sports gazette

Nico Rosberg In the Company of Legends

Published: 3 Dec 2016

Yesterday recently crowned Formula One champion Nico Rosberg retired from racing at the tender age of 31.

With seemingly many years and potential championships to be won, he reminds us of similar athletes who walked away prematurely from their professions.

 

Eric Cantona

Despite being the talisman of a Manchester United side that won four Premier League titles and two FA Cups, the enigmatic Frenchman decided to walk away from the game just as it appeared he’d reached his peak.

His style of play, like future Red Devil Teddy Sheringham, was not based upon pace rather he belittled defences with a combination of exquisite skill and unrivalled footballing intelligence.

His wicked skill was tarnished by his fiery temper that lead to Cantona being dogged by controversies and ill-discipline where he was subsequently blacklisted by the French national side.

Perhaps it was his expulsion from Les Blues that fuelled his decision to leave club football behind, making the decision himself before his bad behaviour got the better of him. Regardless as to why Cantona retired so young, football was the ultimate loser.

Marvin Hagler

34 is not a young age to retire as a boxer. However, Marvellous Marvin Hagler was no ordinary fighter.

A supremely gifted southpaw capable of out boxing, out working and even out brawling (his fight with Tommy Hearns is considered by some 'the greatest three rounds of boxing') his opponents.

His fight record reads as fights 67, Wins 62, KO's 52, Losses 3 & Draws 2 but for the controversy in his final fight; this impressive resume could have been even more extensive.

Hagler boxed in an era of stellar opposition conquering the likes of Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and John Mugabi but his final opponent, Sugar Ray Leonard proved too much – according to the judges at ringside.

Leonard was awarded a contentious split decision with many boxer experts, including Hugh McIlvanney taking exception. The savvy veteran Leonard retired immediately and with a bitter Hagler unable to earn retribution in the ring, he too walked away, but in his case way before his time.

Calvin Johnson 

Like fellow former Detroit Lions legend Barry Sanders, the man nicknamed Megatron retired earlier this year at just 30 despite still being one of the game's elite performers.

With an unrivalled physicality of 6"5' and 235lbs Johnson also possessed blistering pace, hand-eye coordination, and an explosive vertical leap.

As the owner of a multitude of NFL receiving records, had the 2007 second overall pick continued to play into this thirties, it’s fair to assume he would have rivalled Jerry Rice as the game’s greatest ever receiver.

Johnson eventually stated that his decision to leave the game prematurely was based on the physical toll the game had taken on his body. In truth, had he played for a more successful franchise, like Rice's 49ers, there's a high chance Megatron would be torching defences for years to come.

 

Michael Jordan

To this day, it is doubtful that any sport has been blessed with anyone so talented, competitive and uncompromising as Michael Jordan, thus making his decision to retire from basketball at age 30 impossible to fathom.

Unlike the others listed, Jordan eventually returned to dominate his sport, but reasons for his one-year sabbatical remain inconclusive. 

Jordan cited a lack of love for the game and exhaustion following the ‘Dream Team Olympics' in Barcelona 1992. An alternative motive is the 1993 murder of his father James, to whom he was incredibly close. James Jordan was a huge baseball fan, and many believe that Michael wanted to honour his late father by applying his exceptional physical attributes to his father's preferred sport.

There is an alternative, more sinister, school of thought based on Jordan’s gambling problems, which by 1993 had spilt into the public domain. Then NBA Commissioner, David Stern, a known disciplinarian, is rumoured to have intervened with the suggestion of a sabbatical.

Why Jordan quit is now irrelevant, particularly since his second basketball chapter was even more impressive than his first.

Following yesterday’s dramatic Formula One announcement it is evident that Nico Rosberg is not alone in his actions, rather he is in the company of some of the world’s greatest competitors.

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