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Brett Favre and the 20 Saddest Finishes to Hall of Fame Careers

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IDecember 28, 2010

Brett Favre and the 20 Saddest Finishes to Hall of Fame Careers

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Brett Favre, currently in misery with the Minnesota Vikings, has had plenty of chances to end his career fittingly.

    I think it's safe to say if he retires after the 2010 season, it would not be a fitting end for the future Hall of Famer.

    He's on a Vikings team that is currently 6-9, reports emerged of him sending sexual texts to New York Jets hostess Jenn Sterger when he was with the Jets, and he's thrown 11 touchdowns to 19 interceptions.

    All of this after he could have ended his career in a dignified manner last season with a very good year, throwing 33 touchdowns to seven interceptions and leading the Vikings to a 12-4 record.

    But Favre isn't the only one whose career has ended sadly.

    Here are 20 of the saddest finishes to Hall of Fame careers.

20. Michael Jordan

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    This is debatable, because based on his performance with the Washington Wizards, I wouldn't put Jordan on this list.

    But his last two seasons with the Wizards were sad for a lot of fans because it was hard to see arguably the greatest player in NBA history finish off with a bad team after spending most of his career as a Chicago Bulls icon.

    He also didn't have the dynamic lift in his legs that had made him one of the game's most exciting players.

19. Emmitt Smith

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    Running back Emmitt Smith, like Michael Jordan, was supposed to stay with one team—the Dallas Cowboys.

    But although he did end his career on an impressive note (937 yards and nine touchdowns in 2004), he did so with the Arizona Cardinals.

    Most fans still can't get over that and it was a sad sign of a player still talented enough to play, yet not getting his due to end his career in Dallas.

18. Patrick Ewing

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    After Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing was traded from the New York Knicks to the Seattle Supersonics in 2000, his last two years were hard to watch.

    He played one season with Seattle, averaging 9.6 points and 7.4 rebounds and one season with the Orlando Magic, averaging six points and four rebounds. He started four of the 65 games he played in his final season.

17. Hakeem Olajuwon

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    In 2001, former Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon—one of the best players in the game in his prime—was traded to the Toronto Raptors for draft picks in a rebuilding year.

    He averaged 7.1 points and 6.0 rebounds per game before retiring after the season.

16. O.J. Simpson

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    Need I say anything?

    Sure, O.J. Simpson's sports career didn't end horribly, but what happened after included a murder trial in 1995 and being found guilty for armed robbery and kidnapping in 2008 and being sentenced to prison for 33 years.

    Can't say I feel bad for the guy, but it's still a sad ending to an illustrious sports career.

15. Steve Young

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    Steve Young, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, succeeded Joe Montana in San Francisco under legendary coach Bill Walsh and was a three-time Super Bowl champion.

    But his career was plagued by concussions, and during Week 3 of the 1999 season, his career was ended by a vicious hit by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Aeneas Williams. Young retired after the season.

14. Ken Griffey Jr.

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    The moment Ken Griffey Jr. departed from the Seattle Mariners to the Cincinnati Reds, his storied career was never the same.

    After a big season in his first year, Griffey began to have injury problems after that. In his next three seasons with the Reds, he never played more than 83 games in a season.

    His last season in 2008 before he was traded to the Chicago White Sox at the deadline was hard to watch, as Griffey, clearly on his last legs, batted .245 in 102 games. He was blasted in media outlets and hometown newspapers for his apparent lack of effort on the field.

    In all nine seasons Griffey was with the Reds, they never once made the playoffs.

13. Jerry Rice

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Jerry Rice, much like Michael Jordan, was supposed to end his career with just one team.

    But he left the San Francisco 49ers to sign with the Oakland Raiders after the 2000 season.

    He did have some good seasons with the Raiders, but his trade to the Seattle Seahawks was unbearable to watch.

    Rice played his last non-preseason game with Seattle in a playoff loss to the St. Louis Rams and did not catch a pass.

    He tried to give it another go with the Denver Broncos before the 2005 season, but retired before the regular season started.

12. Zinedine Zidane

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    France's Zinedine Zidane was on his way to a transcendent performance in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. He led his team to the final against Italy at 34 years of age.

    But he was given a red card and sent off the field after headbutting Marco Materazzi in the 110th minute.

    The gaff neutralized France's attack and left France without Zidane in the penalty shootout.

    Italy went on to win the World Cup and Zidane never played again.

11. Y.A. Tittle

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    After throwing for 36 touchdowns and 14 interceptions for the New York Giants in 1963, Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle followed that up by throwing 10 touchdowns to 22 interceptions in 1964 and ending his career on a 2-10-2 team.

    Sort of like Brett Favre, but unlike Favre, Tittle was able to end his career with some personal dignity, despite a horrendous 1964 season on the football field.

10. Brett Favre

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Brett Favre has had a historic career, but he probably should have foregone 2010.

    Despite being the face of the Green Bay Packers in his glory days, Favre now finds himself on a 6-9 Minnesota Vikings team, was reported to have sent sexual texts to former New York Jets hostess Jenn Sterger, and has 11 touchdowns to 19 interceptions.

    Oh yeah, and his all-time NFL record of consecutive starts (297) was snapped after a shoulder injury.

9. Babe Ruth

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    New York Yankees slugger Babe Ruth, one of baseball's greatest, was traded to the Boston Braves in 1935 after owner Jacob Ruppert wouldn't allow Ruth to manage the team, a desire of Ruth's.

    He proceeded to play only 28 games for the Braves to end his career, hitting .182 with six home runs in 72 at-bats.

8. Joe Namath

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    Quarterback Joe Namath was the face of a New York Jets team that defeated the highly-favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, 16-7.

    He was an icon in New York and it was hard to see him ever playing for another team.

    In 1977, his last season, he did.

    Namath playing for the L.A. Rams in '77 after numerous injuries derailed his career just didn't seem right.

    He started only four games for L.A., completing 46.7 percent of his passes for 606 yards and three touchdowns.

    He retired after that season.

7. Mike Tyson

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    "Iron" Mike Tyson, one of the most dominating boxers ever, quickly began to see his life unravel in the mid-1990s (or unraveled it himself).

    After losing the 1996 heavyweight title to Evander Holyfield, he proceeded to bite off part of Holyfield's ear in their 1997 rematch, leading to a disqualification.

    We all remember what happened when he tried to make a comeback against Lennox Lewis in 2002 at age 35 (that knockout was brutal).

    The beatdown was nothing compared to his financial situation, however. He declared bankruptcy in 2003.

    After getting knocked out by lesser opponents in Danny Williams and Kevin McBride in 2006, Tyson retired from boxing.

6. Eric Dickerson

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    Eric Dickerson was one of the great running backs the NFL has ever seen.

    But continuous contract disputes, injuries and suspensions forced him off the L.A. Rams and Indianapolis Colts.

    After being traded from the Los Angeles Raiders to the Atlanta Falcons, Dickerson served as a backup, and was then traded to the Green Bay Packers.

    He retired after failing a physical with the Packers.

5. Earl Campbell

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    In 1984, running back great Earl Campbell was traded from the Houston Oilers to the New Orleans Saints.

    Despite being one of the greatest running backs in NFL history, his arrival in New Orleans was not welcomed particularly well, as a lot of fans felt his skills had diminished and the young George Rogers was already in the Saints backfield.

    Campbell played in a diminished role in 1984 and 1985 and retired in 1986 as he felt the game had taken its toll on him physically.

    Indeed, it had. He had surgery after his career to remove three vertebrae and suffers from drop foot and persistent knee pain.

4. Magic Johnson

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    One of the greatest players ever to play in the NBA, Earvin "Magic" Johnson discovered before the 1991-92 season that he had tested positive for HIV during a physical.

    Magic announced his retirement before the season in a tear-filled speech.

    Despite retiring, Magic was voted into the 1992 All-Star Game in 1992 by the fans and played in it, recording 25 points, nine assists and five rebounds and leading the West to a 153-113 win.

    He later made a brief return in 1996.

3. Derrick Thomas

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    Kansas City Chiefs linebacker and defensive end Derrick Thomas was a nearly unstoppable force in his 11 years in the league and is widely considered one of the best pass rushers of all-time.

    In 1990, he recorded an NFL record seven sacks in one game against the Seattle Seahawks.

    After being left paralyzed from the chest down in a car accident in 2000, Thomas died from a blood clot that developed in his paralyzed lower extremities and traveled to his lungs.

    He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.

2. Roberto Clemente

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    Baseball great Roberto Clemente's career was cut short in 1972 when he was tragically killed in a plane crash en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

    He was inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame in 1973, becoming the first Latin American player inducted and the only current Hall of Famer for whom the mandatory five-year waiting period was waived since the wait was instituted in 1954.

1. Lou Gehrig

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    "The Iron Horse" ironically had his career cut short in 1939 with a fatal neurological disease now known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.

    In his last days of playing baseball, the disease severely took a toll on the Hall of Famer, as he declined to the point where he regularly fumbled the baseball and even slipped and fell while running the basepaths.

    His retirement speech in 1939 at Yankee Stadium, in which he declared, "Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth," is one of the great speeches of all-time.

    Gehrig died two years later from the disease.

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