Just about every year we see at least one or two superstar athletes call it a career. There will be some speculation, they will call a press conference, they will announce their retirement and thank the fans and their organization, and then people in the media will write some nice stories about them.
This year, however, is different. In 2013 we didn’t just see one or two big name athletes hang it up. We saw a boatload. In fact, you could argue that retirement was one of the year’s biggest sports storylines—if not for all the athletes murdering people or getting caught cheating. So today, with just three weeks remaining in 2013, let’s take a look back at the storied careers that came to and end over the past 12 months.
Who’s retirement do you think was the biggest?
Kickers don't get a ton of glory in the NFL, but if any was deserving of some fanfare at his retirement it was former Lion Jason Hanson. When he decided to call it quits, he was the NFL's longest-tenured player, having played 21 seasons in Detroit. He also retired with league records for most games played with one team (327) and most 50-yard field goals (52).
25. Jason Hanson
Was there any player more liked by their team's fans than Donald Driver? Not likely. The only man to play more games in a Packers uniform than Driver was some guy named Brett Favre and he retired as the franchise leader in receptions and yards. More importantly, he was a real class act.
24. Donald Driver
Longtime Colts center Jeff Saturday joined Indy as an undrafted free agent in 1999. All he did was go on to play in five Pro Bowls and block for one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time.
23. Jeff Sturday
There was this other guy on the Ravens who got a lot of attention regarding his retirement last year. However, the sudden retirement of center Matt Birk after the Super Bowl probably left the biggest hole in the roster of the defending champs. The six-time Pro Bowler decided he didn't want to live the life of an NFL fat guy anymore, so he retired on top, lost 75 pounds, and is now competing in some sort of model competition.
22. Matt Birk
Former Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter won't make the Hall of Fame because too many injuries interrupted his career. However, when this guy was healthy he was one of the best. He won the 2005 NL Cy Young award played a huge role in the Cardinals' World Series Championships in 2006 and 2011. And the Bleacher Bums at Wrigley are sure going to miss heckling him.
21. Chris Carpenter
Hideki Matsui was a superstar in Japan who had hit 332 home runs in 10 season before he signed with the Yankees in 2003. In MLB, the guy made two all-star appearances (2003 and 2004), hit another 175 home runs, and won the World Series MVP award in 2009. So, you know, not a bad little career.
20. Hideki Matsui
After spending the first part of last season playing for the Qingdao Eagles in China, this 7x NBA All-Star and 2x scoring champion got one more shot at an NBA Championship last year with San Antonio. Then, two months after falling one game short, he called it a career.
19. Tracy McGrady
Finland's Miikka Kiprusoff was never able to win the Stanley Cup. However, he took the Calgary Flames to within one victory in 2004, he established himself as one of the NHL's elite netminders, he managed to withstand the coaching tenure of Mike Keenan, and he won a Bronze medal backstopping the Fins at the 2010 Winter Olympics. That's a career he can be proud of.
18. Miikka Kiprusoff
Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoops may have been the biggest star in women's basketball at the dawn of the WNBA, but Tina Thompson had more success as a pro. The first ever WNBA draft pick never won a league MVP award, but she made nine All-Star appearances and led the Houston Comets to four consecutive championships from 1997 to 2000.
Oh, and she also won two Olympic gold medals in 2004 and 2008.
17. Tina Thompson
Hutchinson was drafted by the Seahawks, with whom he made seven trips to the Pro Bowl and became one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL. Then, in 2006, he signed a record seven-year, $49 million contract with the Vikings. It wasn't notable simply because it made him the richest guard of all-time. It was also notable because the fine print stipulated that if he was ever not the highest-paid lineman on his team, his entire contract would be guaranteed.
16. Steve Hutchinson
Andy Pettitte was always overrated by Yankees fans, because that's what Yankees fans do with players that win World Series championships—love them beyond reason. It's actually kind of cute.
That being said, he was one of the better pitchers of his era, retiring with a 3.86 ERA, 19 postseason wins (the most ever), five rings...and one bust for PEDs.
15. Andy Pettitte
Marion Bartoli is hardly one of the best players of her or any generation. However, she was a powerful (if unconventional) player that managed to achieve her biggest career breakthrough this past July, taking home the 2013 Wimbledon women's singles championship. She shocked the tennis world by announcing her retirement just one month later, citing injury frustrations.
14. Marion Bartoli
Why are Jason Kidd and Grant Hill tied at the #13 spot? Because they broke into the league in the same year—1995—and were co-winners of that season's Rookie of the Year award. Then they each went on to make a bunch of All-Star games (10 for Kidd, 7 for Hill) and win multiple NBA Sportsmanship Awards (two for Kidd, three for Hill).
Of course, these days Hill is out of the game altogether while Kidd is coaching the Brooklyn Nets. I wonder if Hill has texted Kidd to ask him how it's going?
13. Tie: Jason Kidd & Grant Hill
The best quarterback in Philadelphia Eagles history (6 Pro Bowls, 234 TDs, one trip to the Super Bowl) hadn't played in the NFL since appearing in six games with the Redskins in 2011. However, he didn't make retirement official until this past summer, when he signed a one-day contract to the retire as an Eagle.
12. Donovan McNabb
Like McNabb, Vlad Guerrero also had not played since 2011 when he finally decided to call it a career. Unlike McNabb, however, people are going to take Vlad's Hall of Fame candidacy very seriously. During his 16-year career with the Expos, Angels, Rangers, and Orioles, the guy was a 9x All-Star and 2004 AL MVP who batted .318/.379/.553 and hit 449 home runs.
11. Vladimir Guerrero
And speaking of future Hall of Famers, Jim Thome also retired this year. They say 500 home runs no longer gets you automatic entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame thanks to the steroid era, but Thome didn't hit 500. He hit 612. And he also managed to bat .276/.402/554 for his career, and considering he played 22 years.
I'm thinking he's a Hall of Famer.
10. Jim Thome
Brian Urlacher wasn't just the heart of the Bears offense for 13 years. He was the heart of the entire team and its fanbase. He retired as the franchise leader in tackles (1,779), which is 759 more than the Bear's other famous linebacker—Dick Butkis.
9. Brian Urlacher
Ilya Kovalchuk didn't retire from hockey this year. He just retired from the NHL. In July he announced he'd decided to go back home to play in Russia. In doing so, he forfeited the $77 million he had left on the $102 million deal he signed with the Devils.
At just 30 years old, Kovalchuk finished with 417 goals and 399 assists.
8. Ilya Kovalchuk
Todd Helton will always have an asterisk by his name because he played his entire career in Colorado, and because his home/road splits suggest that gave him a boost.
Home stat line: .345/.441/.607 with 227 home runs in 1,141 games.
Road stat line: .287/.386/.469 with 142 home runs in 1,052.
Of course, those road numbers are still pretty damn good.
7. Todd Helton
Roy Halladay was never quite as dominant as a Randy Johnson or a Pedro Martinez. However, there was a time when this two-time Cy Young winner was the best pitcher in the game, and he was one of the most dependable work horses out there. Also, who could forget how he threw a no-hitter in his first career postseason game?
6. Roy Halladay
Iverson announced his retirement in October and made a 10-minute speech. The 11x All-Star and 2001 MVP is easily one of the best and most entertaining players in NBA history, and his impact on the culture of basketball might have been even bigger than his impact on the court.
5. Allen Iverson
The three-time Indy 500 winner and four-time IndyCar series champion announced in November that doctors have told him he can never race again because of injuries sustained in his terrifying crash this past October. He fractured his spine, broke an ankle, and suffered a concussion at Houston when his car flew into the fence on the last lap. He's easily one of the best drivers in the history of North American auto racing.
4. Dario Franchitti
You couldn't possibly have missed Ray Lewis's retirement. It dominated the second half of the NFL season last year. Every time he did anything, everyone talked about how it might have been the last time. It got pretty annoying.
That being said, Lewis was an excellent player in his day, having won two Super Bowls and was a perennial invite to the Pro Bowl.
3. Ray Lewis
Much like Ray Lewis, Mariano Rivera's retirement tour was surrounded by ton of pomp and circumstance. Unlike Ray Lewis, Mariano Rivera was obviously the best person to ever have played his particular position and unanimously liked and respected by everyone in his sport.
2. Mariano Rivera
You might have thought that Rivera's retirement was the biggest one we saw in 2013. It was not. That honor undoubtedly belongs to the retirement of David Beckham.
Was he as good a soccer player as Rivera was a baseball pitcher? Probably not. But for whatever reason—maybe because he looks so good in his underwear—he has been the most famous athlete in the world for the last 15 years or so, and he certainly achieved a lot of success (six EPL titles, one Liga title, two MLS titles, one Ligue 1 title, and one Champions League title) on the pitch. So when he officially retired this past spring, it was a huge deal and he got quite the sendoff from his Paris Saint-Germain teammates.