Retired Athletes Keep Hustling

Former stars such as Michael Jordan and Lawrence Taylor may be retired, but that doesn't mean they've stopped endorsing

At some point, the glory fades away. No more autograph requests, photo ops, or walk-off home runs.

For many athletes, the transition from on-field celebrity to off-field regular Joe is a difficult one. According to the NBA Players Assn., 66% of NBA players are bankrupt, divorced, or unemployed within five years of retirement. The percentages jump to a staggering 78% of NFL players only two years out of the game.

For the select athletes able to buck the post-playing career trend, however, retirement provides unique opportunities for a second career.

As 2009 illustrated, whether retired athletes are broadcasting games, hawking products, or participating in outlandish reality TV shows, they still have a profound effect on the everyday lives of sports fans. Some might call it a way to stay relevant. For others, it's just a chance to make a quick, often needed dollar. In either case, these former superstars are taking full advantage of their famous names.

Reality TV to Product Pitchmen

Consider the legendary NFL coach and recently retired sportscaster John Madden. Over the past 20 years, Madden's eponymous video game franchise from Electronic Arts (ERTS), Madden NFL, sold nearly 80 million units and generated revenue in excess of $2 billion. Madden's 2009 iteration has sold more than 4 million copies since its release last August. Meanwhile, his departure from the broadcast booth left a prime-time vacancy for ex-Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Cris Collinsworth, already considered one of the best football analysts in the business.

Instead of cleats, NFL Hall of Famers Michael Irvin and Lawrence Taylor put on ballroom shoes as contestants on Dancing with the Stars. And because reality TV wasn't enough to get LT back into playing shape, he joined Dan Marino as a pitchman for the Nutrisystem diet. (In case you were wondering, Marino lost 22 lbs. vs. Taylor's 35 lbs.)

Michael Jordan is still waiting to get his Hanes on you; George Foreman is a lean, mean, fat grilling machine; and the Miami Heat's young star Dwyane Wade is trying to get into Charles Barkley's T-Mobile (DT) Fave Five.

Some Enviable Successes

Business mogul Magic Johnson runs an entertainment and hospitality company worth an estimated $700 million. New mom Annika Sorenstam made London's SportPro magazine's 2009 list of the 20 most powerful women in sports, despite not having played competitively since 2008. Of course, you can't mention the impact of retired athletes in 2009 without talking about Andre Agassi, whose tell-all memoir, Open, reached No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller list.

And we imagine the only reason Lance Armstrong and Brett Favre came out of retirement was to make the Power 100 list.

Nevertheless, the point remains that influence fades fast once athletes leave the locker room for good. Unless they're one of the special few able to attach their name to a product and run with it, retirement life for jocks can be difficult.

As for the people mentioned in this article, call them old, call them retired, call them whatever you want. Just don't call these former athletes inactive.

Click here to see the world's most powerful athletes in the 2010 Power 100.