Being a professional athlete is fleeting. The average NFL career length is just 3.5 years. The average player lasts 5.6 years in the MLB, 5.5 years in the NHL, and 4.8 years in the NBA.
Superstars like LeBron James, Tom Brady, or Alex Ovechkin have been fortunate enough to stay at the top of their game for the better part of two decades, but not every player is so lucky. Many players have either been forced into early retirement due to injury, or decided that the mental and physical toll of being a pro athlete is no longer worth the paycheck.
24/7 Wall St. used the Sports Reference family of sites to review notable athletes from the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL who played well but had their career cut short by injuries or other factors.
There is a saying in sports that father time is undefeated. Even the best players will someday have to retire because they are unable to keep up with the younger and more athletic players entering the league. On occasion, however, great players are able to muster one final great season before calling it quits. These are the players with the best final seasons in sports history.