The Greatest Retirement Games in the World of Sports

  • Bittersweet retirement games have also proven some of the most memorable
  • Kobe Bryant scored 60 points in a comeback win during his final NBA game
  • Floyd Mayweather moved to 50-0 thanks to a win in his final professional bout
  • Ted Williams, arguably the best hitter ever, smacked a home run in his last at-bat
LeBron James
In honor of LeBron James potentially retiring, VSO News has compiled a list of the greatest retirement games in sports history.

Ending on a high

LeBron James delivered an all-time classic in what may have been the swansong to his career Monday night. If this was the last the sports world will see of The King, it is easily one of the greatest retirement games ever.

bowed out with 40 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists

Although LeBron’s Los Angeles Lakers were swept by the one-seed Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, he made history by leading his team back from a 2-10 start all the way to the penultimate stage of the NBA playoffs. He then bowed out with 40 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists.

As James continues to openly contemplate whether or not he will return in the 2023-24 season, here is a look back at the other greatest retirement games across the world of sports.

Kobe scores 60 points

The legendary Kobe Bryant played 20 seasons in the NBA with one of the sharpest mindsets in the history of the sport. However, his body began to betray him the closer he got to the finish line until he finally arrived at his final game, a home battle against the Utah Jazz.

The general expectation was for him to put up as many shots as he could and try to score 30, perhaps 40 points. His former teammate Shaquille O’Neal ambitiously challenged him to go as far as 50, but not many believed he could actually do it. In the end, he hit that marker and then some.

Bryant hunted his shot all night long and finished with a ridiculous 60 points, by far the most ever in an NBA retirement game. He also led a late comeback victory and closed it out with the go-ahead basket and game-sealing assist before declaring “Mamba out” during his post-game speech.

Floyd Mayweather makes it 50-0

With respect to “Sugar” Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Rocky Marciano, and others, Floyd Mayweather is the greatest boxer to ever put on a pair of gloves in terms of his record. And in 2017, at 40 years old, he entered the ring for what turned out to be his final—and most anticipated—professional bout.

improved to an astonishing 50-0 as a professional

Mayweather took on UFC champion and renowned loud-mouth Conor McGregor in a 12-round bout many consider the greatest spectacle in the history of combat sports. He struck a win via technical knockout in the tenth round and improved to an astonishing 50-0 as a professional, putting beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the best to ever do it. 

Mayweather engaged and is still participating in exhibition fights but has not taken on a true professional since that day. Even if his side quests have slightly stained his legacy for critics, nobody can forget what they saw on the day of his 50th win.

Usain Bolt’s triple-Gold three-peat

There is no athlete in sports more renowned than the fastest man to ever walk the Earth, Usain Bolt. And while he has a lot of feats to choose from, his herculean list of accomplishments is headlined by his dominance at the Olympic games.

none of them could hold a candle to Bolt on the track

The Olympics is a watering hole for the greatest athletes on the planet, but none of them could hold a candle to Bolt on the track. He won the Gold Medal in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m in three straight Olympics, asserting himself as the most dominant champion in the sport’s history. 

Bolt closed out his Olympic career in Rio in 2016 with what he and everyone knew at the time would be his last appearance on the grand stage. Although American Justin Gatlin made Bolt’s final Olympic 100m a little closer than he might have been used to, the Jamaican secured the gold in his typically casual style, pumping his chest as he crossed the line.

Bolt raced at the World Championships the following year but was injured during a race and retired from all competition shortly after, though he claimed that he could have won the 2020 Olympics with a bit of training had he had the desire to.

John Elway leaves with a double

John Elway is known today as one of the five best quarterbacks to ever suit up in the NFL. But what is forgotten is that for most of his career, he struggled to break through on the big stage. 

Elway was drafted in 1983 and racked up an MVP and nine Pro Bowl selections, but lost three Super Bowls in the span of four years from 1987-90. He had to wait until 1998 to get another chance at the Lombardi Trophy, which he finally capitalized on by winning 31-24 over the Green Bay Packers. One year later Elway and company were back to play the Atlanta Falcons.

never took to an NFL field again and rode off on top

Elway’s Denver Broncos ultimately won 34-19 behind 336 yards, two total touchdowns, and an interception from their star quarterback to make it back-to-back Super Bowl conquests. But rather than go for a three-peat, Elway, who was still a very good player, called it quits. He never took to an NFL field again and rode off on top.

Ted Williams goes yard on his final at-bat

When most people think of offense in baseball, they think of Ted Williams. He had a career batting average of .344 and is the gold standard for batters of all backgrounds and abilities.

Williams was 42 years old in 1960 but still competed in a full season for the Boston Red Sox. He managed to hit .316 despite falling under .300 for the first time in his career the year prior. He also smacked in 29 home runs in 116 games, tying him for sixth in the American League. 

He rounded the bases for the 521st and final time

None of those 29 homers were more special than the very last one, which came in the final at-bat of Williams’ illustrious career. With a 1-1 count, Williams swung hard on a Jack Williams pitch right down the plate and turned it 440 yards into right-center field. He rounded the bases for the 521st and final time in his career as the Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-4.

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