While we’re all interested in star athletes during their careers, a lot of them go on to pretty interesting post-playing careers in retirement, too. For whatever reason, a lot of people who were legends on the field (or court) of play seem to carry that same competitive edge into life after sports –– in some cases achieving just about as much success in a second career. It’s a fascinating and surprisingly common sequence of events, and in this post we want to highlight six athletes who have had particularly interesting post-playing careers.
1. Gerard Piqué
While we’re used to Manchester City and Liverpool dominating football in England these days, Gerard Piqué was at Manchester United when they were the best team in the land. At the same time, he established himself as a key cog for a dominant Spanish national side. Away from the football field, though, Piqué has somehow been just as impressive. First, he founded and became president of Kosmos Holding, a sports and media investment group that’s now worth a great deal of money. And as more of a hobby, the Spanish star also played professional poker –– going as far as to come in second place at the 2019 EPT Barcelona. Piqué is also a noted philanthropist.
2. Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan is still perceived by many to be the best basketball player to have ever lived. Yet “His Airness” (as he is sometimes called) didn’t stop succeeding when he retired in 2003. Jordan in fact went on to further his own apparel empire –– the Nike-connected Jordan Brand –– to the point at which he attained a billionaire status not at all common even among the best of athletes. Jordan has dabbled in competitive endeavors at all, with famous passions for golf and casino gaming. But as of this writing, his primary role is as the majority owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. The man bought his own team in the league he used to dominate!
3. Mary Carillo
During her time in sports, Mary Carillo was known as a fierce tennis player. She had a brief professional career but won the 1977 French Open mixed doubles titles (alongside the infamous John McEnroe) anyway. Years later, Carillo became one of the top sports analysts for Tennis Channel and NBC. Her work as a correspondent has won her a Sports Emmy Award and two Peabody Awards. And in 2010, she became the first woman in history to receive the Dick Schaap Award for Outstanding Journalism. Carillo may just be an even better commentator and journalist than she was a player.
4. Michael Phelps
Known as the most decorated Olympian in history –– and probably the most impressive swimmer ever to enter a pool –– Phelps has managed to stay in the spotlight since retiring from competition. Like Piqué, he’s done this in part through a pseudo-career in poker. Phelps has made a number of World Series of Poker appearances over the years, and is now recognized as one of the top athletes who play poker, alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and ex-baseball star Alex Rodriguez. And even if Phelps weren’t regularly playing poker, he’d still be on the public radar thanks to his work in mental health advocacy. In 2017, the Olympian joined the board of Medibio, an organization that helps with early detection and screening of mental health conditions. He also does advertisements for Talkspace.
5. Manny Pacquiao
The famous professional boxer retired in 2021 as one of the best of the modern era. But that didn’t slow down his success. Far beyond boxing, he is already a media celebrity and senator in the Philippines –– and he still wants more. In 2021, Pacquiao formally filed his candidacy for the 2022 presidential election in the Philippines. It looks like he is going for another major title!
6. Roger Penske
Always driving in the fast lane in Formula 1 and NASCAR, this competitive racer from the 1960s never slowed down. Following his successful career on the tracks, Penske went on to become a wealthy businessman and owner of Team Penske, CJR Team Penske and the Penske Corporation. Roger Penske is now one of the most prominent names in American motorsports.
These are by no means the only examples, but they certainly demonstrate that for many top athletes, success doesn’t stop with retirement.