In honor of LeBron James’ potential retirement, VSO News has compiled a list of the greatest retirement games in sports history.
LeBron James delivered an all-time classic in what could be the swan of his career Monday night. If this is the last game the sports world will see of The King, it is easily one of the greatest retirement games of all time.
Recorded 40 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists
Although LeBron’s Los Angeles Lakers were swept by the top-ranked Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals, he made history by leading his team from a 2-10 start all the way to the penultimate stage of the NBA Playoffs. Then he had 40 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
As James continues to publicly contemplate whether or not to return in the 2023-24 season, here’s a look back at other great retirements from around the world of sports.
Kobe scored 60 points
The legendary Kobe Bryant played 20 seasons in the NBA with one of the smartest mindsets in sports history. However, his body began to betray him the closer he got to the finish line until he finally made it to his final game, a home fight against the Utah Jazz.
The general expectation was for him to hit as many shots as possible and try to score 30, possibly 40 points. Former teammate Shaquille O’Neal challenged him with ambitions to go beyond 50, but not many thought he could actually do it. Eventually, he hit that mark and then some.
Bryant caught his shot all night and finished with a ridiculous 60 points, by far the most ever in an NBA retirement game. He also led a late victory and sealed it with the go-ahead basket and seal assist before announcing “Mamba out” during his post-game speech.
Floyd Mayweather makes it 50-0
In relation to “sugar” Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Rocky Marciano, and others, Floyd Mayweather is the greatest boxer to ever wear a pair of gloves in terms of his record. And in 2017, at the age of 40, he stepped into the ring for what turned out to be his last and most anticipated professional match.
He improved to 50-0 as a pro
Mayweather took on UFC champ and celebrity Conor McGregor loudly in a 12-round bout that many consider the greatest spectacle in combat sports history. He pulled off a 10th round technical knockout win and improved to 50-0 as a pro, leaving no doubt that he is the best of all time.
Mayweather has been and continues to be involved in exhibition fights but hasn’t taken on a true professional since that day. Even if his side missions might slightly tarnish his legacy for critics, no one can forget what they saw on his 50th win day.
Usain Bolt triple gold
There is no athlete in the sport more famous than the fastest man to walk the earth, Usain Bolt. And although he has plenty of feats to choose from, his dominance in the Olympic Games is topped by his massive list of accomplishments.
None of them could hold a candle to Bolt on the track
The Olympics are 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 gold in the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m at three consecutive Olympic Games, establishing himself as the most dominant champion in the history of the sport.
Bolt ended his 2016 Rio Olympics career with what he and everyone else knew at the time would be his last appearance on the big stage. Although American Justin Gatlin made Bolt’s Olympic 100-meter final a little closer than he was used to, the Jamaican took the gold in his usual style, chest pumping as he crossed the line.
Bolt raced in the World Championships the following year but was injured during a race and retired from all competition soon after, although he claims he could have won the 2020 Olympics with a bit of training had he had the desire.
John Elway leaves with a double
Today John Elway is recognized as one of the five best quarterbacks to ever fit in the NFL. What’s been forgotten, however, is that throughout most of his career, he struggled to break through to the big stage.
Elway was drafted in 1983 and earned an MVP and nine Pro Bowl selections, but lost three Super Bowls in the four-year span of 1987-90. He had to wait until 1998 for another shot at the Lombardi Cup, which he finally capitalized on with a 31-24 win over the Green Bay Packers. One year later, Elway and partners returned to play for the Atlanta Falcons.
He never took to an NFL stadium again and rode on top
Elway’s Denver Broncos eventually won 34-19 behind 336 yards, two total touchdowns, and an interception from their star quarterback to make it to back-to-back Super Bowl victories. But instead of going for three thrombuses, Elway, who was still a very good player, called it quits. He never went to an NFL stadium again and rode on top.
Ted Williams goes to the arena for his last game
When most people think of baseball’s offense, they think of Ted Williams. 344 career batting average which is the gold standard for fighters of all backgrounds and abilities.
Williams was 42 years old in 1960 but still competed a full season with the Boston Red Sox. 316 despite falling below . 300 for the first time in his career the previous year. He also hit 29 home runs in 116 games, which ranked him sixth in the American League.
He rounded the bases for the 521st and final time
None of these 29 fellows was more memorable than the last one, which came in the final game of Williams’ illustrious career. With the count 1-1, Williams swung hard on Jack Williams down the plate and converted it 440 yards to right center field. He rolled the bases for the 521st and last time in his career as the Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-4.