After some time off or due to a change of heart, several professional athletes (across all sports) have come out of retirement and returned to playing a few more years of their sports.
The sports world was stunned on April 21 when former NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski (see #1 below) announced that he was returning to play professional football for the 2020 NFL Season. The news came a little over a year Gronkowski shockingly announced his retirement from the sport in March 2019.
Please note, that all of the athletes who came of retirement featured in this article are both male and female. Also, a few of the athletes listed in this article came out of retirement multiple times.
Now, with all of that being said, here are 10 Notable Athletes, including Rob Gronkowski, Who Came Out of Retirement:
1. Rob Gronkowski:
Although I included him in my article “15 Retired Athletes Who Still Look Hot AF”, you can Rob Gronkowski off that list as he recently announced that he is coming out of retirement.
However, Gronkowski will not be playing with The New England Patriots, the team he won three Super Bowls with, and spent his entire playing career for. The same day he announced his return to professional football, the Patriots traded him and a seventh-round pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a compensatory fourth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The tight end’s trade to Tampa Bay reunites him with former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who signed with the Buccaneers this past March.
2. Kim Clijsters:
The Belgian Tennis player’s first retirement came in 2007 due to injuries and losing some of her desire to compete. At the time of her first retirement, the then 23-year-old won one Grand Slam title (the 2005 US Open).
However, in 2009, after getting married and giving birth to her first child Jada (who is in the photo with Clijsters after the latter won the 2009 US Open), Clijsters came out of retirement that March and won her second US Open title that year. Clijsters made history with her 2009 US Open title as she became the first unseeded woman to win the event and the first mother to win a Grand Slam singles title since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won Wimbledon in 1980.
Clijsters would go on to win two more Grand Slam titles (the 2010 US Open and the 2011 Australian Open) before retiring again in 2012. In 2020, a now 36-year-old Clijsters came out of retirement for the third time and played at the 2020 Dubai Tennis Championships.
3. Michael Jordan:
Out of all of the athletes who came out of retirement (including those not included in this article), the Michale Jordan is perhaps the most famous name to come from that list. After winning three straight NBA Championships with The Chicago Bulls, Jordan retired in 1993 to pursue a professional baseball career. After spending a year in the minors, Jordan returned to the NBA in the middle of the 1994-95 regular season and led the Bulls to three more NBA Championships. He then retired for a second time in 1998 after the Bulls won the 1998 NBA Finals.
After spending time as a part-time owner and the President of Basketball Operations for the Washington Wizards, Jordan came out of retirement again in September 2001 and played two more seasons, this time as a member of The Wizards.
Jordan is not the only athlete featured in this article who came out of retirement multiple times.
4. Cătălina Ponor:
Besides Michael Jordan, another name to add to the list of notable athletes who came out retirement (and ones who did so multiple times) is Olympic Gymnast Cătălina Ponor. After winning three Olympic Gold Medals at the 2004 Summer Olympics (in the team event, floor exercise, and balance beam), the Romanian initially retired in 2007 due to injuries.
However, the three-time Olympic Gold Medalist announced in May 2011 her plans of returning to the sport. After the 2012 Olympics, where she won a silver medal in the floor exercise and a bronze medal in the team event, Ponor retired a second time. In 2015, Ponor made a second comeback and was Romania’s sole representative in gymnastics at the 2016 Olympics. After the 2017 Mexico Open, she retired for the third and final time.
5. Mario Lemieux:
Of all the athletes who came out of retirement, NHL Legend Mario Lemieux, who spent his entire career with the Pittsburgh Penguins, has the greatest comeback story. The two-times Stanley Cup Champion’s first retirement came in 1997, following years of back injuries and a 1993 Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis (which forced him to miss the entire 1994-95 NHL Season).
After becoming the owner of The Penguins in 1999, Lemieux announced his comeback to hockey in the middle of the 2000-01 NHL Season. He would go on to play six more seasons before announcing his second and final retirement in January 2006 after being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.
6. Dara Torres:
Dara Torres is another name to add to the list of professional athletes who came out of retirement multiple times. The twelve-time Olympic Medalist (four gold, four silver, and four bronze) represented the United States at five Summer Olympic Games.
After winning four medals from her first three Olympics (1984, 1988, and 1992), Torres took a seven-year break from the sport before making a comeback at the 2000 Olympic Games, where she won five medals (two gold and three bronze). After the 2000 Summer Games, she came out retirement again and competed at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, winning three silver medals. Torres retired from swimming for good after the 2012 US Olympic Trials, where she narrowly missed out on qualifying for a record-breaking sixth Olympic Games.
7. Brett Favre:
After spending 16 years with The Green Bay Packers, the team he led to a Super Bowl XXXI victory, the NFL Quarterback initially announced his decision to retire in 2008, only to reverse his decision in the summer of that same year.
Favre’s change of heart resulted in a lot of drama that summer as the Packers decided to not bring him back or release him (the team was planning to move on with Aaron Rodgers, Favre’s former backup, as the team’s starting quarterback). Ultimately, the Packers traded Favre to New York Jets, where he only lasted a season. The Hall of Famer signed with The Minnesota Vikings, where he played the final two seasons of his career.
8. Jason Witten:
The tight end is the third of the three NFL Players who came out of retirement to be featured in this article. Witten was drafted in the third round (the 69th pick overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys and retired in 2018, after playing 15 seasons with the team.
After spending the 2018 NFL Season as a color analyst for Monday Night Football, the 11-time Pro Bowler announced in February 2019 that he was coming out of retirement and returning to play for The Cowboys. During the 2019 NFL Season, Witten started all 16 games and recorded 63 receptions for 529 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns. Witten will play professional football in 2020, but as a member of the Las Vegas Raiders, the team he signed a one-year deal with on March 25.
9. Gordie Howe:
The late Gordie Howe, nicknamed “Mr. Hockey”, first hung up his skates in 1971, the age of 43, and after playing 25 years in the NHL. It came as a surprise to many when Howe came out of retirement eight years later to play one more season, scoring 15 goals and tallying 26 assists for the Hartford Whalers.
10. Magic Johnson:
The Lakers legend and NBA Hall of Famer famously retired from basketball in 1991 after telling the entire world that he tested positive for HIV. He then came out of retirement for the 1992 NBA All-Star Game (he was named MVP of the game) and was part of the Dream Team that won gold at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
Johnson would come out of retirement one more time in 1996 and played the final 32 games of the 1995-1996 NBA regular season. He retired for good after the Houston Rockets eliminated the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.