By Bryanna McDermott | The Duquesne Duke
By 2018, we will be living in a world where Kobe Bryant, Peyton Manning, Pavel Datsyuk and Alex Rodriguez won’t be playing their respective sports.
These four men are the athletes who graced the front of Wheaties’ boxes and plastered the walls of children’s bedrooms for the last two decades.
Kobe Bryant may not be the best NBA player of his generation, but his impact on the game of basketball is certain. He is a five-time NBA champion and a 15-time all-star.
“You asked for my hustle, I gave you my heart,” wrote Bryant in his retirement announcement for the Players’ Tribune. In return for his dedication, NBA fans gave Bryant their unwavering support through a 20 year career of highs and lows.
Bryant made basketball more than just a game; rather, it was passion that ran through his veins.
Quarterback Peyton Manning also ended his stunning career in glory. Manning won Super Bowl 50 before announcing he’d retire after an 18-year career in the NFL.
In those 18 seasons, Manning won two Super Bowls, was a 14-time Pro Bowler and built up 71,940 passing yards, the most of any quarterback in history. Manning’s lasting legacy is far more than numbers: He changed the way the game was played.
When Manning entered the league in 1998, teams were devoted to running the ball, with the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos handing the ball to Terrell Davis 369 times during the season. Manning flipped the league upside down by creating the NFL’s current offensive transition: pass the ball whenever possible, run only when necessary.
Pavel Datsyuk, the NHL’s “Magic Man,” hopes to end his career in the same fashion as Bryant and Manning.
Datsyuk announced at the end of the regular season that he plans on retiring from the Red Wings at the end of the post-season in order to go home to Russia to spend time with his 13-year-old daughter.
At 37-years old, Datsyuk is a two-time Stanley Cup champion, the NHL’s top defensive forward in three separate seasons and was awarded four Lady Byng Memorial Trophies for performance and sportsmanship.
In a highly aggressive sport, Datsyuk proved that playing the game cleanly can get a player as far as dropping the gloves.
Alex Rodriguez has had a career like no other MLB player in history. Though a stint with performance enhancing drugs tainted the success A-Rod has accomplished, his hard work to retain his image cannot go unnoticed.
When Rodriguez announced during Spring Training that he would not be playing after the 2017 season, MLB fans were shocked. Rodriguez is only 75 homeruns short of the all-time homerun record of 687.
He’s also a World Series champion with the New York Yankees, has over 3,000 career hits and a total career contract totaling over $400 million.
Bryant, Manning, Datsyuk and Rodriguez may no longer be playing their designated sports, but their legacies will continue to inspire athletes for generations to come.