Tom Brady Un-Retires: Here Are 15 Athletes Who Did the Same Thing

Tom Brady Un-Retires: Here Are 15 Athletes Who Did the Same Thing

When Tom Brady retired from the NFL on February 1st, 2022, the football community knew it was only a matter of time before Tom Brady un-retires and returns to Tampa Bay. On Sunday, nearly six weeks after announcing his retirement, Brady shook the community yet again. 

In a social media post shared to his Twitter account, Brady announced he would be returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for his 23rd season in the NFL. The greatest quarterback of all-time will once again defy father time as he looks to compete with the best in the world at 45 years old.

“These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands,” Brady wrote on Twitter. “That time will come. But it’s not now. I love my teammates, and I love my supportive family. They make it all possible. I’m coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa.”

RELATED: NFL Practice Squad Salaries and 15 Regular Jobs That Compare

Tom Brady Un-Retires, But He’s Not the First

Tom Brady Un-Retires: Here Are 15 Athletes Who Did the Same Thing
Tinseltown / Shutterstock

With Tom Brady coming out of retirement for yet another shot at a Super Bowl, the Buccaneers have quickly re-emerged as a title favorite. And while the news of Tom Brady retiring has completely shook the football community, it’s not the first time something like this has happened. 

In fact, players coming out of retirement is more common than you’d think. You have to keep in mind that athletes dedicate their entire life to perfecting their craft. Walking away from that isn’t always easy, even for players like Brady that have endless opportunities outside of football. 

And for many athletes, they don’t truly understand how much they’ll miss their sport until they actually leave. When they finally get a sense of what retirement is like, only then will they know for good if retirement is the right path. Let’s take a look at some other examples similar to Brady.

15. Björn Borg

Björn Borg is one of the greatest Swedish tennis players of all-time. He made his professional debut in 1973 and won his first Grand Slam in 1974 when he won the French Open. Over the next seven years, he won five more French Open titles and five consecutive Wimbledon titles. 

Between 1973 and 1981, Borg had a 654-140 singles record. He won 66 career singles titles, which ranks eighth in the Open era, and was the year-end ATP No. 1 player in the world in 1979 and 1980. He made it to the US Open finals four times, but never did so at the Australian Open.

Despite his dominance, Borg shocked the tennis world with an early retirement in 1982. It lasted nearly 10 years before attempting a comeback in 1991. He lost his next nine matches between 1991 and 1992, failing to win a single set. He didn’t win in 1993 either before retiring for good.

14. Deion Sanders

Deion Sanders, also known as ‘Prime Time,’ is a Hall of Fame defensive back that was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons with the fifth overall draft pick in 1989. Over the next 12 seasons, he scorched the NFL with his amazing ball hawk abilities, trash talk, personality, and return skills.

After a 2000 season that saw Sanders record four interceptions, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and 41 tackles for the Washington Guardians, he announced his retirement from the NFL. He remained retired for the next three seasons before making a comeback in 2004. 

Over the next two seasons, Sanders played 25 games for the Baltimore Ravens. During that time, he recorded 38 tackles, 5 interceptions, and 10 passes defensed. After the 2005 season, he retired for good. He has been a high school and college football coach since 2012. 

13. Brandon Roy

Brandon Roy is a former three-time NBA All-Star and 2006 Rookie of the Year. He was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the sixth overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, but was quickly dealt to the Portland Trail Blazers where he played a bulk of his shortened career. 

The first four years of Roy’s career were phenomenal. He improved every year and while he had minor injuries here and there, he was still playing a majority of the season and producing well. In the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons, he averaged more than 20 points per game. 

During the 2010-11 season, Roy’s ailing knees were really starting to bother him and he eventually announced his retirement after the 2011 NBA Lockout due to a lack of cartilage in his knees. He made a five-game comeback in late 2012, but suffered a season-ending injury. 

12. Mario Lemieux

Mario Lemieux is a Hall of Fame hockey player that was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins with the first overall pick in 1984. He was a nine-time All-Star and won the Stanley Cup twice in his career, which spanned 17 years. He finished with 690 goals and 1,033 assists in 915 games. 

Between the 1984 and 1996 seasons, Lemieux won the Calder Memorial Trophy, the Ted Lindsay Pearson Award four times, the Art Ross Trophy six times, the Conn Smythe Trophy twice, the Hart Memorial Trophy three times, and the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy once. 

He did, however, miss most of the 1993 season and all of the 1994 season due to being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. He eventually retired in 1997, but returned in 2000 and played for the next five seasons, but struggled to stay on the ice due to several injuries. 

11. Kevin Johnson

Kevin Johnson is a former three-time All-Star, five-time All-NBA player that won the Most Improved Player award during the 1988-89 season. He was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the seventh overall pick in 1987, but was traded to the Phoenix Suns his rookie year. 

Over the next nine seasons, Kevin Johnson was one of the Suns’ best players on the court. He averaged north of 20 points per game in five of those nine seasons, but saw some decline in a limited role during the 1997 season where he played just 50 games and started just 12 games. 

Johnson retired after that season, but eventually made a comeback ahead of the 1999-00 season. He played in six games that season and averaged 6.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game. He then helped the Suns win a playoff series, but retired for good. 

10. Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones

Ed ‘Too Tall’ Jones, as you might imagine, was a tall human being. He stood 6-foot-9 and played defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys, who drafted him first overall in 1974. He had 31 sacks over the next five years, including three Super Bowl appearances and one championship. 

After the 1978 season, which ended in a Super Bowl loss, ‘Too Tall’ Jones retired from the NFL to pursue a boxing career. He enjoyed a brief 6-0 boxing career over the next year before returning to the Cowboys ahead of the 1980 season. He didn’t skip a beat in his return. 

Over the next 10 seasons, ‘Too Tall’ Jones had 75.0 sacks – including a career-high 13.0 sacks in 1985 and 10.0 sacks in 1987. He was selected to three consecutive Pro Bowls during that time, as well as earning his first and only First-Team All-Pro selection during the 1982 season. 

9. Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. is one of the best boxers of all-time. He made his professional debut in 1996 with a TKO victory over Roberto Apodaca and fought in 50 bouts over the next 21 years. He was 50-0-0 in those bouts, including 27 knockouts. He was definitely difficult to knock down. 

With a 39-0 record after defeating Ricky Hatton in 2007, Mayweather Jr. announced his retirement from boxing. He wanted to focus more time on his promotional company, but eventually returned to the ring after 21 months against Juan Manuel Marquez in 2009. 

Mayweather won his next 10 fights to bring his record to 49-0 before retiring in 2015. Of course, he would once again come out of retirement in 2017 for his famous TKO victory over Conor McGregor. With a 50-0 record, Mayweather retired for good – though he does exhibition fights. 

8. Marshawn Lynch

Marshawn Lynch is a former NFL player that was drafted by the Buffalo Bills with the 12th overall pick in 2007. Over the next three and a half seasons, he ran for 2,765 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Bills before being traded to the Seattle Seahawks during the 2010 season.

Lynch exploded onto the scene in 2011, when he returned to his 1,000+ yard form. He hit that mark in each of the next four seasons, including a career-high 1,590 yards in 2012. He also hit 10+ touchdowns in each of those four seasons, including a career-high 13 touchdowns in 2014.

After a down year in 2015, Lynch retired from the NFL and sat out the entire 2016 season before returning with the Oakland Raiders in 2017. He played two seasons with the team before retiring again. He returned again during the 2019 season as part of a late-season push for Seattle. 

7. Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski is a current NFL player that was drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round of the 2010 draft. He spent the next nine seasons with Tom Brady and the Patriots, winning three Super Bowls and recording 7,861 receiving yards and 79 touchdowns. 

During his time in New England, Gronkowski amassed 1,000 receiving yards in four different seasons and amassed 10 touchdowns in five different seasons, including a career-high 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2011. He also won Comeback Player of the Year in 2014. 

After the 2018 season, Gronkowski abruptly retired from the game of football and sat out the entire 2019 season before returning to the NFL in 2020. He played the last two seasons with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay and there are rumors he might play again with Brady returning. 

6. George Foreman

George Foreman is a former boxer and world heavyweight champion who is also known for being the face of the George Foreman Grill. He made his professional boxing debut in 1969 with a TKO victory over Don Waldhelm. He wouldn’t lose a single match until October 30, 1974. 

With a 40-0-0 record, Foreman was matched up with the great Muhammad Ali. In what was the 1974 Ring Magazine Fight of the Year, Ali defeated Foreman via knockout in the eighth round. It was a tough loss that resulted in Foreman taking a year off of boxing throughout 1975. 

Foreman returned in 1976 and won his next five fights before suffering a loss to Jimmy Young in 1977. He then took a 10-year hiatus from the sport before making another comeback in 1987, despite being 38 years old. He won 35 of his next 38 fights before officially retiring in 1998. 

5. Randy Moss

Randy Moss is a Hall of Fame wide receiver that spent 14 seasons in the NFL. He was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings with the 21st overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft and went on to win SN, PFWA, and AP Rookie of the Year that season. He had 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Over the next 12 seasons, Moss amassed the 1,000-yard mark 10 times and the 1,300-yard mark six times – including a career-high 1,632 yards in 2003. He also recorded 10+ touchdowns in nine different seasons, including an NFL record 23 touchdowns in 2007 with Tom Brady.

Moss had a down year in 2010 that included being featured on three different rosters – he played four games with the Vikings, three games with the Patriots, and eight games with the Titans. He retired for the entire 2011 season before making a comeback in 2012, which was short-lived. 

4. Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson is a Hall of Fame basketball player and is widely regarded as the greatest point guard of all-time. He revolutionized the game with his size and ability at the position, proving that big guys can do it all. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers first overall in the 1979 draft.

Over the next 12 seasons, Johnson made 12 All-Star appearances, won three MVP awards, five NBA championships, three Finals MVP awards, 10 All-NBA selections, and led the league in steals twice and assists four times. He also averaged 7.2 rebounds per game in his career. 

Ahead of the 1991-92 season, Johnson was diagnosed with HIV and immediately retired. He tried to make a comeback the following year, but he retired before the season began. He eventually made a comeback in 1995, but only played 32 games before officially retiring. 

3. Jason Witten

Jason Witten is a former NFL tight end and likely future Hall of Famer. He was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the third round of the 2003 NFL Draft and spent the next 16 seasons with the team. During that time, he only missed one game – a Week 6 matchup his rookie season. 

Witten was named to 11 Pro Bowls during his time with the Cowboys, including two All-Pro selections and winning 2012 Walter Payton Man of the Year. He had 1,152 receptions, 12,448 receiving yards, and 68 receiving touchdowns in 239 games played between 2003 and 2017. 

After the 2017 season, Witten announced his retirement from the NFL. He sat out the entire 2018 season before making a comeback in 2019 with the Cowboys. He had 63 catches for 529 yards and four touchdowns. Witten played for the Raiders in 2020 before retiring for good. 

2. Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan is a Hall of Fame basketball player and is widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all-time. He was drafted by the Chicago Bulls with the third overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft. Over the next nine seasons, he led the league in scoring seven times. 

During that time, Jordan won three consecutive titles in 1991, 1992, and 1993. He averaged more than 30 points per game in seven straight seasons before sitting out the entire 1993-94 season to play minor league baseball. This would become his first of three retirements. 

Jordan returned for the 1994-95 season and completed yet another three-peat between 1996 and 1998. He retired again after the 1997-98 season and didn’t play for three years. He returned again in 2001 with the Wizards for two years and consistently scored 20+ points per game.

1. Brett Favre

Brett Favre is a Hall of Fame football player that’s widely regarded as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. He was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the second round of the 1991 NFL Draft. He was traded to the Green Bay Packers and spent the next 16 seasons with them.

During that time, Favre dominated the league. Though his interception rate was high, he made up for it with a flurry of touchdowns. With the Packers, Favre had a 160-93 record with 61,655 yards, 442 touchdowns, and 286 interceptions. He won three consecutive MVP awards. 

During the 2008 offseason, Favre announced his retirement. Several months later, Favre unretired and eventually signed with the New York Jets. He went 9-7 before having a dream season with the Vikings in 2009 where he went 12-4. After a down year in 2010, he retired. 

More Examples of Athletes Coming Out of Retirement

The 15 athletes highlighted above – as well as Tom Brady – are some of the most prolific names to unretire, but they’re far from the only ones to say goodbye too soon. In fact, it’s something that has happened hundreds of times in major professional sports in the United States. 

Some other notable athletes to unretire include LaMarcus Aldridge, Randall Cunningham, Steve DeBerg, Muhammad Ali, Gordie Howe, Donny Lalonde, Claude Lemieux, Dara Torres, Ricky Williams, Michael Phelps, Shannon Briggs, and Martina Hingis.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: 20 of the Strongest Safeties in the NFL

Not only that, but there are a number of athletes that retired far too soon and never came back. Some of those athletes include Barry Sanders, Jim Brown, Calvin Johnson, Patrick Willis, Andrew Luck, Annika Sörenstam, Pat McAfee, Tiki Barber, and Khabib Nurmagomedov.

About At The Buzzer

At The Buzzer, or ATB is the place for those who love sports, life, family, community, and so much more. We are far from the run-of-the-mill 24/7 sports news websites. We not only bring you what’s happening in the world of sports in terms of trades and breaking news, but we also bring you the news that goes on behind the scenes, like big life moments, and so much more. So take a minute and read one of our articles, we promise you won't regret it.