The Randy Mosses of the world do not come around very often. When you see an athlete with all the talent in the world take the field, court or ring, you can't help but draw out the rest of their careers.
The following athletes delighted us from the moment we first saw them play. That is the first criteria we are working with right now—love at first sight.
You will see each individual player from various sports listed and think to yourself, "Man, he was going to be the best ever."
Then something happened; whether it be tragic or self-imposed, the athlete didn't finish the masterpiece painting. There are still some areas that need to be filled in.
You will notice that some athletes fell well short of where we had them slotted. Others were just a season short of accomplishing what we thought was a foregone conclusion.
Either way, the main thought we should take away from all of these superior talents is surprise. When they began their trek through athletic celebrity, we assumed the end would be as pristine as their play.
Life, as we know, never works out that way. Some things are just not meant to be. Here is a collection of some very great athletes who, for one reason or another, did not finish the journey.
In sports, the promise of greatness always seems to conclude unfulfilled. There is something so frustrating in knowing what could have been. Here is an exercise in futility—the great that were simply good, and the legends that left their field far too soon.
Here are some unfinished tales that will have to remain just that, unfinished.
He is the first player to reach 100 touchdowns despite playing four of his first years in 12-game seasons. He is by far the best player to ever don a Browns jersey and one of the best to step on an NFL field.
However, he hung it all up far before his body. You see, Jim Brown was bit by the acting bug. That saw him leave the NFL field for the last time in 1965.
He played in only eight seasons and decided he had enough with football at the tender age of 29. We will never know just how many records would have been broken if Hollywood had not called him away from the game.
Ricky Williams was going to be a beast in this league for at least a decade; at least that is what some NFL insiders thought.
It is also the reason that Mike Ditka sold off all of the Saints draft picks in 1999 to get Williams. A few marijuana run-ins with the league and an odd retirement later, Williams is left to be remembered as a running back who could have been so much more.
Williams is one player who dealt with far too many issues off the field to remain stout on it. This is one tale that is more odd than it ever was amazing.
It is hard to knock Frank Thomas from measuring up when he belted 521 home runs, and was, for five years, the best hitter in baseball.
However, his career was supposed to be so much more. Thomas was supposed to be one of the best hitters to play the game.
He has been passed by Albert Pujols in that regard. Even his exit from the White Sox shows how little they cared for the legacy of the slugger. Jerry Reinsdorf famously offered Thomas a contract with a diminished skills clause.
Thomas was a bright star for a short amount of time. He was so dominant in that period that you can't say anything but he was great, but not the best.
Randy Moss was the impetus for this slideshow, and there is great reason for that. Moss was gifted with supreme talents that made him the clear-cut favorite to be the best we had ever seen.
His legacy falls well short of that. Retired, Moss will never get that elusive Super Bowl ring despite playing for some talent-laden clubs.
What we will remember is a player who far too often took plays off and whined about not getting enough touches. One of the greatest receivers in the history of the league will be most remembered for his attitude. That says a great deal about how that portion of him trumped his actual play.
Vince Carter will be known as one of the best dunkers to ever throw it down. He is also great player who will have had a pretty good career.
That is all to say that Carter fell way short of what we were promised. The dude can simply ball—but only when he wants to.
There was a time when we all wondered if Kobe Bryant or Vince Carter would be the new face of the NBA. A decade later, we know the answer to the question. Now we can only answer, "What happened to Carter?"
He is a player who frequently zones out during games. He also has no qualms in picking and choosing which games he will give his maximum effort in. This is a guy who could have easily given us thirty-points-a-night spectacles. Instead, he was content on merely being good.
There may have never been a better more gifted runner in NFL history. The sad part is we will never know. One of the best running backs in the history of the game was allowed only a short time to show us what he had.
From 1968-68, there was simply nobody better with the ball in their hands. In '68, Sayers suffered a devastating knee injury wherein he tore several ligaments.
He still came back the next year and dominated, despite losing a step. A second knee injury in 1970 did him in for good.
Sayers had to hang up the cleats after only six years of excellence.
There was a general feeling that the New York Knicks had won the NBA championship when they drafted Patrick Ewing in 1985.
There was simply no way the Knicks would squander multiple titles with a monster like Ewing in tow. The fact is Ewing was never able to live up to the immense hype that enveloped the promise of 1985.
Ewing is no doubt a great player who is considered to be among the 50 best to ever play the game. But he should have been the man of an era.
The years of his tenure should have defined the NBA landscape. Instead, he was lost among bigger stars during those years, never collecting the ring he was destined to win.
Bo knew baseball, he knew football and we knew he was something special.
Even as a young boy, I knew that Bo Jackson was quite possibly the greatest athlete I had ever seen or would ever see.
The sad fact is fate always has the last laugh, and Jackson could not trump bad fortune. A hip injury in 1990 derailed a flourishing baseball career and halted an NFL one altogether.
Jackson followed an All-Star season in 1989 with the Kansas City Royals with a Raider Pro Bowl nod in 1990. He is the only athlete who could have actually slotted himself in two Hall of Fame inductions.. Fate robbed us of a fascinating career.
Yao Ming ushered in a cultural wave of euphoria when he left China to join the Houston Rockets. This was not going to be some fad or PR stung though; the guy could play.
He had the size and strength to compete in the NBA. He also had the outside flourish and perimeter game that makes European big men so dominant in America.
The only thing that held him back were injuries. His feet could not withstand such a big frame and Yao broke down. His retirement earlier this year was a quick ending to a career that should have been so much more.
If you want a tragic tale in sports, you can't do much better in the story laid out by Mike Tyson. A young troubled youth was saved by Cus D'Amato.
I count myself lucky to have witnessed the exuberance fans had over Tyson when he was in his prime. It was hard not to plunk down the money for a pay-per-view Tyson fight when you were promised an awesome display of ridiculous athletic talent.
Tyson got the best of himself. He ended his flurry of perfect bouts with a half-hearted attempt against Buster Douglas in 1990. His defeat that night, along with a rape conviction in 1991, derailed one of the best boxers of all time.
It is sad to know that he could have been the best boxer of all time.