On June 1, 2011, the Boston Celtics’ Shaquille O'Neal announced his retirement from professional basketball. Both time and an Achilles injury had caught up with him, and now he would leave the court and fade into the sunset.
Fortunately, he already has a record of off-court accomplishments under his belt, such as a movie career, a music career and even time served as a law enforcement official. For O’Neal, the question now is not what he will do for a second career, but which one he will pursue next.
Click ahead to see the second careers that athletes have pursued after they left the playing field once and for all.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 08 June 2011
In 2002 Ring magazine named George Foreman one of the 25 greatest boxers of all time. A two-time World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, the second time he earned the title he was 45 years of age and the oldest man ever to win it. Post-retirement, he became involved in many business ventures, the most lucrative of which was his deal with Salton, the makers of the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine.
In 1999, Salton paid him $127.5 million to use his name and sales skills for the appliance. It was one of the biggest athlete endorsement deals in history, and that doesn’t even include the 40% cut of the profits that he earned, an arrangement which at one point netted him $4.5 million a month. All told, Foreman earned over $200 million from this deal alone, far eclipsing any money that he ever earned in the ring.
It’s easy to forget that Arnold Schwarzenegger was originally a professional bodybuilder. He won the Mr. Olympia title seven times, but what he really wanted was to grace the silver screen. In 1970 he got his wish, portraying the lead role in the so-bad-it’s-bad film Hercules in New York. Credited as “Arnold Strong,” all of his dialogue was overdubbed and the movie went nowhere. However, in 1984 he starred in The Terminator as the title character, and overnight he was one of the most popular action movie stars in the world.
Apart from acting, the former bodybuilder also co-founded the restaurant chain Planet Hollywood with Demi Moore, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis, and in 2003 he became the 38th governor of California. After leaving the governorship, he planned to resume his movie career, but in May 2011 it was revealed that he and his wife, Maria Shriver, were divorcing after the discovery that he had fathered a child out of wedlock. Since then, all of his movie projects are on hold indefinitely.
In a career spanning 12 years, Jack McDowell pitched for four different Major League Baseball teams. As a member of the White Sox he performed admirably, winning the American League Cy Young Award and The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year award in 1993. However, as a New York Yankee his fortunes took a turn for the worse, as did his pitching. His tenure was marked by a 1995 incident in which he was booed for a sub par performance and responded by giving the finger to the crowd. He was gone soon after.
Fortunately, he didn’t have to wonder what to do with himself when he retired. After all, he had already been doing it for years. McDowell had played guitar for the rock group Stickfigure since 1992, and he still has strong ties to the music community today. The ties are so strong, in fact, that in 2008 several musicians, including R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, formed The Baseball Project, a group whose sole album, Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails, features the song “The Yankee Flipper,” a tribute to McDowell and his legendary 1995 middle-finger salute.
Vinnie Jones is a former British football player who was captain of the Welsh national team. However, he was best known as a member of Wimbledon Football Club’s “Crazy Gang,” who entertained fans and enraged purists with their rambunctious approach to the game, which serious followers of the sport derided as crude and sloppy. Despite the goofy demeanor of the “Crazy Gang,” Jones himself cultivated a thuggish image that translated well into his next career, acting.
He appeared in his first film, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, in 1998, and Snatch, an ensemble crime caper, in 2000. He played to his largest movie audience in the 2006 film X-Men: The Last Stand, in which he played the evil mutant Juggernaut. Jones also has interests outside of acting, such as music, and in 2002 he released Respect, an album that included such blues and soul chestnuts as “In The Midnight Hour” and “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay.”
Kerri Strug is a retired gymnast who competed in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. She was a member of “The Magnificent Seven,” the women’s gymnastics team that won the gold medal for the United States for the first time in Olympic history. She was also at the center of one of the games’ most memorable moments when she successfully completed a routine despite a painful injury. She had hurt her ankle on her first vault, but landed successfully on the second. Immediately afterwards, she collapsed and was carried off in tears by coach Bela Karolyi.
After leaving the world of sports behind her, Strug became a schoolteacher in California. However, she moved to Washington DC in 2003 and worked in various positions for the US government, such as staff assistant at the Office of Presidential Student Correspondence and presidential appointee to the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. She returned to the world of gymnastics in 2004, when she served as a correspondent for Yahoo! during the Summer Olympics in Athens.
When Manute Bol died of acute kidney failure in June 2010 at the age of 47, the NBA lost one of its most unforgettable figures. The former Philadelphia 76er stood at almost 7 feet, 7 inches and was one of the tallest players in NBA history, giving him a nearly unmatched ability to block an opponent’s shots. Off the court, Bol was an active advocate for his native country of Sudan, which had been torn apart by war and poverty for years. According to NBA.com, much of the money that he made as a player was spent on aid to the troubled nation.
Bol established the Ring True Foundation to raise money for Sudan, and he participated in different sports to raise money for it, occasionally humiliating himself in the process. He appeared on Fox’s Celebrity Boxing, where he defeated former football player William "The Refrigerator" Perry. He became a member of the Indianapolis Ice hockey team for one day, despite being completely unable to skate. He even participated in a horse race as a jockey to raise money for the charity.
Heath Shuler is a congressman from North Carolina's 11th congressional district. Before that, he was a quarterback for the Washington Redskins. The organization had high hopes for him and signed him to a 7-year contract worth over $19 million, but he failed to live up to their expectations and he was out of the NFL after just four years. In 2008, ESPN ranked him fourth on their list of the top 50 busts in NFL history.
After his sports career, Shuler went into real estate and found success, and he won a congressional bid in 2007, where he serves today. Despite his affiliation with the Democratic Party, the pro-life gun control opponent is one of the more conservative members of congress, and he serves as whip for the conservative Blue Dog caucus. In 2010, he made headlines when he ran unsuccessfully for the post of minority leader against former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
In 1991, The New York Times called professional basketball’s Michael Jordan “one of the best defensive players in the game.” He joined the Chicago Bulls in 1984 and became famous for airborne slam-dunks that earned him the nickname “Air Jordan.”
In 2006 he retired for the third and final time, and bought a minority stake in the Charlotte Bobcats basketball team, but in 2010 he won a bidding war and gained majority ownership of the team. He is now the first former NBA player ever to become a majority owner.
Professional cyclist Lance Armstrong showed a talent for the sport early on. He competed in the 1992 Summer Olympics at the age of 21, and in 1993 he became the youngest person ever to win the UCI Road World Championship in Norway. He seemed unstoppable. However, in 1996, he was diagnosed with stage three testicular cancer and put on an exhausting medical regimen to defeat it. Amazingly, he recovered, and he returned to cycling in 1998, eventually going on to win the Tour de France seven times in a row.
Outside of cycling, Armstrong has had a successful career as a philanthropist. In 1997, he launched the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which has raised more that $325 million and is one of the top ten groups in the United States for cancer research funding. He also joined Andre Agassi, Muhammad Ali, Tony Hawk and Cal Ripken, Jr. in 2007 to found Athletes For Hope, a group that helps professional athletes get involved in charities of their own.
Although he hasn’t fought in decades, Muhammad Ali is still vividly remembered as one of the greatest boxers of all time, even by people too young to have seen him fight. A three-time World Heavyweight Champion, Ali’s nickname is “The Greatest,” and he has Sports Illustrated‘s 1999 "Sportsman of the Century" award to prove it.
In 1984, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. However, he hasn’t let it slow him down, as his many appearances as a public figure prove. He was guest referee at the first ever WrestleMania event in 1985, he kicked off the bicentennial commemoration of the US Constitution by riding in the float at the 1988 Tournament of Roses Parade, and he lit the flame at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. He also greets participants at the beginning of the Los Angeles Marathon, a duty he fulfills on a yearly basis.