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.
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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.
Shortly after finishing his final season in the NBA in 2013, Odom was arrested for DUI and rumors began to swirl that he was addicted to drugs. In 2015, Odom appeared to hit rock-bottom when he was found unconscious in a Nevada brothel and had to be placed on life-support in a Las Vegas hospital. Remarkably, Odom recovered with minimal brain damage and was attempting to work things out with his estranged wife, Khloe Kardashian. Recently, however, rumors are swirling that Odom is back on drugs and could be spiralling downward again. Let's hope that's not the case.
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.
While it was clear that Mashburn was a franchise caliber player in the NBA, he has become a successful fast-food franchise tycoon. Mashburn reportedly owns more than 80 franchises around the country (40 Papa John's; 38 Outback Steakhouses; 4 Dunkin' Donuts; and multiple care dealerships). When asked what spurred his business mogul mindset, Mashburn stated that he "always wanted to carry a briefcase" because of his New York upbringing. Most kids will never live their dream of playing in the NBA and instead settle for a briefcase job, but Mashburn achieved both.
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.
In his retirement, Baker continued to struggle with substance abuse issues and poor-financial planning. He was charged with a DUI in 2007 and then had his mansion in Connecticut foreclosed on. Despite reportedly making over $100 million in earnings in his career, Baker is now a manager of a neighborhood Starbucks. At 6'11", Vin Baker is quite the venti sized barista. Maybe he is working at a location owned by Magic Johnson (more on that below). Give Baker full credit for bouncing back though, as he seems to be working his way up in the company.
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).
In 2003, Ainge was hired as the President of Basketball Operations (a fancy name for General Manager) of the Boston Celtics. Ainge has been known for his propensity to pull the trigger on major trades, clearly evidenced when he acquired superstars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in a single off-season. Those two paired up with Paul Pierce to form one of the first "Big 3" line-ups in the NBA and went on to win the 2008 NBA finals. Ainge remains with the Celtics to this day and has the team stocked with talent and future draft picks, meaning the team is ripe for another one of Ainge's big time trades.
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.
After his playing days ended, Walker became very reckless with his finances. He racked up massive gambling debts, faced ongoing legal battles, and had his checks bounce. Walker hit rock-bottom when he was forced to sell his NBA Championship ring (which he won with the Miami Heat) in order to help clear his debts. Nowadays, however, Walker is reportedly debt-free and works with younger NBA players on knowing the importance of financial planning so they don't make the same mistakes he did. Walker is not a bad person, he was just bad with his finances. Hopefully he continues to trend upwards.
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.
Giving recognition to his former team, Johnson named his first company "Piston Automotive." Piston Automotive grew and grew, while Johnson created a second entity entitled the "Piston Group," which he remains a chairman of to this day. Piston Group is now one of the largest automotive companies in Detroit and has an estimated $1.5 billion in annual automotive business sales. It's awesome that Johnson remains loyal to the city of Detroit and its current renaissance.
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.
Nowadays, Sprewell has reportedly lost nearly all of his career earnings and is currently living in a standard rental apartment. This is a far cry from the two mansions and million dollar yacht that Sprewell owned before running into his financial meltdowns. His fall from grace could be a result of karma, as Sprewell famously chose retirement over a 3-year, $21 million contract from the Minnesota Timberwolves because it "wouldn't be enough to feed his children." Sprewell got what he sowed with that comment. Hopefully, he can afford to still feed his children at least.
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.
After retiring, Robinson partnered with a former Goldman Sachs executive to create the Admiral Capital Group, a private equity investment firm. The reasoning behind Robinson forming the Admiral Capital Group was to provide a source of income for the Carver Academy, a non-profit private school for inner-city youth that was founded by Robinson. Needless to say, Robinson has remained a class act well into his post-retirement life. (Fun fact: Robinson was not actually an "Admiral" in the Navy as his nickname would suggest, but he was a "Lieutenant").
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).
Since retiring in 2012, Arenas has remained in the news for all the wrong reasons. He had an absurd Snapchat exchange with Lakers guard Nick Young in which he filmed himself essentially breaking and entering Young's home and mocking Young's rocky relationship with rapper Iggy Azalea. He then received backlash for derogatory comments he made on his Instagram regarding WNBA players wanting to act like men. To make matters worse, apparently Arenas has blown all of the approximately $160 million he earned over his career and will soon be forced to live in an apartment. He recently sold his home for $4 million, but we shall see how long it is before "Agent Zero" has "zero."
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.
Since retiring, Kerr has tried his hand at several different NBA related jobs. He was a successful color analyst for NBA on TNT before becoming the Phoenix Suns general manager in 2007. After stepping down from the Suns front-office in 2010, Kerr rejoined TNT as an analyst for a few more years. But in a surprising move in 2014, Kerr replaced the fired Mark Jackson as head coach of the Golden State Warriors. The rest is history. Kerr has already set numerous coaching records and shows no signs of slowing down. Watch for Kerr's name to join the all-time coaching greats before it's all said and done.
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.
While it was rumored that Crittenton had become a member of the Crips gang after being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2007 NBA Draft, he never caused any trouble until his locker room dispute with Arenas. But in 2011, Crittenton was arrested and charged for the murder of a 22-year-old Atlanta man. To make things worse, Crittenton was arrested for being involved with a group that was planning on selling multiple kilograms of cocaine and hundreds of pounds of marijuana. To no surprise, Crittenton is now serving 23 years in prison. Hearing about Crittenton makes it harder to judge Arenas for bringing a gun (possibly for his own protection) to the locker room during their dispute!
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.
With basketball no longer an option, Thomas began working with his mentor (the great Magic Johnson) to build a business enterprise. Thomas is now the CEO of Kenny Thomas Enterprises (KTE) and has focused his attention to creating products in six specific segments: (1) healthy water; (2) fitness apparel; (3) basketball education; (4) community outreach; (5) entertainment; and (6) real estate. KTE's most successful investment thus far has been in Infinity O2 water bottles, which are available in just about any gas station and store nationwide.
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.).
While Kemp was an excellent person for younger players to admire on the court, he was also an example of what not to do off the court. After retiring, Kemp was found and arrested with over two kilograms of cocaine, 60 grams of marijuana, and a pistol. Kemp was charged with drug possession and apparently didn't learn his lesson because he was arrested for possession of marijuana again just a year later. Kemp is further proof that even some of the greatest players ever have fallen hard to the scourges of drugs.
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.
Although he is clearly thriving in his post-retirement front-office job, Finley fulfills his passion for the arts and film through his production company, which he named "Follow Through Productions." In fact, Finley was one of the producers of the hit 2014 movie "The Butler" and also the critically acclaimed 2016 film "The Birth of a Nation." From those two movies alone, it is clear that Finley has an eye for talent. Hopefully for the Mavericks, Finley's eye for talent translates into the world of NBA scouting and development too.
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.
In 2012, Iverson was ordered by a judge to pay $900,000 to a jeweler but Iverson was unable to produce the funds. Instead, Iverson later told a judge that his monthly income was roughly $62,500.00, but his monthly expenses were over $360,000.00. That's is incredibly annoying to hear, but it is such an Allen Iverson thing to say that you can't even be upset at him. Luckily for Mr. Iverson, his old contract with Reebok included a provision that set side $32 million in a trust account that Iverson can reach until he's 55 years-old. So Iverson isn't doing as bad as many of the guys on this list because of his fortunate shoe deal and the original Iverson "Question" shoes were the real-deal, so he's earned it!
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.
Shaq has literally dabbled in just about every type of business imaginable. He's an actor, rapper, investor, inventor, sheriff, wrestler, NBA analyst and much, much more. Shaq has shown a prowess for investing in companies in their start-up stage that end up being incredibly successful. There was no stopping Shaq in his prime on the court, and there is no stopping Shaq off the court in his retirement. Look for his next investment coming to stores near you.
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.
From 1995 to 2013, Blaylock had been cited for DUI on seven different occasions. On May 31, 2013, Blaylock was driving in Atlanta when he suffered a seizure that was allegedly caused from alcohol withdrawal, which was common for Blaylock as he attempted to become sober. In the event, Blaylock crossed over the median and struck an on-coming vehicle, tragically killing a mother of five in the process. Blaylock was charged for vehicular homicide and received a 15-year prison sentence. As part of his plea-bargain, he'll serve three years in prison, four years will be a suspended sentence and eight will be on probation.
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.
Magic started his business ventures with the goal of bringing more variety and entertainment to underserved urban areas. He began opening urban neighborhood Starbucks that were better assimilated to their clientele and it was an immediate success. Johnson is now a part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers and provides their front-office with a familiar face to Los Angeles fans. His forward thinking business models have led to him having an estimated $500 million. It was recently announced that Magic Johnson would be taking over the position of President of Basketball Operations for the Los Angeles Lakers.
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.
After his banishment, drugs continued to control Johnson and he quickly became a danger to society. By 2006, Johnson had reportedly been arrested over 100 times and spent numerous years in prison. In 2006, Johnson was awaiting trial charges for a previous rape allegation when he was arrested for burglary and sexual battery and molestation of a minor. Johnson was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. This former all-star will no live the rest of his life behind bars, and deservedly so.
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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