Special Report

Athletes Who Had the Most Memorable Final Seasons

5. Dominik Hasek
> League: NHL
> Position, team: Goaltender, Detroit Red Wings
> Final season: 2007-2008, age 43
> Key stats and accomplishments: Jennings Trophy, Stanley Cup

Dominik Hasek is the only athlete on this list to retire after winning a championship twice. After helping the Detroit Red Wings hoist the Stanley Cup in 2002, the goalie hung up his skates. He came back after a season away and ended up playing four more seasons. In his actual final season, at age 43, he allowed the fewest goals of any NHL netminder to play at least 25 games and led the Red Wings to another Cup.

Source: Elsa / Getty Images

4. Ray Bourque
> League: NHL
> Position, team: Defenseman, Colorado Avalanche
> Final season: 2000-2001, age 40
> Key stats and accomplishments: 59 points, All-Star, Stanley Cup

Ray Bourque’s career spanned four decades, beginning in 1979. During 20 seasons with the Boston Bruins, he made 18 All-Star teams and won five Norris Trophies as the NHL’s best defenseman, but he never won a Cup. In 2000, he was traded to Colorado and finally was able to win a championship, helping the Avalanche hoist the 2001 Stanley Cup a year later at age 40.

Source: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

3. Michael Jordan
> League: NBA
> Position, team: Small forward, Washington Wizards
> Final season: 2002-2003, age 39
> Key stats and accomplishments: 20 points per game, 6.1 rebounds per game, All-Star

Though he will always be remembered as a Chicago Bull, Michael Jordan’s time as a Wizard was still impressive. While Jordan had already retired twice before, he was able to come back and perform at an All-Star level in his late 30s during his two seasons in Washington. At 39, Jordan was the oldest player to average 20 points in a season.

Source: N.Y. Public Library Picture Collection / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

2. Sandy Koufax
> League: MLB
> Position, team: Pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers
> Final season: 1966, age 30
> Key stats and accomplishments: 1.73 ERA, 317 strikeouts, 27-9 record

Sandy Koufax was easily the most dominant pitcher of the 1960s before an arthritic elbow forced him to retire in his prime. Despite battling the ailment, which nearly cost him proper function of his left arm, Koufax’s final season was one for the ages. He led the MLB with a 1.73 ERA, 27 wins, 323 innings pitched, 317 strikeouts, and 27 complete games.

Source: Jamie Squire / Getty Images

1. John Elway
> League: NFL
> Position, team: Quarterback, Denver Broncos
> Final season: 1998, age 38
> Key stats and accomplishments: Super Bowl MVP, Pro Bowl, 10-2 record

After years of being dogged with playoff failures, John Elway broke through in his final two seasons. Elway led the Denver Broncos to two straight Super Bowls at age 37 and 38. In his final season, Elway posted a career-best 93.0 quarterback rating and equaled a career-low 10 interceptions. He guided the Broncos past an outmatched Atlanta Falcons team to win his second straight Super Bowl and retired as a champion.

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