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15 Athletes Who Retired As Champions

15 Athletes Who Retired As Champions

Stanley Cup X Bourque
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Retiring is the hardest thing many athletes have to do. While they may want to continue playing, often times their body is not able. But here are 15 athletes who went out the right way -- on top:

15. Jerome Bettis

Bengals v Steelers
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15. Jerome Bettis

Bengals v Steelers

The Bus left the NFL as a champion after the Steelers beat the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.

14. Bobby Jones

PGA Championship - Round Three
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14. Bobby Jones

PGA Championship - Round Three

Jones, co-founder of the Masters, won the golf grand slam in 1930 and walked away from the sport after the 1930 US Amateur Championship.

13. Lennox Lewis

Lewis celebrates
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13. Lennox Lewis

Lewis celebrates

The last great heavyweight boxer retired as the undisputed world champion in 2003, one year after he basically ended the career of Mike Tyson.

12. Joe DiMaggio

MLB Photos Archive
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12. Joe DiMaggio

MLB Photos Archive

The Yankee great hung up his cleats after winning the 1951 World Series, his ninth overall championship as a player.

11. Dominik Hasek

Detroit Red Wings v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Six
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11. Dominik Hasek

Detroit Red Wings v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Six

Hasek, considered one of the best goalies of all time, retired in 2008 after winning his second Stanley Cup.

10. Mark Spitz

Spitz Celebrates
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10. Mark Spitz

Spitz Celebrates

Before there was Michael Phelps, there was Mark Spitz. The US swimmer retired in 1972 after winning seven gold medals at the Munich games.

9. Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan Bulls
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9. Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan Bulls

Jordan makes the list, despite the fact that he retired for the final time as a non-champion. But when you retire twice after winning the NBA Finals, you get a little leeway. Jordan did it in 1993 and 1998.

8. Florence Joyner

Florence Griffith-Joyner of the USA in action during a race
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8. Florence Joyner

Florence Griffith-Joyner of the USA in action during a race

After winning three golds and a sliver amidst PED allegations during the 1988 Summer Olympics, Flo Jo decided to call it a career. She never failed a drug test.

7. David Robinson

Robinson poses
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7. David Robinson

Robinson poses

The Admiral is one of the most underrated centers of all time. People seem to forget how great he was. He finally proved he was one of the best by winning titles in 1999 and 2003, and after his second title, he walked away on top.

6. Michael Strahan

Michael Strahan Giants
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6. Michael Strahan

Michael Strahan Giants

Strahan could have continued his NFL career for several more years, but he decided to walk away from the NFL after the Giants pulled one of the all-time great upsets in Super Bowl XLII.

5. Pete Sampras

Pete Sampras
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5. Pete Sampras

Pete Sampras

Arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, Sampras called it quits after beating long-time rival Andre Agassi in the 2002 US Open Finals.

4. Rocky Marciano

Ed Sullivan 100 years
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4. Rocky Marciano

Ed Sullivan 100 years

Marciano is the only champion to hold the heavyweight title while going untied and undefeated throughout an entire career (49-0).

3. Ray Lewis

Ray Lewis
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3. Ray Lewis

Ray Lewis

Love him or hate him, Lewis left the NFL on the highest of highs. After tearing his triceps midway through the 2012 season, Lewis returned for the Ravens playoff run and led them to a Super Bowl victory.

2. Bill Russell

BOSTON - 1967:  Bill Russell #6 of the Boston Celtics rebounds against Walt Bellamy #8 of the New York Knicks during a game played in 1967 at the Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1967 NBAE (Photo by Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images)
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2. Bill Russell

BOSTON - 1967:  Bill Russell #6 of the Boston Celtics rebounds against Walt Bellamy #8 of the New York Knicks during a game played in 1967 at the Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1967 NBAE (Photo by Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images)

Russell won an astounding 11 championships during his career. He retired after the 11th and final one in 1969 when the Celtics beat the Lakers in game seven of the Finals.

1. John Elway

John Elway #7
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1. John Elway

John Elway #7

When you think of players going out on top, John Elway is likely the first guy who comes to mind. After losing three Super Bowls in the 1980s, the Broncos QB capped his career by winning two straight in 1998 and 1999 to go out on top.