While other years of sports may be remembered for epic wins or famous underdogs, 2022 had a very different pattern. As athlete after athlete announced their retirement to the world, the world of sports was altered. Even more, these people were not just any athletes; they might even be called the greatest of all time in their sports. With some of the best players in the world not playing anymore, fans wonder if a new era in sports has begun, and what it will take to replace the talent.
Professional tennis fans around the world were shocked when legends Serena Williams and Roger Federer both announced the end of their careers in the 2022 season. Williams first announced her plan to “evolve away from tennis” in a September Vogue article, then was celebrated by thousands of fans at the US Open with her last and unexpected victories. Her career stats speak for themselves- from a record-making 23 grand slam wins to Olympic gold medals- but she is most remembered for her determination and ability to pull out wins over her lengthy career. Federer announced his retirement through an Instagram post just weeks after Williams’ last game, remarking on how the sport treated him “more generously than he had ever dreamt.” His dominance in the sport lasted for decades, when at one point in his career he played in 21 out of 25 major finals in a row. Federer ended his career with an astonishing 20 Grand Slam wins and played his last match with longtime rival Rafael Nadar as his doubles partner.
Most people do not think about the WNBA without thinking about Sue Bird. As the league has continued to grow, she has been at the forefront, not only with a successful career but also with her leadership skills. She has won at every level- from NCAA Championships, WNBA Championships, to Olympic Gold Medals- but also helped found the WNBA Players’ Union to promote female participation and activism in sports. She frequently talks to young girls, encouraging them to keep up their sports and teaching others about the female athlete experience. Bird was sent off in her last game with a record number of WNBA fans, all chanting “thank you Sue!” for her unforgettable contribution to the game.
Of all the GOATs making news in 2022, Lionel Messi may be the most undisputed one for his sport. His long list of achievements includes a record-breaking six Ballon d’Or awards, ten La Liga titles and six Golden Shoe Awards, and his millions of fans around the world have cheered him on through every moment. He made his GOAT status even more clear after leading his Argentinian team to a thrilling World Cup 2022 win, his lifelong goal, when he announced that he would not return to the competition anymore. He plans to continue with international play and his club, Paris Saint-Germain, so fans will be able to watch him shine for a few more years to come. However, he will be missed at the World Cup as Argentina looks to a new generation of players to carry on his success.
A notorious ‘might-be’ retirement started out the year with so many. Tom Brady began 2022 announcing that his monumental football career was over, but then quickly turned back on it to return for the upcoming season. He wrote in a post that he “realized his place is on the field and not on the stands,” and that he wanted to return to some “unfinished business.”
This year did not only include the retirement of athletes, as it also saw the retirement of one of the most influential coaches in NCAA basketball history: Duke Coach Krzyzewski, or “Coach K.” He entered a program with zero previous national championships, and managed to turn Duke into a widely-known powerhouse with five by the end of his career. Besides being the winningest coach in the history of NCAA basketball, Coach K also coached multiple gold-winning teams at the Olympics and was a Sports Illustrated “Sportsman of the Year” in 2011. He set a new standard of excellence in the NCAA that coaches will continue to look up to.