Kobe Bryant's announcement that he will retire after this NBA season was one of the biggest stories of the year. But for the purposes for our annual roundup of retirees from the past year, Bryant isn't on this list because he'll be playing for another four months.
Charles Woodson was a late addition to the list as he made his retirement announcement Dec. 21. He was the second Heisman winner to retire in 2015 as Steve Spurrier, who won as Florida quarterback in 1966, stepped down as coach at South Carolina.
Other soon-to-be Hall of Famers who bowed out in 2015 included Martin Brodeur, Steve Nash, Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu.
Most Notable Sports Retirements, 2015
After winning a Heisman Trophy and national championship at Michigan, Woodson helped the Raiders reach the Super Bowl before losing to the Buccaneers. With Green Bay, Woodson was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. In 2010, he won the Super Bowl with the Packers. As one of the league's greatest defensive backs, Woodson is the only player in NFL history with at least 50 interceptions and 20 sacks.
Nash was NBA MVP in consecutive seasons (2004-05, 2005-06). The eight-time NBA All-Star ended his career 18-year career ranked third all time with 10,335 assists. The point guard also racked up 17,387 points, averaging 14.3 per game, and 8.5 assists.
Mayweather retired once before, but that proved to be just a 21-month hiatus. This time he supposedly means it. Mayweather won easy decisions in 2015 against Manny Pacquiao and Andre Berto to match Rocky Marciano's record of 49-0, with 26 KOs. He was listed by Forbes in 2014 and 2015 as the highest paid athlete in the world.
Reed, a nine-time Pro Bowler, was the 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. After the safety helped the Miami Hurricanes win a national title in 2001, the Ravens made him their first-round pick. Reed was a part of the Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII championship team. At the end of Reed's tenure, he ranked first in career interception return yards (1,590) and tied for first in postseason interceptions (nine). Reed ranks sixth on the all-time list 64 regular-season interceptions.
Brodeur helped the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final five times, winning three championships. The goalie also won two Olympic gold medals with Canada, as a starter in 2002 and as backup to Roberto Luongo in 2010. Brodeur won the Vezina Trophy four times and the Jennings Trophy five times. He holds 26 NHL records, including most regular-season wins (691), most regular-season shutouts (125) and most postseason shutouts (24).
Polamalu collected the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2010 and two Super Bowl rings (XL, XLIII). The strong safety was drafted 16th overall in 2003 by the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he spent his entire 12-year career, which included eight Pro Bowls.
The greatest scorer in international soccer history capped her career with a World Cup title in 2015. Wambach also helped the U.S. win the gold medal at the Olympics in 2004 and 2012. She missed the 2008 Olympics because of a broken leg. In 2012, Wambach became the first American woman to win FIFA World Player of the Year since Mia Hamm in 2002.
Gordon was a four-time NASCAR series champion back when it was known as the Winston Cup. He won the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600 three times each. He also won the Brickyard 400 five times including in the inaugural race in 1994. His 93 wins ranks third on the all-time list behind Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105).
Martin St. Louis
Undrafted and undersized at 5-8, St. Louis became NHL MVP in 2004 when he led the Lightning to the Stanley Cup title. He was also the league's top scorer that season and in 2013, when at 37, he became the oldest player to win the Art Ross Trophy. In 2014, St. Louis helped Canada to a gold medal at the Olympics.
Umenyiora helped the Giants win two Super Bowls (XLII, XLVI). The defensive tackle lead the NFC in sacks in 2005 (14.5). In 2007, he set the franchise record for sacks in a game with six against the Eagles. In 2010, Umenyiora broke the NFL record for most forced fumbles in a single season (10). Umenyiora ended his career with 85 sacks, 35 forced fumbles and 435 tackles.
Hudson was a four-time All-Star during his 17-season career. Hudson pitched for the Athletics, Braves and Giants, winning his only championship ring with San Francisco in 2014. In 2000, Hudson lead the American League in wins (20). Hudson ended his career with a 3.49 ERA and a record of 222-133.
A second-round pick of the Jaguars out of UCLA in 2006, Jones-Drew became a three-time Pro Bowler. In 2011, he led the NFL in rushing with 1,606 yards. He played the final season of his nine-year career for the Raiders and finished with 8,167 rushing yards and 68 touchdowns. He also had 346 receptions for 2,944 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The fourth overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft, the defensive end from Missouri evenly split his 14-year career between the Bengals and 49ers. Smith was a five-time Pro Bowler and earned a first-team All-Pro selection in 2011. He finished with 87 career sacks.
Giambi ended a 20-year MLB career at age 44. The left-handed slugger was American League MVP in 2000, when he hit .333 with 43 home runs, 137 RBI, a league-leading 137 walks and a 1.123 OPS. Giambi was selected to five All-Star Games, and ended his career with 440 home runs and 1,441 RBI. Giambi is one of the MLB players who has acknowledged and apologized for using PEDs.
Hamilton won an NCAA title with UConn in 1999 and an NBA championship with the Pistons in 2004. Hamilton was a part of three NBA All-Star teams, including in 2006 when four of the five of the Pistons starters were named to the the Eastern Conference All-Star team. Hamilton helped lead the Pistons to six straight Eastern Conference Finals appearances (2003-2008).
Willis spent his entire eight-year career as a linebacker for the 49ers. Willis was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after leading the league in tackles, earning first-team All-Pro and being selected for the Pro Bowl. Willis went on to be selected to seven Pro Bowls, and earned All-Pro honors in six seasons.
A second-round pick by the Sharks in 1991, The Wizard played for eight teams during his 17-year NHL career. Whitney, who helped the Hurricanes win the 2006 Stanley Cup, finished 1,064 points in 1,330 games.
Briggs was a linebacker for 12 seasons, all with the Chicago Bears. The seven-time Pro Bowler was selected selected to the first-team All-Pro in 2005. Briggs racked up 1,173 career tackles.
An ethnic Russian who grew up in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, Nabokov was a ninth-round pick by San Jose in 1994. He won the Calder Trophy in 2001. In his second season, he became the first goalie to score a power-play goal, with an empty-netter at Vancouver. In ten seasons, Nabokov set franchise records for shutouts (50) and goaltender wins (293). He finished his career with the Islanders and Lightning, then returned to San Jose as a goaltending coach.
Wilson's mentor as a safety for the Arizona Cardinals was Pat Tillman. After Tillman joined the Army, Wilson developed into a five-time Pro Bowler and earned first-team All-Pro in 2009. He also helped the Cardinals reach the Super Bowl for the first time in February 2009. At the time of his retirement in the spring, Wilson was one of just six players in NFL history with at least 25 sacks and 25 interceptions.
A rugged defensive defenseman, Regehr played the bulk of his 15-year NHL career with the Flames, helping the team reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2004. Late in his career, Regehr reunited with his former Calgary coach Darryl Sutter in Los Angeles and was part of the Kings' 2014 Stanley Cup championship team.
Taylor spent his entire 12-year NFL career as a member of the Steelers. The cornerback played for both of Pittsburgh's Super Bowl championship teams in the 21st century (XL, XLIII).
Martinez was at one point considered the third on the list of best pound-for-pound boxers behind Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. Martinez held the middleweight title for more than four years before being stopped by Miguel Cotto in June 2014. The southpaw from Argentina had a career record of 51-3-2 with 28 KOs.
Known for his defensive prowess and versatility, Marion played 16 NBA seasons with the Suns, Heats, Raptors, Mavericks and Cavaliers. His best offensive season was 2005-06 when he averaged 21.8 points with Phoenix. He helped Dallas win the NBA title in 2011 and went to the Finals in 2015 with Cleveland.
The winger from Quebec played most of his 14 NHL seasons with the Flyers, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010. A seven-time 20-goal scorer, Gagne recorded a career high of 47 in 2005-06 while playing mostly on a line with Peter Forsberg and Mike Knuble. Gagne won the Stanley Cup in 2012 with the Kings.
Furcal spent his 14 seasons in the majors with the Braves, Dodgers, Cardinals and Marlins. Furcal was a three-time N.L. All-Star. The shortstop had a career batting average of .281 and stole 314 bases.
Timonen spent the majority of his career with the Nashville Predators and Philadelphia Flyers. The defenseman won his lone Stanley Cup in his final season with the Chicago Blackhawks. Timonen was also a member of Finland's national team, appeared in five Olympics, world championships and two World Cups.
Kirilenko became the first Russian-born player to be drafted in the first round when the Utah Jazz selected him 24th overall in 1999. The St. Petersburg native was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 2001. Kirilenko was a member of the NBA All-Defensive Team three times, and an All-Star in 2004. Kirilenko played in four Olympics for Russia.
An undrafted safety from LSU, Clark established himself as a starter with the Steelers. He made the Pro Bowl in 2011 and played in two Super Bowls, winning XLIII.
A fifth-round pick of the Sharks in 1998, the Swedish winger played with six NHL teams. He won a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2008. His career high of 30 goals came in the 2009-10 season for Vancouver. Samuelsson also won an Olympic gold medal with Sweden in 2006.
After helping Michigan State win the 2000 NCAA title, Richardson went to Golden State as the fifth overall pick. He won the NBA dunk contest in 2002 and 2003. His best offensive season was 2005-06 when he averaged 23.2 points with the Warriors.
The 6-7 defenseman from Massachusetts was an eighth-round pick of the Bruins in 1993. He played 1,108 career NHL games with six teams, and won the Stanley Cup in 2009 with the Penguins.
Hardwick was a walk-on at Purdue where he began on the defensive line, then switched to center. The Chargers drafted him in the third round in 2004, and he made the Pro Bowl in 2006.
A first-round pick of the Panthers, Dvorak helped Florida reach the Stanley Cup Final in 1996 as a rookie. The Czech winger had a career-high 31 goals with the Rangers in 2000-01, the only time he cracked the 20-goal mark.
The longtime lefty reliever at a sub-.500 career record, but his clutch performances helped the Giants win the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Affeldt registered an 0.86 ERA in 33 postseason games.
Mohammed was part of two NCAA championship teams at Kentucky. In the NBA, the 6-10 center played for eight teams during his 17-year career and earned a championship ring with the Spurs in 2005.
The Dominican third baseman was a three-time N.L. All-Star during his 18-year career. He had four seasons for 30-plus home runs, including a career high of 38 in 2006 with the Cubs.
A first-round pick of the Coyotes in 1996, Briere went on to score 307 goals and 696 points for five teams in 17 NHL seasons. He had 12 goals and 30 points in the 2010 playoffs when he helped the Flyers reach the Stanley Cup Final.
Pierre finished his 14-year career with 614 stolen bases, which was 18th on the all-time list. He helped the Marlins win the 2003 World Series. He was a .295 hitter with 2,217 hits.
Holiday's decision to end her soccer career was surprising because she is in the prime of her career at 28. She helped the USWNT win gold at the Olympics, in 2008 and 2012, and the World Cup, in 2015. Playing for FC Kansas City, Holiday was the NWSL's MVP in 2013. Her husband is NBA player Jrue Holiday, whom she met at UCLA while they were students.
Boxx played nearly 200 matches with the U.S. Women's National Team, and she won a World Cup in 2015 to go along with three Olympic gold medals. Boxx, who also won an NCAA title with Notre Dame, shared some family time with ThePostGame.
During his 14-year career with the Nets, Spurs, Hawks, Warriors, Bobcats, Bucks and Clippers, Jackson averaged 15.1 points. He won a title with the Spurs in 2003. He was suspended 30 games for punching a fan during the Pacers-Pistons "Malice In The Palace" brawl in 2004.
In his senior season at Wisconsin, the linebacker was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. The 49ers selected Borland in the third round of the 2014 draft. As a rookie, Borland played 14 games and posted 107 tackles, two interceptions and a sack. But he made headlines by retiring after the season, citing his fear of brain injury.
The first overall pick in the 2000 NBA draft, Martin helped the New Jersey Nets win the Eastern Conference title in 2002 and 2003. In 15 NBA seasons with the Nets, Nuggets, Clippers, Knicks and Bucks, Martin averaged 12.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks.
The Canadiens and Oilers are two of the NHL's most accomplished franchises, and Souray owns number of odd club records for each. He has the Canadiens record for most points by a defenseman in one game (six). He co-owns Edmonton's record for fastest consecutive goals (seven seconds). Souray's 19 power-play goals in 2006-07 are the most in an NHL season by a defenseman. His unofficial 106.7 mph shot at the 2009 Oilers Skills Competition was a record before Zdeno Chara clocked 108.8 in 2012. Souray retired with 300 points.
Zito busted into the league in 2000 as a 22-year-old southpaw with a video-game, 12-6 curveball. He peaked in his Cy Young Award 2002 campaign, going 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA and 1.13 WHIP for the Moneyball A's. Zito became the highest-paid pitcher in MLB history in 2007, signing a seven-year, $126 million deal with the Giants. Zito had a winning record once in those seven seasons (15-8 in 2012). He won Game 1 of the World Series that fall. After a year and a half outside MLB, Zito was called up to Oakland for three outings this past September.
Brand had a storybook start to his basketball career. He won two state titles at Peekskill High School in New York, won a Naismith Award at Duke, became the first overall pick in the NBA Draft, won NBA co-Rookie of the Year and averaged at least 18.2 ppg and 9.3 rpg in his first eight seasons. However, a ruptured Achilles' tendon in 2007 slowed Brand's career and his numbers dropped significantly. He still put together 16 NBA seasons with two All-Star appearances.
The timing of Gonchar's career came shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He jumped to the AHL as a 20-year-old in 1994-95, where he was called up to the Capitals to finish the season. In 20 NHL seasons, Gonchar recorded 811 points, eighth all-time among Russian players and first among defensemen. His 1,301 career games are only short of Alexei Kovalev's 1,316 among Russians. Gonchar made five NHL All-Star Games, played in four Olympics and won his lone Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009.
When Hunter was a 16-year-old at Pine Bluff High School in Arkansas, he was selected to play for the U.S. Team at the Goodwill Games. Hunter needed sponsors to send him to Korea, so he wrote to his then-governor, Bill Clinton. Clinton sent $50 in the mail. Hunter brought that bold spirit to the big leagues, where he batted .277 with 353 home runs and 1,391 RBI in 19 seasons. He made five All-Star Games and claimed nine consecutive Gold Gloves from 2001-2009.
Injuries forced the outfielder to retire at 32. Quentin was a two-time All-Star with the White Sox (2008 and 2011).
Roos moved to the United States from Estonia in 1992 around his 10th birthday. He played his first season of organized football as a high school senior at Mountain View in Vancouver, Washington, where he starred as a tight end. A five-year project at Eastern Washington turned Roos into a 6-7 powerhouse offensive lineman. The Titans selected Roos in the second round of the 2005 NFL draft. He played all ten NFL seasons in Tennessee, making a Pro Bowl in 2008.
The New Zealand native won the U.S. Open and HSBC World Match Play Championship in 2005.
The 13th overall pick by the Browns in 2006, Wimbley stormed into the league with an 11-sack rookie season. The linebacker maintained a level of consistency for his first seven NFL seasons, recording at least 4 sacks each year. Wimbley's nine-year totals of 442 combined tackles, 53.5 sacks and 9 forced fumbles were not done justice by the bad Browns, Raiders and Titans teams he played for. Wimbley also strived off the field, landing gigs on Rachel Ray and American Ninja Warrior.
Juan Roman Riquelme
Riquelme, four-time Argentine Footballer of the Year, played for the Argentine National team for eleven years. Riquelme participated in the 2006 World Cup and twp Copa América tournaments. In 2008 Riquelme was a captain of the gold-medal Olympic team.
Stout is the former TKO Lightweight Champion. Stout had a career records of 20-12-1 in MMA and 16-4 in kickboxing.
Ryan stepped down in December after taking the Badgers basketball program to new heights. Wisconsin won seven Big Ten titles in 14 seasons with Ryan, and went to the Final Four in 2014 and the NCAA championship game in 2015.
Spurrier, a two-time All-American quarterback, won a Heisman Trophy at Florida and played ten seasons in the NFL. However, his coaching career lasted longer and showed his true brilliance. After a three-season stint at Duke, Spurrier returned to The Swamp, where he led the Gators to a 122-27-1 record over 12 seasons. He won a national championship and six SEC titles as Florida head coach. Spurrier had a brief stint with the Washington Redskins, before taking over Florida rival South Carolina. Spurrier made nine bowls in ten full seasons in Columbia, finishing 86-49.
A Virginia Tech cornerback in the 1960s, Beamer returned to his alma mater in 1987. The Hokies made only six bowls at the time of Beamer's hiring. In 1993, Beamer took them to the Independence Bowl for a 45-20 win over Indiana and went to 23 consecutive bowl seasons. The Hokies played for a national title at the 2000 Sugar Bowl, but lost to Florida State. He finished his Hokies career 236-120-2 after a 55-52 win against Tulane in this season's Independence Bowl.
Pinkel finished the season as Missouri football coach after announcing his retirement in October. He revealed he had been diagnosed in May with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In 15 seasons, which featured a move from the Big 12 to the SEC, Pinkel went 118-72 to become the school's all-time winningest coach. Before Missouri, Pinkel spent 10 seasons at Toledo. In 1995, Toledo finished the season ranked No. 24 in the AP poll after an 11-0-1 record.
Kill retired as Minnesota football coach in October. Kill, 54, has been battling epilepsy since 2005, and repeated seizures led to his doctor advising him to stop coaching. The Golden Gophers went 3-9 in 2011, Kill's first season at the school. In 2014, Kill was Big Ten coach of the year as Minnesota went 8-5 and played in a New Year's Day bowl game for first since 1962, losing the Citrus Bowl to Missouri 33-17.
The peak of O'Leary's run at Central Florida was a 52-42 win against Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2013 season. The team was 0-11 in 2004, O'Leary's first since leaving as Vikings' defensive coordinator to become the Knights' coach. O'Leary also coached Georgia Tech for seven-plus seasons, winning one ACC title. He was then hired at Notre Dame in 2001 but never coached a game, after bogus information on his resume prompted his resignation.
-- Marshall Kramsky contributed to this report.