Michael Phelps Covers 'Sports Illustrated' Wearing All 23 of His Gold Medals, Says Retiring Was a 'No-Brainer'

Sports Illustrated

Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and even heavier is the neck that has to carry all of Michael Phelps' Olympic gold medals.

The 31-year-old retired swimmer posed for the cover of Sports Illustrated for the third time this year, this time appearing with all 23 of his gold medals.

READ: Michael Phelps on Historical Comeback Year After Rehab Stint

The magazine dubbed Phelps the "greatest Olympian of all time" after he became the most decorated athlete to compete in the Olympics, taking home his 28th overall medal at Rio over the summer.

Sports Illustrated

Unlike most athletes, Phelps was able to call it quits while still on top, and he opened up to SI about what he'll miss most about competing in the Olympics.

"The hardest thing is going to be not having the chance to represent my country," Phelps said. "Not having the chance to stand on the medal platform and hear the national anthem. I'm at peace with how things ended. I'd rather have a healthy body in 20 years than kill myself more now. To me, it's a no-brainer."

Phelps' 2016 retirement announcement marked the second time he has walked away from the sport. The swimmer first retired in 2012, only to propose a comeback in April 2014. This time, Phelps seems resolute about staying out of the pool.

READ: 14 of the Biggest Celebrity Heroes of 2016

"I could probably go four more years. But could I put in the true, honest hard work? Probably. But I have so many other things going," Phelps explained. "And there's no reason. I'm tapping out. I'm closing. I'm done."

Still, friend NBA star Chris Paul predicts there is one factor that could give him the fire to compete again.

"I played golf with Chris Paul in September," Phelps recalled. "He didn't go to Rio, and he told me, 'Wait until your son is old enough and he says, 'Daddy, why aren't you out there?'"

Phelp's wife, Nicole, agrees.

WATCH: Michael Phelps Emotionally Reflects on Having His Son Watch Him Win Gold

"I see that being the only thing that could bring him back -- to swim for [our son] Boomer," Nicole said.

The happy couple welcomed their first child, son Boomer, in May. Watch the video below to see Phelps giving his newborn a swimming lesson.