Even with as much media scrutiny and even with the lack of privacy that pro athletes get, most people would be willing to trade lives with those athletes in a second. They are the one-percenters of the world who play a game for a living and make millions of dollars. Most have their choice of women, get VIP access to all of the clubs, and live a life of luxury. Nothing can possibly go wrong.
Until it does.
That’s the problem that many athletes, and specifically many NBA players, face when they head off into retirement. Some players' problems may even start before they hang up the sneakers. Money problems, drug problems, women problems and legal issues are just some of the misfortunes that NBA players have to deal with in retirement. All of these issues cause their lives to spiral out of control and they hit rock bottom.
But with every valley, there is a chance to reach another peak. These NBA players may never reach the peak of their playing days, but they still have opportunities to turn their lives around and become model citizens. We will look back at some of these NBA stars who hit rock bottom and how they went about in rebuilding their lives. It would be nice (and naïve) to think that they all overcame their issues, but some people just aren’t able to seize control of their demons. As the old saying goes, it’s not how many times you get knocked down, but how many times you get back up. Some made their way back up and some are still on the canvas. Here are 15 former NBA stars who hit rock bottom, and we shall find out where they are now.
15 Antoine Walker
Walker seemingly had everything one could want in a life and career, but he threw it all away. The Chicago native played high school ball with Donovan McNabb, won an NCAA Championship at Kentucky, and was a three-time NBA All-Star. Walker was even handpicked by Michael Jordan to train with him when MJ made his comeback in 2001. But despite all of this, and making $108 million during his pro career, Walker filed for bankruptcy just two years after his last game. He even had to auction off his only NBA championship ring that he won with the Miami Heat. It took three years, but in 2013 Walker finally announced that he was debt-free.
The former UK Wildcat is now an analyst for the SEC Network and is a consultant in the sports and entertainment division for Morgan Stanley.
14 Dennis Rodman
One of two Hall of Famers on this list, Rodman’s abilities on the court and his exploits off the court are well-chronicled. He is arguably the greatest rebounder who ever lived and a five-time NBA champion. Rodman has a Wikipedia page for his career achievements alone. While he last played in the NBA in 2000, Rodman continued playing in minor leagues until 2006 and he actually won an ABA championship in the process. Part of the reason Rodman kept playing was because he needed a paycheck and owed nearly $1 million in spousal and child support. He also struggled with addiction and appeared on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew after exhibiting strange behavior on The Apprentice.
Rodman has been arrested too many times to count but his most recent was in 2016 when he was charged with causing a hit and run accident. Today Rodman is somewhat-of-an ambassador to North Korea but he also says he’s just trying to bring sports to North Korea and has no political interests.
13 Jayson Williams
If Jayson Williams’ life had not spun out of control, then he could be sitting on the Inside The NBA set each Thursday instead of Charles Barkley. Like Barkley, Williams was a rebounding menace who had a larger-than-life personality. He was a one-time All-Star and led the NBA in offensive rebounds once. But after his career ended due to a leg injury, Williams encountered a string of problems including accidentally shooting and killing his limo driver. He also was arrested for a bar fight, got a DWI and was tasered by the NYPD.
He served a total of 26 months in prison for all of his legal issues but seems to have finally gotten his life back on track in recent years. He is volunteering at a Florida rehab center and tries to help others with addiction problems as he says drugs and alcohol are what led to his issues. When asked about his occupation at the rehab center, Williams describes it as this: “My only job is to be sober.”
12 Ben Gordon
Gordon is the newest addition to this list of NBA players who hit rock bottom. But before he did that, Gordon was an NCAA champion at UCONN and then became the only player in NBA history to win the Sixth Man award as a rookie. Gordon was an instant-offense type of player and twice averaged 20 PPG in a season. He was also grossly overpaid with the Detroit Pistons and seemed to mail it in after signing that big deal. After last playing in 2015, Gordon has had a string of problems and arrests.
In June 2017 he was arrested for pulling fire alarms in his Los Angeles apartment complex. Four months later he was sent to a psychiatric ward for confronting a woman with a box cutter in a sports rehab clinic. And then, just a month later he was arrested again for attacking the manager of his apartment complex. Gordon reportedly punched him, pulled a knife on him and then robbed him of his security deposit. Gordon was released on $50,000 bail and is due to stand trial in the coming weeks.
11 Vin Baker
Some players on this list had legal problems while others had financial problems. Vin Baker had both. A four-time All-Star and Olympic gold medalist, Baker’s problems started in Boston when he showed up to a practice one morning smelling like alcohol. He was suspended and then eventually released, but his issues didn’t stop there. He would hop from team to team afterwards and never recaptured the All-Star form he had with the Bucks and Supersonics. After his career ended, Baker admitted to blowing through the nearly-$100 million he made in his NBA career.
It took nearly a decade, but Baker would finally get on the right path and he infamously became a Starbucks manager near his home in Connecticut. Now he is a guest TV analyst for Bucks games and is the manager of basketball operations at a summer camp in the New England area.
10 Shawn Kemp
In 1989, the Reign Man became the first person in 13 years to play in the NBA without playing in college (he went to one year of college, but didn’t play basketball). Over the next decade, we saw Kemp at his peak as he was Blake Griffin of the 1990s and was one of the most exciting players in the league. He made six All-Star teams and was widely considered the third-best power forward in the NBA after Karl Malone and Charles Barkley. However, Kemp let himself go towards the end of his career and ballooned to over 300 pounds by the time he left Seattle. As good as a player he was on the court, he was just as big a player off the court as he fathered AT LEAST seven kids with AT LEAST six different women. Kemp was busted for drugs twice after he retired – once for cocaine and once for marijuana. After not playing for six years, a 39-year-old Kemp tried to make a comeback in Italy in 2008 but played in just three games.
He did seem to change for the better in recent years as he opened up a bar in Seattle and appeared in a video with Macklemore that promoted an upcoming show in the city.
9 Kenny Anderson
With all of the great players to come from New York City, Kenny Anderson was the first to make All-City four times in high school. He was then an All-American at Georgia Tech and played 14 seasons in the NBA. He’s best remembered being a part of those early '90s Nets teams that had so much potential but never got out of the first round. Anderson made over $62 million during his NBA career but bad decisions in his personal life made him go bankrupt the same year he retired. He fathered eight children by five women and one of his ex-wives would drive around in a car with a personalized license plate that said “His Cash” in reference to a divorce settlement.
In 2015 he appeared in a reality TV show with The Rock that focuses on people trying to turn their lives around, and in 2017 Anderson appeared in Mr. Chibbs, which is a documentary that chronicled Anderson’s post-basketball life.
8 Latrell Sprewell
Spree’s NBA career was full of headlines and his post-career has been no different. A four-time All-Star, Sprewell took disliking one’s coach to a whole new level when he choked P.J. Carlesimo for simply telling him to make crisper passes. After rebuilding his image with the Knicks, Sprewell finished out his career in Minnesota. He infamously declined a three-year, $21 million extension by declaring the offer was a slap in the face and that he had a family to feed. His bravado would come back to bite him as just a few years after declining the contract, Sprewell’s yacht and mansion in New York went into foreclosure.
Today, Sprewell is still rocking the dreads and appeared in a Priceline.com commercial in which he mocked himself. He also appeared at a Knicks game after Charles Oakley was thrown out of the arena and appeared to be chummy with his former boss, Knicks owner James Dolan.
7 Derrick Coleman
“The first time I saw Derrick Coleman play, I thought he was going to be the greatest power forward of all-time.” – Charles Barkley
Coleman had the talent to back up Sir Charles’ statement, but he lacked the drive and work ethic to be an all-time great. He still accomplished a lot in his 15 NBA seasons including being the Rookie of the Year, making an All-Star team and winning gold at the 1994 World Championships. Coleman also had a career double-double average through his first 10 seasons in the NBA but ran afoul of the law during his career. He was charged with disorderly conduct for urinating in public, was sued by a woman for trespassing and battery and got in a car accident while drunk which injured a teammate. But DC also did some good for others as he played for Detroit during the Pistons-Pacers brawl and he protected the Pistons’ ball boys from any of the violence that ensued.
A Detroit native, he also brought clean water and utensils to residents during the Flint water crisis. Coleman suited up for the Pistons for all of five games, but he made such an impact in Detroit that the team honored him during the last Pistons game played at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
6 Alvin Robertson
Only four players in NBA history have recorded a quadruple-double in a game and Robertson is the only one of those four to do it with steals. He was a pit bull of a defender who made six All-Defensive teams, four All-Star teams and led the NBA in steals three times. Robertson spent most of his career playing for bad teams including the Spurs before they were good and the Bucks after they were good.
After retiring in 1996, Robertson ran into some off-the-court problems and spent a year in prison for abusing a girlfriend. A decade later he was arrested again on charges of domestic violence but he saved his worst for 2010. That year he was arrested for trafficking a 14-year-old who he also allegedly sexually assaulted. He was part of a ring that kidnapped the girl and forced her to have sex with clients in a strip club. All of the charges were dismissed, but Robertson has essentially been blackballed from the NBA for his post-NBA problems.
5 Nick Van Exel
The high-sock wearing lefty was a steal of a draft pick in the second round in 1993. He was a part of those mid-90s Lakers teams that were built around Vlade Divac and Eddie Jones, but he also played two years with the Shaq-Kobe Lakers. Van Exel was a one-time All-Star who played for six different teams before retiring in 2006.
Nick the Quick is the only player on this list whose problems weren’t self-inflicted. The reason why Van Exel hit rock bottom is because in 2013 his 22-year-old son, Nickey, was convicted of murdering his best friend. The younger Van Exel killed his friend because the friend planned on snitching to the cops about two armed robberies that the pair had pulled off. Nickey was sentenced to 60 years in prison while Nick was an assistant coach for the Hawks. Nick would miss a few games but returned to the sidelines and is currently an assistant with the Grizzlies.
4 Allen Iverson
Unquestionably the best NBA player on this list, Iverson was one of the most iconic players in history. His crossover appeal, and his crossover dribble, endeared him to a whole new set of sports fans that not even Michael Jordan could reach. Four scoring titles, 11 All-Stars, an MVP award and an induction into the Hall of Fame are just some of AI’s accomplishments. While it’s been widely reported that Iverson has gone broke, that is not the case. His contract he signed with Reebok in 2001 has a trust fund set aside that will pay AI $32 million when he turns 55 (in 2030). He is also paid $800,000 per year by Reebok and his NBA pension, which kicks in in 2020, will pay him another $96,000 per year.
As recently as 2015 Iverson also confirmed to CBS that it’s just a rumor and myth that he’s struggling financially. Today Iverson is a member of the Big3 basketball league as a player/coach but is more coach than player.
3 Mookie Blaylock
No player, not John Stockton, not Gary Payton, not Scottie Pippen…no player had more steals during the 1990s than Daron “Mookie” Blaylock. He was one of the most underrated point guards of his era, made six All-Defensive teams and twice led the NBA in steals. Despite making $32 million during his career, bad decisions led to Blaylock having to get a job as a bartender after he retired. He also developed a drinking problem and was arrested six times for DUI since 2007. The worst of those came in 2013 when he ended up killing another driver in an accident. Blaylock pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and ended up serving three years in jail.
He is also on probation for another eight years and is prohibited from driving for 15 years. No word on how Blaylock is doing today, but his son is a five-star football recruit who recently signed with the University of Georgia.
2 Eddie Johnson
“Fast” Eddie Johnson was a two-time All-Star in the early 1980s who is best known for his problems off the court than his play on the court. He was suspended several times due to failing drug tests and was permanently banned from the NBA in 1987 for refusing to attend drug counseling. Johnson made 104 three-pointers in his career and was reportedly arrested just as many times! His convictions consisted of battery, robbery, burglary and drug possession just to name a few. While awaiting trial for sexual assault in 2006, Johnson was arrested for another such case, but this time it was of an 8-year-old girl. He would be convicted of sexually assaulting the child and that carries a mandatory life sentence. Fast Eddie Johnson will spend the rest of his life at the Santa Rosa Correctional Institution just outside of Pensacola, Florida.
1 Lamar Odom
Odom was one of the most versatile players of his era and was similar to Ben Simmons in his ability to run the point from the power forward position. He was a two-time champion, was the Sixth Man of the Year and made over $115 million during his career. But when Odom was traded from the Lakers, he went into a downward spiral that included doing drugs regularly while still playing in the NBA. Things went from bad to worst when he was caught by Khloe Kardashian doing drugs in the mancave that she had built for him. She would then file for divorce and Odom would continue to sink even further. In 2015 he was discovered unconscious in a Las Vegas brothel and says he had 12 strokes and two heart attacks. Khloe returned to his side to help him overcome his health troubles (before divorcing him), and Odom was able to attend Kobe Bryant’s last NBA game in 2016.