Top-Five Greatest Sporting Comebacks

Israel ButsonCorrespondent ISeptember 14, 2008

Top-five time again, and this week we're looking at the Top-Five Greatest Sporting Comebacks.

We're talking about sportsmen coming back from career ending injuries, or coming out of retirement to shock the world - not teams coming back from twenty points behind to win in overtime.

Here are the inspirational stories that make up our top five.

5. Randy Couture

On Feb. 4, 2006, Couture was beaten by light-heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell, in what was his second loss to Liddell by way of knockout. He announced his retirement immediately following the fight, and at the age of 43, many people felt it was time.

But, after a few months of retirement, fans were shocked to hear that Couture was making a return to the UFC, and he was to face the heavyweight champion, Tim "The Maine-iac" Sylvia for the title at UFC 68.

At the age of 44, many felt he could not compete with the much younger Sylvia. But within the opening minute of the first round he had knocked Sylvia down, and from there on, he controlled the fight. He would go on to win the heavyweight title for a third time, truly cementing his place in the Hall of Fame.

After defending his title against Gabriel Gonzaga, Couture fell out with the UFC over contract problems, and he walked away from his contract. It appeared, again, as though Couture's career in the UFC was over.

However, a second comeback is on the horizon, as it has been announced that the 45 year old Couture will return on a three-fight deal. It will start with a heavyweight fight against Brock Lesnar, with the winner going on to fight the winner of the Nogueria vs. Mir fight to become the undisputed UFC heavyweight champion.

This guy is the comeback king, and for a guy to be dominating such a physical sport in his 40s is truly amazing.

4. Magic Johnson

Magic was one of the NBA's greatest stars of the 1980s, but in 1991, his career came to an end when he announced he had HIV and that he would be retiring. He made a brief return in 1992 at the All-Star Game, but was forced to fully retire after fellow NBA players protested at Magic playing with the disease.

This time, he would be retired for four years before making one final return for the L.A. Lakers in 1996, where he played 32 games.

While his final return to the NBA wasn't the longest comeback, the fact that he never gave up, despite the fact that he was suffering from HIV, makes his comeback something special.

Most people in his shoes would give up and walk away, especially considering that in 1991, when he first announced he had the disease, HIV was relatively unknown.

It takes something special to comeback from a situation like that.

3. Muhammad Ali

In 1967, Ali was stripped of his boxing license and his heavyweight title after he refused to serve in the United States Army—which was engaged in the Vietnam War.

In 1970, the New York State Supreme Court ruled that Ali had been unjustly refused a boxing license, and granted him a license to begin fighting again. After beating Oscar Bonavena, Ali was to fight the undefeated Joe Frazier for the title. Frazier would go on to win the first of their three fights.

In 1974, Ali fought George Forman for the title—a fight no one expected Ali to be able to win. But he did just that, and in doing so, he reclaimed his title after seven long years. It was one of the greatest upsets in sports history and definitely one of the greatest comebacks.

2. Jonah Lomu

Jonah Lomu is one of the greatest All Blacks of all time, and in his prime, he was the greatest attacking weapon in all of rugby. In 1996, Lomu announced he had nephritic syndrome, a rare kidney disorder, and as time went on, it became clear that it was taking a huge toll on his body.

In 2003 Lomu was undergoing dialysis three times a week to help combat the disease, but the dialysis was doing damage to the nerves in his legs and feet. He needed a kidney transplant or he could die.

On July 28, 2004, Lomu had the transplant performed, and from that moment on, his eyes were set on returning to rugby—nothing was going to stop him.

In 2005, he was selected for a Martin Johnson Invitational XV, and his dreams were becoming a reality. He had returned from a life-threatening disease to play the game he loved.

He was signed by North Harbour that year, and was also given the chance to play for the Cardiff Blues during the offseason.

While he never returned to his best form, and his dreams of making the All Blacks again would never eventuate, his comeback from a kidney transplant is a phenomenal story. He never gave up, even when everyone around him was saying it could never happen.

What a legend.

1. Lance Armstrong

This is one of the greatest comebacks of all time. To be diagnosed with testicular cancer, and go on to make a full recovery, is a massive achievement in its own right. But to go on and win a record seven Tour de France titles is incredible.

Lance Armstrong is a true inspiration—not only to sportsmen who have suffered setbacks in their career, but to everyone.

And it isn't over for Armstrong yet, either—he has announced that he's going to be racing in the Tour de France next year for the first time since 2005, making it his second comeback.  


All of these sportsmen are inspirational. They came back from either serious illness or retirement to reclaim their place at the top of their sport.

It's stories like these that make sport so exciting, and so inspirational to all of us, both on and off the field.

Article from the Sports Fan Attic.