conclusion that the time has come to pursue other interests before the 2015-16 season kicks off.
19 Jaromir Jagr
One has to give the National Hockey League icon credit for keeping himself in such great shape. Jaromir Jagr will be 44 years old before the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs get underway, and yet Jagr is still going strong in pro hockey. Jagr has many noteworthy stats on his resume, and he became the oldest NHL player to net a hat-trick in the history of the league earlier this year. While he has undeniably had an incredible career and is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer in every sense of the word, Jagr has nothing left to prove to anybody at this stage of his life.
18 Ray Allen
17 Kurt Angle
As has been mentioned in pro wrestling storylines numerous times over the past two decades, Kurt Angle was dealing with a severely damaged neck even before he took a first bump inside of a ring. That issue, other health scares and also run-ins with the law that have led some to worry that Angle is not taking the best care of himself all seem to suggest that the 46-year-old does not need to have even one final match. World Wrestling Entertainment may not feature Angle in another WrestleMania match, but that does not mean that the two could not come together on a deal that would see Angle work for developmental brand NXT.
16 Ichiro Suzuki
Anybody who follows Major League Baseball on a daily basis knows the score on why Ichiro Suzuki is still stepping inside of batter's boxes during games. Ichiro is pursuing hit 3,000 of his MLB career, and he is also looking to accumulate as many hits as possible while playing as a pro in MLB and in Japan. While the man who was one of the best hitters of his generation can still have a stellar outing from time to time, the truth of the matter is that the veteran who will turn 42 years old later this year is but a shadow of what he was when he made his name with the Seattle Mariners.
15 Steven Jackson
Death, taxes, and National Football League running back Steven Jackson rushing for at least 1,000 yards during a regular season. You used to be able to set your watch to all three of those occurrences. Every NFL running back has a shelf life, and that is the case even for a freak athlete such as Jackson. Jackson visibly slowed down during his two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, and those should be the final two years of Jackson's NFL career. We may learn that Jackson has no choice in the matter but to retire if no team offers him a contract before the upcoming preseason comes to an end.
14 Didier Drogba
You know him. Odds are that you love him unless you have an unnatural and possibly unhealthy hate for Chelsea Football Club. Didier Drogba may no longer have the goods to be able to feature for a side capable of winning the Champions League, but he has nevertheless received contract offers from multiple clubs because of his name and his past achievements. Drogba has now signed with the Montreal Impact, making him the latest over-the-hill icon to join Major League Soccer, a competition that continues to have a reputation for being a retirement league because of such transactions. If things don't go well with the impact, Drogba should seriously consider hanging up his cleats.
13 C.C. Sabathia
12 Johan Franzen
Go visit the Internet search engine of your choice and type in “Johan Franzen” at any time during the summer months. You will not have to look long before you come upon a story about Franzen's concussion history and the state of his brain following such injuries. It is entirely possible that cooler heads will prevail and that Franzen will realize that it is best for his long-term health and also for the sport of hockey if he walks away without ever playing in another competitive game. The possibilities of all that otherwise could go terribly wrong are downright sickening to ponder.
11 Georges St-Pierre
History is going to remember Georges St-Pierre for being one of the greatest competitors to ever feature for the Ultimate Fighting Championship and one of the greatest mixed martial arts fighters fans and journalists have ever seen. It is being speculated that St-Pierre, who turned 34 years old earlier this year, is looking to make a return to the Octagon, and GSP may even have an opponent lined up before the year ends. St-Pierre, who is banged up from an MMA career and who is coming off of a serious knee injury, believing that he could shake the rust off and turn the clock back en route to becoming one of the best pound-for-pound fighters at this point of his life is unrealistic. He has other options.
10 Elton Brand
Just about every professional athlete would prefer to step away from the limelight after hoisting some piece of hardware, but few are able to do so. Elton Brand was seemingly headed toward possibly being given that opportunity, but it was snatched away from him when the Atlanta Hawks were unceremoniously bounced out of the 2015 NBA Playoffs by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Brand has been praised by the Hawks for what he meant to the club on and off of the court. Perhaps the veteran of 17 NBA seasons could continue to contribute to the Hawks; just not as a player.
9 Nick Swisher
Just how bad have things gotten for the native of Ohio? Cleveland Indians fans have been making jokes at the expense of Nick Swisher on sports talk radio for months, and members of the local media have even referred to Swisher as being nothing more than an “overpaid cheerleader” who is making millions upon millions of dollars while doing little of note for the Tribe. Swisher is (again) attempting to make a return from an injury with the hopes of trying to help the Indians make a run to the postseason. The best thing Swish could do for the Indians at this time would be to free up salary and retire.
8 Michael Vick
7 Mats Zuccarello
The information that was learned about the head injury suffered by New York Rangers winger Mats Zuccarello after he took a slap shot to the side of his skull back in April of this year is terrifying to read. Zuccarello, as he described while speaking to reporters, was found to have a brain contusion, bleeding on the brain and also a hairline fracture of the skull. Even more alarming was that he admitted that he lost the ability to speak for a time. Zuccarello will be just 28 years old this coming fall. He has plenty of life left to live off of the ice, and the Rangers and/or the NHL should take care of him if he chooses to retire.
6 Manny Pacquiao
5 Ken Shamrock
4 Wes Welker
Maybe, just maybe, NFL wide receiver Wes Welker will receive a call from a team that desperately needs help at the position. Welker has enjoyed much success playing with legendary quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and the undersized target has been credited for being one of the best slot receivers in the history of the league. He has also, however, suffered multiple concussions during his NFL career, and concerns about those injuries have played a part in why Welker has not been signed as of the posting of this piece. Welker needs to consider his health and think seriously about retiring.
3 Herschel Walker
We get it, Herschel Walker. You are in better shape than 99 percent of us have ever been in or ever will be in despite the fact that you turned 53 years old earlier this year. We are all happy for you. This talk about how you could still feature as an NFL running back or about how you want to participate in one more mixed martial arts fight has to stop. It is great that you want to prove that age is only a number, but there are other ways to do so which do not involve potentially being punched upside the head. Retire from such activities, Mr. Walker, and enjoy this time of your life.
2 Kobe Bryant
When Kobe Bryant put pen to paper on a contract that will make him $48.5 million of guaranteed money up through the end of the 2015-16 NBA season, he unofficially announced that he will not be retiring until at least next summer. Wear and tear, injuries and time have all limited what Bryant is able to do as a pro basketball player, and the veteran who is one of the all-time greats in NBA history is now doing more harm than good to the Lakers. Bryant is not going to retire until he cashes in that last paycheck, but it is only when that day comes that the Lakers will be able to rebuild the roster.
1 Tiger Woods
This suggestion would have been a bit harsh before the 2015 PGA season, but it now seems like a realistic option for the man who was once the greatest golfer any of us had ever watched. Tiger Woods cannot make cuts at Major tournaments, nor can be come close to even a top ten finish at what should, for him, be routine events. Woods would do well to remember that a “retirement” does not have to be permanent. Athletes such as Michael Jordan and Mario Lemieux both came back in time. Perhaps walking away is what Woods needs, and maybe he would even find that choosing to retire would give him a sense of peace in his personal and professional lives.