Long after the spotlight of an arena full of fans has faded, retired athletes move on to all kinds of other careers and journeys in life. Most of us don’t get to see that part of an athlete’s career, but that’s generally how things are supposed to go. But as is the case in any walk of life, sometimes the good die young. We present to you now 15 cases of athletes who died in the middle of their careers. Some achieved greater success and fame on the field than others, but they all passed away unexpectedly. The athletes on this list range in sport of choice, including basketball, football, soccer, hockey and skiing. Though not all of the athletes on this list died on the field of play, they will be remembered for achieving high levels of success in athletics and for leaving us way too soon.
15. Drazen Petrovic
Petrovic was part of a wave of European roundball stars who changed the face of the NBA in the late 80’s. However, an auto accident in Germany in 1993 cut short a career full of promise for the New Jersey point guard. A star in his native Croatia, Petrovic led the former Yugoslavia to a Silver Medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. No stranger to controversy, Petrovic feuded openly with fellow Yugoslav Vlade Divac, who was a Serb. Petrovic signed with Portland in 1989 and played in 77 games that season, scoring an average of 7.6 points per game in what he called “garbage time.” A trade to New Jersey revitalized the Hall-of-Famer’s career and in the season before his death at 28, he averaged 22.3 ppg and shot 52 % from the field.