The career arc of a professional athlete is substantially different than that of almost any other profession. Most people have decades to forge a career, building on their education and stepping-stone jobs, ideally peaking in their 50s before slowing it down in their 60s.
Success for athletes comes fast, generally peaking in the mid-to-late 20s—assuming it comes at all. The slower the burn, the fewer big-money contract years, which is a pretty big deal when most careers are over before the age of 40.
Although greatness has been known to span decades in certain athletes, this type of intense professional trajectory means that stars often flame out as rapidly as they rise. Making magic isn’t easy and almost impossible to sustain.
Here are 15 athletes who have seemingly lost their magic.