The notion of professional athletes squandering their fortunes has always been a fascination of fans, and it's easy to see why. We tune in night after night to watch our favorite players do their thing on the biggest possible stage, so it's hard to imagine them being capable of the same kind of financial mistakes that anyone is capable of. Most of the time, when former NBA players blow through their earnings, it's due to a variety of factors including poor investments, an unsustainable lavish lifestyle, family troubles, as well as substance and gambling addictions.
With the way the NBA is set up, players have a strange college experience, where their games are watched by millions but they aren't paid, leading to a situation where a player can be a household name who knows he's going to be banking millions shortly but is broke in the meantime. This leads to a situation where players come into the NBA and are ready to start spending as soon as that first chequepayment comes in. Maybe a situation where college players were given a modest stipend—as well as some more financial planning advice—would lead to fewer players going bankrupt after retirement.
These days, it seems like current players are a lot more financially literate than their predecessors. Guys like Chris Paul, LeBron James and Steph Curry have all found ways to greatly expand upon their playing salaries. James in particular is on pace to become a basketball billionaire, pulling in nearly a hundred million dollars a year in salary and endorsements, but also investing wisely with the help of Warren Buffet. However, there is no shortage of players who've made millions playing in the NBA and then gone broke. Let's take a look at 15 of them.
15 Antoine Walker
While Scottie Pippen has had his share of financial problems, he's still most famous for having been a dominant NBA player that was a key member of championship winning teams. The same cannot be said for Antoine Walker, who at this point is far more famous for being someone who blew his earnings than he is for anything he did on the court at this point.
Over the course of a long and productive NBA career in which he was a three time all-star and won a championship with Miami, Walker also racked up $110 million in salary. He blew through that money because of a combination of over-extravagant purchases and generosity. During his playing days, he owned seven luxury vehicles and four multi-million dollar homes. He was once robbed of more than $200 000.
He is said to have supported around 70 family members with allowances. He filed for bankruptcy in 2010 with nearly $13 million in debt, and had to sell his championship ring. Since 2013, he is said to be debt-free, and now has a net worth of a couple hundred thousand dollars, which represents a step in the right direction. Although it's hard to imagine how it would feel to have had such a productive NBA career and now not be able to fully enjoy the financial benefits. He currently works as a basketball analyst.
14 Latrell Sprewell
Man, I used to love watching Latrell Sprewell play. He used to have a kind of dynamic intensity, making wild plays and always giving 100%. He also shares the NBA record for most made three pointers in a game without a miss, with nine. He was a four time all star, and he also lead the New York Knicks all the way to the NBA finals over the course of his career. However, at this point, he's just as famous for his off court antics, which have resulted in him having an extremely low net worth for a former NBA player.
Sprewell once choked his head coach, P.J. Carlesimo, which would lead to him being suspended for 68 games. That kind of interruption in a player's career can be tough to bounce back from on its own, but he followed that up by turning down a $21 million three year contract extension with the Minnesota Timberwolves, claiming that he "has kids to feed" which is a pretty insulting thing for anyone who makes around the minimum wage to hear. He declined the contract and that was the end of his NBA playing career, and after making just shy of $100 million over the course of his playing career, his net worth is now said to be a paltry $50, 000.
13 Allen Iverson
The style of game that Allen Iverson helped popularize—an individualistic, dribbling-based game with dramatic slashes to the hoop—has largely gone out of style, with more of a focus these days on pick and rolls and long range shooting. However, back in the day, there was no more exciting player than Allen Iverson, and he's easily one of the most accomplished players on this list. He's a former first overall pick who was an 11-time All Star and one time MVP, who was in college just as good at football as he was at basketball.
Over the course of his NBA career, he made up over $150 million in playing salary and a further $50 million in a massive endorsement deal with Reebok, which continues to pay him out one million dollars per year. And he needs that million bucks these days because it's all he has left; his net worth is right around a million dollars.
Like others on this list, Iverson's financial woes have been caused by irresponsible spending on a large entourage, but he's also had troubles with his bodyguards, who were responsible for assaults that costed him hundreds of thousands of dollars. A few years ago, there was a fake news story going around that said that Iverson was seen begging for money outside of a mall. It was proven false, but the fact remains that Iverson possesses only a tiny fraction of the money he earned.
12 Shawn Kemp
Shawn Kemp was a great player who earned around $92 million in salary and is now left with a net worth around $5 million. Though he was highly skilled, his career got off to a rocky start in college, when he wasn't allowed to play for Kentucky because his SAT scores were too low. Instead, he moved right to the NBA, where he was the league's youngest player and quickly became a star, playing fourteen seasons in six of which he was an all-star.
Kemp battled with weight problems throughout his career and often showed up to training camp wildly out of shape. He also has had family problems, fathering at least seven children with six different women, the child support payments from which have truly taken a toll on him.
He has twice been arrested on marijuana charges as well as illegal gun possession. After retiring from the NBA, Kemp lost his excess weight, got back in shape, and tried to stage an NBA comeback, but it was unsuccessful and he ended up playing for a year in Italy instead. A few years ago he opened a sports bar in Seattle, but it closed down in 2015 so it's unclear exactly what he's doing these days.
11 Dennis Rodman
For anyone who ever watched Dennis Rodman play—or anyone that's heard literally anything about his not-so-private life—it's not at all surprising that he has been financially irresponsible, because he's irresponsible in almost every aspect of his life, which is part of what has made him such a popular athletic figure. Rodman earned around $29 million in salary over the course of his career, and bolstered those earnings with endorsement deals, a book, television appearances, and winnings from a reality TV show.
His NBA career was also extremely successful, as he racked up five championship rings, was a two time all star, and is generally regarded as having been the greatest rebounding forward in NBA history. He's also famous for his bad boy image, and, in recent years, his visits to North Korea to visit Kim-Jong-un, whom he befriended.
Dennis Rodman currently is said to have a net worth of negative one million dollars. His financial woes can largely be attributed to his well-documented alcoholism, as well as his failed marriages that have led to child and spousal support payments. He has also been fined pretty extensively for nuisance-related charges. Aside from that, it's hard to say exactly where all of Rodman's money went, but we know that he told a courtroom that he couldn't afford to pay an ex-wife around $800, 000.
10 Rick Mahorn
Rick Mahorn is arguably the least accomplished player on this list but he did win a championship in a kind of team leader role with the "bad boy" Detroit Pistons in 1989. This was on a stacked roster that also featured this list's previous entry, Dennis Rodman. Mahorn wasn't the most athletic player, but he made up for that with punishing physicality. He also didn't make as much as some of the other guys on this list; his $7 million in career earnings is less than a third of what some top players make in a single season these days, but he still managed to spend that $7 million pretty fast after his retirement in 1999, winding up in bankruptcy court in 2010, where he apparently had less than $2,000 in the bank.
After his playing days, he spent some time as an analyst for the Pistons, and was also an WNBA coach for a period, but even that stint was controversial as he accidentally knocked a player over while trying to break up a brawl and was unfairly suspended for two games. Mahorn's financial problems are not really his fault either, as he had real estate investments in Detroit that tanked when the housing market went under, leaving him deeply in debt. These days, he's coaching for the new 3-on-3 league for retired NBA players that Ice Cube founded, so maybe he'll turn things around there.
9 Gilbert Arenas
Gilbert Arenas is the man of many nicknames: Agent Zero, Gibby, Habachi. For a time, he was an electrifying player in the NBA. He once scored sixty points in a game, which was a record that year. In back to back playoffs, he had a three point shooting percentage well over .400, which is some top-tier shooting. He was a kind of multifaceted threat and a popular media figure, known for being an avid gamer and popular for his playful and cocky attitude.
He's also one of the richest guys on this list, with a net worth around $40 million which means he'll never not be comfortable, but if you look at that alongside his lifetime salary of $160 million, plus his giant endorsement deal with Adidas, it's clear that he's blown through a lot of money.
He lost his Adidas endorsement when it came to light that he had been illegally storing a gun in the Washington Wizards change rooms, and that he and teammate Javaris Crittenton had threatened each other with their guns during a heated argument. Arenas also has to make huge child support payments, once spent $1 million on a birthday party for himself, and has had a whole lot of traffic infractions that he committed with dealership plates on his car. These days, he's the host of a sports talk show for Complex's YouTube channel.
8 Darius Miles
Darius Miles has been tired from the NBA since 2009, but he's still only thirty-six, which means that he is young enough that he could still be contributing to an NBA team if his career hadn't taken such a sour turn. He was a very highly-regarded prospect and was taken third overall by the Clippers in 2000. In his first season, he made the first all-rookie team, which was the first time a straight from high school to NBA player had made this accomplishment. He was a dangerous player because he was pretty big at 6'9 but had the athleticism and ball-handling of a much smaller man.
However, in 2006 he badly hurt his knee and missed the next two seasons recovering, and his career was kind of derailed after that because he was injury prone but had a large salary cap hit, which meant teams were always shuffling him around, trying to keep his contract off the books.
Back in 2004, he tries his hand in acting, starring in a movie called The Perfect Score alongside Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson, and he was also the subject of a documentary that same year about his early playing days. He filed for bankruptcy two years ago, with about a million dollars less in assets than debts. Like other former NBA players, he suffered from poor real estate investments that coincided with the housing crash.
7 Derrick Coleman
Derrick Coleman is considered probably one of the most disappointing players in NBA history. He was a first overall draft pick by the New Jersey Nets in 1990, and went on to win Rookie of the Year in his first season in the NBA. He was a large guy in the post, playing a similar kind of game to Karl Malone, and he had back to back twenty point, ten assist seasons, and, unlike most big guys at the time, he could also shoot threes. He was a part of that famous Pacers-Pistons brawl and was also cut by the Pistons that year, due to poor play and injuries.
He racked up $91 million in salary during his playing career, but in his bankruptcy filing it was revealed that he had nearly five million dollars of debt and only around one million in assets. You'll notice that a lot of players on this list, including Coleman, spend time on the Pistons, and that's no coincidence.
Derrick Coleman also made significant financial investments in real estate all around Detroit in the time leading right up to the housing crash that saw the prices of real estate plummet unthinkably. However, Coleman also seems to be a genuinely good guy in that he has spent the past few years driving 65 miles every day to Flint, Michigan, to bring clean water to those affected by the water crisis there.
6 Kenny Anderson
After making $63 million as an NBA player, Kenny Anderson currently has a net worth of $800, 000 and he supports himself running basketball camps in Florida. Like Derrick Coleman, he was a highly touted prospect coming out of college, and he ended up being drafted second overall by the New Jersey Nets in 1991, the year after Coleman was drafted. Anderson played for parts of 15 NBA seasons for various teams and retired in 2006 after spending one year playing in Lithuania.
He had a very troubled childhood, as he was raised poor by a single mother and was repeatedly molested by a man who lived in his neighbourhood and was his basketball coach. He has said that life was simple for him on the basketball court but difficult elsewhere, and his retirement coincided from the death of his mother from a heart attack.
He is the father of eight children from five different women, and in 2013 he was arrested for a DUI that many seemed to feel was indicative of the fact that he was in a kind of mid-life crisis, unsure of what to do with himself with his playing days behind him. Last year he was the subject of a documentary that focused on him confronting the demons of his childhood and working towards a healthy post-NBA career.
5 Greg Oden
It's probably not surprising that Greg Oden's net worth from his NBA playing career is very low, because he only managed to play 82 games in the NBA between 2008 and 2010, whereas Kevin Durant and Al Horford, who were drafted immediately after him, have gone on to have very successful NBA careers, obviously.
Oden was seen as being a surefire pick, standing at 7'0 and playing a powerful, multi-faceted game that lead Steve Kerr to call him a once in a decade type player. After his injuries, he was constantly training at a high level and trying to attempt an NBA contract, but it never came together, and he ended up spending one year playing in China for $1.2 million before calling it quits on his NBA career at the age of twenty-nine.
Oden made $4.6 million in his first NBA season and up to $7 million in the last year of his rookie contract, as well as $1 million during a brief stint with the Miami Heat, but these days his net worth is said to be sitting around $2.5 million, which is actually pretty good, all things considered. He also made the smart move of going back to college at Ohio State to get a degree and do some assistant coaching, so it seems as though Oden—while probably the biggest bust in NBA history—is going to be OK in the long run.
4 Robert Swift
You can kind of tell just by looking at Robert Swift that the dude is not exactly a genius. He was a highly-touted player in college and was picked up by Seattle at twelfth overall, as thy saw promise in his post game and his substantial height. In the season where the Sonics anticipated that Swift would become their starting center, he badly injured himself less than one minute into the first preseason game of the year, which is definitely unlucky but may have been the result of poor conditioning.
Swift came from a troubled childhood, as his dad was often injured and couldn't work and his mom was sick. Often they did not have enough food to eat. In 2011, Swift got a DUI and was charged with reckless driving, and in 2013 his home was foreclosed and bought for less than half of what Swift paid for it. In 2014, he was found living in a troubled home, addicted to various drugs, and the next year he was arrested for involvement in a home invasion while intoxicated.
But he has turned things around in recent years, getting clean and now playing professional basketball again in Spain. Swift is still only thirty-two, so there's plenty of time for him to have a successful career in Europe and get himself some financial security, as he's said to have a net worth of only $5, 000 presently.
3 Sheryl Swoopes
Now obviously Sheryl Swoopes isn't a former NBA player, but she deserves inclusion on this list because she's one of the greatest WNBA players ever but has almost nothing to show for it financially, and because she has one of the greatest basketball names of all-time, with a last name that's a portmanteau of "swish" and "hoops."
Swoopes is a three-time Olympic gold medalist, a three-time WNBA MVP, and has been inducted into pretty much any women's athletics hall of fame that you could think of. You may think that her low net worth of only $200 000 is a result of the lower salaries that female players earn— and you'd be partially right, as she's the Michael Jordan of the WNBA but never made even a tenth of what MJ made—but she did earn $50 million through playing salary and endorsements which slipped away through poor management of her financial resources by others.
She filed for bankruptcy back in 2004 and the records then showed that he owed nearly a million dollars to creditors. After retiring, she mounted a comeback to the WNBA in 2011, which people assumed was aimed at making back some money to pay her debts but her comeback lasted only a single season.
2 Scottie Pippen
Part of Scottie Pippen's financial woes came as a result of being defrauded by a shady financial advisor and part of them came from flat-out irresponsible decision making. Scottie Pippen made more than $120 million during his career, playing alongside MJ on a Bulls team that many would agree was the greatest team to ever hit the court. While flying high, Pippen made some brazen purchases, including a $4 million personal jet that didn't even work, which he spent a further $1 million fixing up. However, he also got screwed over, which was partially out of his control.
The Bulls recommended a financial adviser to Pippen, and near the end of his nearly two decades long career, he decided to invest nearly $20 million with an adviser who turned out to be a scammer. The adviser even forged Pippen's signature on a loan of over a million dollars to pay off his own personal debts.
These days, Scottie Pippen is said to have a net worth of $50 million, which is obviously still an absolute boatload of money, but when you consider that Michael Jordan is a billionaire and Kobe Bryant and Shaq both have over $300 million, Pippen has got to be shaking his head that his net worth isn't bigger.
1 Delonte West
It's hard now to remember if Delonte West was ever a very good basketball player because his career became so mired in controversy. Leading the pack, of course, is that crazy rumor that he was sleeping with LeBron James' mom in 2010, which would lead to James' poor play against the Celtics, which led to his decision to leave Cleveland. It all sounds extremely far-fetched, but it's also not out of line with the kind of guy Delonte West seems to be.
West was a first round draft pick who spent most of his NBA career with the Cavs before winding up spending time in the NBA D-League and spending a year playing in China. West made $14 million in NBA contracts, but one of his contracts, with the Celtics, was terminated because of weapons charges.
He currently is said to have a net worth around $200 000, and he worked a temporary job at Home Depot in 2011 to support himself, and also sold all of his cars and jewelry. Recently he was also photographed panhandling alongside the side of the road, but he said that, while the photos are real, he was merely supporting a homeless man in a wheelchair. West has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which he dismisses, saying that his troubles have been the result of the stresses of an NBA lifestyle that he wasn't cut out for, as well as temporary depression.
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