Tiki Barber & the 15 Most Ill-Advised Comebacks in Sports

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IMarch 9, 2011

Tiki Barber & the 15 Most Ill-Advised Comebacks in Sports

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    PHILADELPHIA - JANUARY 07:  Tiki Barber #21 of the New York Giants waits on the field after losing to the Philadelphia Eagles 23-20 during their NFC Wildcard Playoff game on January 7, 2007 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    There are times in sports where athletes should give it a rest, retire when they're on top.

    Some athletes simply don't know when to quit.

    On Tuesday, it was officially announced that former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber would try to return to the game of football at 35-years-of-age.

    But even if Barber makes a less-than-heroic return, there have been some athletes in sports history that are hard to surpass in terms of comebacks gone awry.

    Some of them had too big of egos, some of them needed money, some of them simply didn't know what they were doing and some sadly returned from injury when all signs said they should have stopped right there.

    Here are the 15 most ill-advised comeback attempts in sports history.

15. Tiki Barber

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    PHILADELPHIA - JANUARY 07:  Tiki Barber #21 of the New York Giants waits on the field after losing to the Philadelphia Eagles 23-20 during their NFC Wildcard Playoff game on January 7, 2007 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    It's hard to call Tiki Barber's comeback one of the worst of all time right now because we haven't seen him on the field yet, but after he officially filed for reinstatement into the NFL on Tuesday after four years out of the league, I find it hard to believe he's going to come roaring out of the gates at age 35.

    The New York Giants still retain Barber's services after he left the team in 2006, but they said they would release him once a new collective bargaining agreement is put in place.

    Barber was openly critical of Eli Manning and coach Tom Coughlin when he was an analyst and the way he left in 2006 had some players calling him a quitter.

    Well, now may be their turn to criticize.

    It would be kind of funny though if he officially came out of retirement, only to learn there would be no 2011 season due to the lockout.

14. Ryne Sandberg

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    4 May 1997:  Second basemen Ryne Sandberg of the Chicago Cubs sits in the dugout during a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won the game 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsohn  /Allsport
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    After 14 seasons in the Big Leagues, Chicago Cubs great Ryne Sandberg called it quits in 1994.

    But, despite him saying he had lost the desire to play anymore, that didn't stop him from returning in 1996 for another two seasons with the Cubbies.

    His numbers were decent, but he clearly wasn't the same Hall of Fame player he had been before; some sports writers went as far as to say he didn't deserve to be inducted into Cooperstown because of his disappointing return.

    That's colder than the Chicago wind.

13. Jose Canseco

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    LONG BEACH, CA - JULY 16:  Jose Canseco #33 of the Long Beach Armada drinks a juice drink while resting in between Golden Baseball League games against the Fullerton Flyers on July 16, 2006 at Blair Field in Long Beach, California.  (Photo By Christian Pe
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Jose Canseco's comeback attempt in 2006 was not pretty.

    Amid steroid allegations, testifying before Congress and his highly controversial book, he didn't even return to Major League Baseball. He returned to the Golden Baseball League, which isn't as golden as it seems.

    After spending one game with the San Diego Surf Dawgs, he was traded to the Long Beach Armada.

    Despite winning the GBL Home Run Derby, Canseco did not come out firing during his comeback.

12. Dave Cowens

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    David Cowens was a key piece of the Boston Celtics for years and was a member of their 1974 and 1976 championship squads.

    But after being retired for two seasons, he came back to play for Milwaukee in 1983.

    The sight wasn't pretty, as the former champion averaged 8.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.

    He actually said he didn't know why he returned.

11. Mark Spitz

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    Before Michael Phelps, there was Mark Spitz, one of the greatest swimmers in U.S. history.

    In 1992 he made a comeback at 41-years-old, only to fail to qualify for the Olympic Games.

    It was a sad ending to an otherwise illustrious career.

10. Bob Cousy

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    Bob Cousy played for 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics. He was a star on a team that won six championships during his time with the squad.

    You would have thought that would have been good enough.

    Instead, seven years after retiring in 1963, Cousy came back in 1970 to give it another go.

    At 41-years-of-age, Cousy averaged 0.7 points and 1.4 assists for the Cincinnati Royals in 34 total minutes on the floor.

    All those number aren't misprints.

    That's got to be one of the worst drop-offs ever statistically.

9. Jim Palmer

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    After seven years retired from the majors, three-time Cy Young winner Jim Palmer tried to make a comeback in 1991.

    It didn't work out too well, calling it quits even before the season began when he gave up five hits and two runs in two innings of work in a Spring Training game.

    Allegedly a coach that didn't know about him at the time told him during his comeback attempt that he would never get into the Hall of Fame with his mechanics.

    Jim Palmer turned to him and said, "I'm already in the Hall of Fame."

8. Bjorn Borg

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    Bjorn Borg, who led a prestigious career that had some calling him the greatest tennis player in history, didn't have quite the same career when he returned to tennis in the early 1990s after being away from the game for almost a decade.

    Borg returned adamant on using his old wooden racket, but it wasn't just his old wooden racket that didn't help his cause.

    He was clearly outplayed by younger, more athletic opponents, never winning a match during his comeback and enduring two years of first-round losses.

    It was like looking at an entirely different player...a much worse one.

7. Mike Tyson

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    There are many boxers in the sport's history that could make this list, simply because the sport is so brutal that if you're not on your game, you're bound to get knocked out.

    In Mike Tyson's comeback in 1995, it was him doing the knocking out, but his domination didn't last long, after growing frustrated in a bout with Evander Holyfield and biting off a chunk of his ear.

    Tyson's boxing license was rescinded shortly after for the charade.

6. Rickey Henderson

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    Rickey Henderson always thought Rickey had it in him, even at an old age.

    Despite playing for seven different teams in his last seven years, Henderson still was convinced he could outsteal any youngsters on the field.

    But sometimes a player needs to say when.

    Sure, Rickey has never officially retired, but he's still been trying to make a comeback to the major leagues, which he has yet to do.

5. Muhammad Ali

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    Arguably the greatest boxer who ever lived, Muhammad Ali was known for making opponents look foolish throughout his career, bobbing and weaving, swinging and striking.

    But it's safe to say he probably shouldn't have come back in 1980, losing his last two fights of his career to Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick and looking foolish himself.

    A sad ending to a great career.

4. Lance Armstrong

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    ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 23:  Lance Armstrong of the USA and Team Radio Shack competes during Stage Six of the 2011 Tour Down Under on January 23, 2011 in Adelaide, Australia.  (Photo by Morne de Klerk/Getty Images)
    Morne de Klerk/Getty Images

    On Sept. 9, 2008, possibly the greatest cyclist ever, Lance Armstrong, announced he would be coming back to try to win another Tour de France.

    What transpired after was a nightmare.

    He not only never won another Tour de France, he finished 29th in the Tour Down Under in Australia, had his bike stolen in Sacramento, had to withdraw from Vuelta Castilla y Leon when he broke his collarbone and finished his career (still) being investigated for the use of performance-enhancing drugs.


3. Michael Jordan

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    PHILADELPHIA - APRIL 16:  Michael Jordan #23 of the Washington Wizards on the court during the final NBA game of his career, played against the Philadelphia 76ers at First Union Center on March 30, 2003 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The Sixers won 107-8
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Michael Jordan didn't exactly play poorly in his return to the Washington Wizards in 2001, but he clearly wasn't the same player who had sunk the game-winning shot in the 1998 Finals against the Utah Jazz to solidify his sixth NBA championship with the Bulls.

    His legs simply weren't there and there are countless videos of him missing dunks during his comeback with the Wizards, which just shouldn't happen to Jordan.

    Plus, honestly, no one ever wanted to see Jordan in any other jersey than a Bulls.

2. Brett Favre

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    DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 02:  Brett Favre #4 of the Minnesota Vikings talks at a post game press conference after a 13-20 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on January 2, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Honestly, Brett Favre's 2010 comeback campaign (one of seemingly many) couldn't have gone much worse.

    After a solid year with the Minnesota Vikings in 2009, Favre had a nightmare of a 2010 after being convinced by his teammates to give it another go in the National Football League.

    He threw 11 touchdowns and 19 interceptions, his historic consecutive games streak came to an end, the Vikings went 6-10 and he was surrounded by allegations all year of him "sexting" former New York Jets hostess Jenn Sterger and sending naughty photos.

    People had been telling Favre for years he needed to quit while he was ahead; in 2010 these people were clearly right.

1. Dave Dravecky

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    This was a hard one to even put on the list, but if you're going to compile a list of historic decisions gone awry, you have to put former San Francisco Giants pitcher Dave Dravecky at the top.

    His comeback wasn't out of retirement, but following surgery in 1988 after being found to have a cancerous tumor in his pitching arm, Dravecky worked his way up through the minors to pitch with the Giants in 1989.

    The result was disastrous.

    In a game against the Expos just days into his comeback to the majors, Dravecky's humerous bone snapped on a pitch to Tim Raines, and he collapsed.

    After breaking his arm a second time in celebration after the Giants won the NL Pennant that year, Dravecky eventually had to have his arm amputated two years later due to the tumor.

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