Not everybody is treated equal in the NBA. Superstars are treated like demi-gods and have money, endorsement deals, and investments thrown at them constantly. While many bench-players are happy to be earning the minimum and enjoying their time in the NBA for as long as they possibly can. But regardless of whether a player is a superstar or just an average role-player, it doesn't guarantee what path they will take once their time in the bright-lights is over. Many superstars have fallen on extremely rough times and lost a fortune (ex: Dennis Rodman, who will not be discussed in this article as that would be too easy), while other lesser-known players have maintained financial security or gained fame following their NBA careers.
Retirement is a tricky thing for many NBA players because they are transitioning out of the one thing they have done their entire life, which is play basketball. To an extent, the NBA should take some of the blame for several of the players listed below who's lives fell apart after their playing days because they weren't prepared for all the scam-artists, fake friends, substance abuse issues, and financial decisions that would come about in retirement. On the flip-side, there were players who found their own freedom to finally explore other interests upon reaching retirement and have parlayed those interests into successful enterprises. Young players today should view this list a list of role-models of what to-do and what not to-do in retirement.
Take a second and dream about what you imagine your future perfect retirement life to be like. Now read this list of 10 players who failed in achieving their perfect retirement vision (if they even had one) and 10 players who are thriving in their retirement.
20 Fell Apart: Lamar Odom
Before he was a reality T.V. celebrity, Lamar Odom was actually a very talented NBA player. Although he never became a true superstar, he was consistently one of the best players on the court throughout his entire career. Standing 6'10" and possessing strong ball-handling and court vision skills, Odom was one of the most versatile players of his generation. Unfortunately, Odom's demise slowly began in 2011 after his limo driver struck and killed a 15-year-old boy, leaving Odom devastated and depressed.
19 Thriving: Jamal Mashburn
Based on his rookie season, it was clear early on that Jamal Mashburn was a franchise player. He averaged 19.2 ppg in his rookie year and followed it up with 10 straight seasons in which he averaged double-digits in points. Mashburn eventually retired in 2004 and quickly began focusing on his post-retirement business opportunities.
18 Fell Apart: Vin Baker
Vin Baker was a budding superstar in the late 1990s when he made four consecutive all-star games, peaking in 1996-1997 when he averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds per game. Sadly, substance abuse derailed his career and he was never able to fully return to the production level he displayed in his early seasons. Baker bounced around the NBA for multiple years until he finally retired in 2006.
17 Thriving: Danny Ainge
Some players are just destined to be coaches or front-office executives after their playing days, and Danny Ainge was definitely one of those players. Ainge was a key member for the Boston Celtics in the 1980s before eventually retiring with the Phoenix Suns in 1995. Just one season later, Ainge became the head coach of the Suns and led them to four straight playoff appearances (although he never advanced farther than the first round as a coach).
16 Failing: Antoine Walker
Antoine Walker busted onto the NBA scene in 1996, averaging 18 points and 9 rebounds per game his rookie season. He quickly became the face of the Boston Celtics and signed a mega-contract extension with the team. In fact, Walker made over $107 million during his 13 NBA seasons. Remarkably, Walker had to file for bankruptcy in 2010, only two years into his retirement.
15 Thriving: Vinnie Johnson
Vinnie Johnson earned the nickname "the microwave" during his career because of his ability to score points in a hurry as the sixth man for the Detroit Pistons. Despite never being an all-star, Johnson is an icon in Detroit because of his game-winning shot that clinched the 1990 NBA Championship. Now in his retirement, Johnson remains a Detroit icon through his automotive business that he founded and runs in Detroit.
14 Fell Apart: Latrell Sprewell
This guy once had a shoe named after him that featured an actual spinning wheel (inspired by the automobile fad "spinners") on the ankle area. The shoes were fitting for Latrell Sprewell's NBA career. He came into the NBA in 1992 and quickly became one of the most exciting young stars in the league. But eventually his persona and antics led to people realizing he really wasn't as we all initially thought.
13 Thriving: David Robinson
David Robinson (aka "The Admiral") is the shining example of how an athlete should be as a role-model for the younger generation. Before becoming one of the best centers of all-time, Robinson served two years in the Navy. His time in service was noticeable in his on-court demeanor and respectable way with the media. Robinson ultimately won two NBA Championships, an MVP award, and 10-time NBA All-Star before retiring in 2003.
12 Fell Apart: Gilbert Arenas
In the 2000s, Gilbert Arenas was considered one of the premier scoring threats in the NBA. His bravado and skill on the court made him extremely entertaining to watch, even going as far as celebrating his own game-winning shot before it even went in. But "Agent Zero" quickly fell out of favor with NBA executives and fans after he brought a gun to the Wizards locker room to apparently try and settle a gambling debt owed to him by teammate Javaris Crittenton (more on Crittenton below).
11 Thriving: Steve Kerr
Over the span of his 15-year career, Steve Kerr won an impressive 5 NBA Championships. Kerr's best years were during his time in Chicago, in which he played a supporting role to Michael Jordan and provided the team with a reliable 3-point shooter. In fact, Kerr shot over 50% from 3-point range during the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons. His career percentage is a remarkable 45% from long range. Without a doubt, he was one of the most deadly spot-up shooters in NBA history.
10 Fell Apart: Javaris Crittenton
Gilbert Arenas wasn't the only Washington Wizards player who brought a gun into the locker room. Javaris Crittenton was a former first round pick who never fully panned out and eventually became a journeyman in the league for a few seasons. Crittenton found himself out of the NBA completely in 2011, after finishing his lone season in the NBA D-League. That is when things began to completely fall apart.
9 Thriving: Kenny Thomas
After being drafted #22 overall in the 1999 NBA Draft, Kenny Thomas went on to have a strong, but unspectacular, 11-year career. Thomas was known for his tenacious rebounding ability, often averaging double digits in rebounds per game despite only being 6'7". His playing career came to an end in 2010, after he was waived by the Memphis Grizzlies.
8 Fell Apart: Shawn Kemp
As a six-time all-star, Shawn Kemp was one of the most dominant front-court players in the NBA during the 1990s decade. Kemp was explosive, skilled, and highly dependable during his tenure with the Seattle SuperSonics, averaging a double-double in his time with the franchise. He helped pave the way for the uber-athletic power forwards that are the norm in today's NBA (i.e., Blake Griffin, Amar'e Stoudemire, etc.).
7 Thriving: Michael Finley
Sometimes we forget that athletes have other interests outside of sports. Michael Finley is a prime example of a player who has made a clear decision to focus on his other passions outside of the sports genre. Finley was a great swing-guard in the NBA and was selected to two all-star teams during his career. He was a fan favorite while with the Dallas Mavericks and still works in the Mavericks front-office today as Assistant Vice President of Basketball Operations.
6 Fell Apart: Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson is one of the most iconic athletes of his generation. He brought a swagger and confidence to his game that was unmatched for a player of his minute size. Iverson's style of play was unapologetically aggressive, almost to the point that it rubbed opponents the wrong way. After earning 11 all-star selections, Iverson retired (unofficially) from the NBA in 2010.
5 Thriving: Shaquille O'Neal
Besides being one of the greatest centers of all-time, Shaquille O'Neal is also one of the most likable personalities in the history of sports. Standing 7'1", Shaq is unexpectedly funny and goofy. He almost appears to be a teenager living in a giant's body and it makes for must see comedy. Not everything is a joke to Shaq, however, as he has greatly increased his net worth since retiring in 2011.
4 Fell Apart: Mookie Blaylock
One of the more overlooked point-guards of the 1990s was Mookie Blaylock during his time with the Atlanta Hawks. Blaylock was known for his tenacious defense and actually led the NBA in steals multiple times in his career. Although he was never a superstar, Blaylock was a fan favorite for every team he played for before he finally retired in 2002. While he enjoyed on the court success, Blaylock was losing a battle with alcoholism.
3 Thriving: Magic Johnson
The leader of the Lakeshow, Magic Johnson knows how to build and sustain a championship caliber team in Los Angeles. Johnson is one of the most iconic players to ever play in the NBA and is a source of strength for many in the AIDS community. Magic was a 12-time all-star and won 5 NBA Championships during his time in the NBA. He retired in 1996 and was well-suited to start his post-retirement life.
2 Fell Apart: Eddie Johnson, Jr.
Another former Atlanta Hawk fan favorite was Eddie Johnson, Jr. In only his third NBA season, Johnson was voted as an all-star starter and he showed flashes of his potential to be a great all-around player. Johnson continued his strong play for almost a decade before his personal life began to dominate the headlines. In 1986, Johnson checked himself into rehab for his cocaine addiction but was unable to complete the program. Because of this, and multiple previous suspensions for his substance abuse issue, Johnson was banned indefinitely by the NBA.
1 Thriving: Michael Jordan
What else needs to be said about Michael Jordan? The guy is an international superstar and one of the most famous athletes to ever live (along with guys like Muhammad Ali and Tiger Woods). MJ was the face of the NBA for nearly two decades and is commonly referred to as the greatest basketball player of all-time. He might also be the most successful in his post-NBA life as well.
Jordan dabbles in many different areas of business, but the majority of his billion dollar net-worth comes from his ownership stake in the Charlotte Hornets (approximately $725M). But Jordan is most commonly known for his expensive and rare sneaker brand. The Jordan brand is owned by Nike, but they pay massive royalty payments to Michael each year. It is rumored that by 2020, these royalty payments will be in excess of $200M per year. So yeah, MJ is living the good life and has created a legacy that far outlasts his status as the NBA's GOAT.
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