One day you are on top of the world. You make tens of millions of dollars (in some cases, hundreds of millions) and get to play a simple game of basketball for your profession. You are VIP in all the clubs, you have your choice of women, and nothing could possibly go wrong.
And then you retire and your life falls apart.
That’s what has happened to oh so many NBA players, both role players and superstars. Bankruptcy, drug and alcohol problems, problems with the law and more have derailed the post-NBA careers of some of your favorite players. Some of these guys’ problems even started while they were still playing and just continued or increased after their playing days came to an end.
But with a downfall, there is always an opportunity for redemption. It would be nice to think that all of these guys were able to redeem their lives but that’s living in a fantasy world. Some just sank further and further into despair and are still battling personal demons, or even worse, incarcerated. However, others were truly able to turn around their lives and are now trying to help others from going through the same situations they went through. A few select were even able to return to the game they love and are involved with basketball at this very moment. As the saying goes, it’s not how many times you get knocked down but how many times you get back up and numerous NBA players who have fallen on hard times are still working their way back up. Here is our list of the top 15 NBA players whose lives fell apart after retiring: Where are they now?
15 Oliver Miller
Miller was an NBA center trapped inside an NFL offensive tackle’s body. The 6’9” 315 pounder played for five teams during his nine-year NBA career and is best known for teaming with Charles Barkley in Phoenix in what had to be the widest frontline in NBA history. Miller would then go on to play for the USBL, D-League and numerous minor league organizations before retiring from basketball in 2010. The problems that Miller had with weight during his career would be nothing compared to the problems he faced in retirement.
14 Vin Baker
Some players have money problems and some have legal problems; Vin Baker had both. The former four-time All-Star and 2000 Olympic gold medalist had his problems start when he was a member of the Celtics in the early 2000s. He showed up to practice one morning smelling like alcohol, was suspended by the team, and then eventually released. He managed to latch on with three more NBA teams after that but his problems with alcohol never came to an end. He was arrested for a DUI in 2007 and blew through the $97 million he made during his playing days.
13 Kirk Snyder
12 Mookie Blaylock
11 Kenny Anderson
Anderson was one of the greatest prep players in New York history and set the state’s high school record for most career points. After playing at Georgia Tech, he then went onto a 14-year NBA career highlighted by an All-Star appearance with the Nets. Anderson made $63 million during his pro career but literally just months after his last NBA game in 2005, he filed for bankruptcy. A couple of divorces stripped him of his wealth including one to Tami Roman of VH1’s Basketball Wives. Govan even used some of the money she received in the divorce settlement to create a vanity license plate that read “HISCASH” for her car. Anderson has eight kids by five different women and that’s a lot of child support payments to spread around.
10 Keon Clark
9 Billy Ray Bates
Before there was Linsanity, there was Billy Ray Bates who burst onto the NBA scene in 1980 with the Trail Blazers. Bates parlayed a 10-day contract into a long-term deal and averaged 26 PPG in the playoffs during his career. But Bates had attitudinal problems during his career that became much worse after he left the NBA. In 1998 he robbed a convenience store in New Jersey at knifepoint. Bates attacked the check-out attendant who required stitches afterwards and the whole incident was caught on videotape. He would serve nearly five years in prison, be paroled, but then violate his parole by failing a drug test. He would then go back to jail for three more years before finally being released in 2008.
8 Robert Swift
If you blinked, you might have missed Swift’s NBA career but he was a lottery pick straight out of high school in the 2004 draft. He played a couple of games alongside Durant and Westbrook as the SuperSonics transitioned to the OKC Thunder. Swift had a tough upbringing and those hard times continued after his NBA career. His dad filed for bankruptcy twice when Swift was a teen and in 2011 Swift was found guilty of reckless driving after a DUI. Two years later Swift was forced to vacate his home in Washington which was reportedly riddled with feces, guns, beer bottles, and garbage. A year later Swift was arrested at the home of a heroine and meth dealer and authorities found him holding a sawed-off shotgun.
7 Lonny Baxter
Baxter is best remembered as the burly center on Maryland’s championship team in 2002 alongside Steve Blake and Juan Dixon. He then played four seasons in the NBA with five different teams. He may have played longer, but just weeks after the 2005-06 season Baxter was arrested just blocks away from the White House for firing a gun into the air. He would spend 60 days in jail but that apparently wasn’t much of a deterrent as he would plead guilty to shipping firearms through FedEx just a year later. He would be sentenced to another 60 days in jail and two years of supervised release. With his NBA career virtually over, Baxter headed overseas and would play in leagues all across Europe before finishing his basketball career in Venezuela in 2013.
6 Antoine Walker
Perhaps the most famous NBA player who went bankrupt, Walker had it all before even playing in his first professional game. He was a high school teammate of Donovan McNabb, won a title at the University of Kentucky, and spent the summer before his rookie year playing pick-up hoops with Michael Jordan in between MJ filming scenes for Space Jam. Then in the NBA he was a three-time All-Star, won a ring with Miami, and made over $108 million in salary.
5 Jay Vincent
Vincent was nicknamed the “Midnight Creeper” for reasons unknown and it’s probably best that they remain unknown. He teamed with Magic Johnson during Michigan State’s 1979 National Championship and then played nine seasons in the NBA including averaging 20 PPG as a rookie with the Mavs. After staying out of the limelight for over 17 years, the Midnight Creeper then made headlines for the wrong reason. In 2010 Vincent was indicted by a federal grand jury on mail fraud charges that scammed nearly 20,000 people out of more than $2 million. He would be sentenced to five-and-a-half years in a Michigan prison but would be released a year early.
4 Dennis Rodman
3 Jayson Williams
Williams was something of a late bloomer as an NBA player as he reached his only All-Star game at the age of 30. He was a rebounding menace on the court but an affable guy off the court and was a studio analyst on the NBA on NBC after he retired. But he would lose that job in 2002 after accidentally killing his limousine driver while showing off his shotgun to a group of friends. Originally charged with manslaughter, Williams would eventually plead guilty to aggravated assault and served about two years in jail. While awaiting trial for the charges, Williams had become a full-blown alcoholic and said he drank a fifth of moonshine daily.
2 Javaris Crittenton
1 Eddie Johnson
A two-time NBA All-Star with the Hawks in the early 80s, Johnson is one of a handful of players who have been permanently banned from the league due to drug use. He was suspended several times for failing drug tests during his career before finally being banned in 1987 for failing to attend drug and alcohol counseling. His problems would only grow from there.
He has reportedly been arrested nearly 100 times and has been convicted of burglary, battery, robbery, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Then, in 2006 he was charged with raping an adult woman. While awaiting trial for that charge, Johnson then was arrested for sexual battery and molestation of an 8-year-old girl in Florida. He would be convicted of that sexual assault charge which carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole. He will spend the rest of his life in the Santa Rosa Correctional Institution in northwest Florida.
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