Keith Olbermann

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In a 2002 column about his contentious final days at ESPN, Keith Olbermann wrote that his SportsCenter bosses accused him of showing too much backbone during volatile times. Then he revealed that he did have too much backbone, literally--six lumbar vertebrae instead of five.

After almost eight years as host of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, his inherently stubborn nature finally ran its course there too; Olbermann abruptly announced during a Jan. 21 broadcast that he was leaving the show.

It came as a surprise to most. Countdown began in April 2003 as a somewhat humorous take on the news but soon transformed into a space of intense anti-Bush opinion. That was a formula for success, and where Olbermann went, MSNBC followed. As the host railed against Republicans, he also lifted the ailing network's ratings.

But his increasingly high profile left Olbermann open to criticism. He was slammed for taking Democratic positions while hosting MSNBC's 2008 election coverage and was suspended after disclosing personal donations to three Democratic candidates during the 2010 midterms. By then, plans were already in the works for Olbermann to leave. As he delivered his nightly sign-off ("Good night, and good luck") for the final time, Olbermann could well have been speaking to himself.