A 2009 Sports Illustrated report found that 60 percent of former NBA players go broke within five years of retirement. That is a staggering statistic to say the least. How can a professional basketball player, making millions per year, lose it all in under a decade? The minimum rookie salary in 2015-16 was $525,000, so even young players get paid handsomely.
However, the sobering reality is that many NBA players are thrust into the spotlight at a very young age, and don’t know how to handle their newfound fame and fortune. If you’ve ever watched the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “Broke,” exploring the financial plight of former athletes, you’ll learn that many never took a crash course in proper financial management and responsibility.
Yet, this list goes a step further than simple fiscal woes. It looks at cases where financial and/or personal tribulations led to legal issues, criminal behavior, and even jail time. Yes these 15 NBA stars lived the dream during their careers. Sadly, their post-retirement lives didn’t go as smoothly as desired.
Let these 15 cases be not a judgment of a player’s character, but an eye-opening look at how they ended up where they are and what we can learn from their misfortune.
15 Jason Caffey
Jason Caffey was on top of the NBA world as a member of the dominant 1990s Chicago Bulls, where he won two championship rings in two and a half seasons with the team. He wasn’t a major contributor, averaging just 7.3 points per game during the team’s 1996-1997 championship run, but he still played a part in the NBA’s last great dynasty.
The Bulls traded Caffey to Golden State in 1998, and the 6-foot-8 power forward signed a seven-year, $35 million contract extension the following offseason. He was eventually traded to the Bucks in 2000, and unfortunately, his career declined from there.
After a string of off-court issues, Caffey was arrested for assault outside a strip club in 2003. The Bucks bought out Caffey’s contract later that year. Caffey was then arrested in 2007 for failing to pay child support for his 10 children from eight women.
Fortunately, Caffey turned his luck around, and returned to basketball in 2010. He was named head coach of the ABA’s Mobile Bay Hurricanes (now the Mobile Bay Tornados) before the team’s inaugural season.
14 Kenny Anderson
Despite earning around $60 million over a 14-year NBA career, Anderson filed for bankruptcy in 2005. The former number one overall draft pick filed the claim after his release from a Lithuanian basketball team.
To be fair, Anderson had many expenses to account for. He had to pay child support for eight children from two failed marriages, pay taxes on his mansion, and pay insurance costs on his eight cars.
Anderson’s first wife, Tami Ronan, stuck it to him after their divorce, when she used her settlement money to buy a car with the license plate “HISCASH.”
13 Rick Mahorn
Rick Mahorn was the leader of the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons teams of the late 1980s. He helped the team capture the 1989 NBA championship along with stars like Dennis Rodman (who we’ll get to later).
Mahorn stayed loyal to Detroit after his retirement by accepting a role as a Pistons radio analyst. Perhaps he was a bit too loyal when he decided to invest in several properties in the Detroit metro area.
His investments failed when the Motor City’s economy tanked in the late 2000s. Mahorn declared bankruptcy in 2010, listing over $500,000 in liabilities. He and his wife claimed only $1,101 to their name. He even had to sell his championship ring to help cover costs.
12 Derrick Coleman
Coleman’s story is similar to Mahorn’s, albeit with a brighter ending. The 1991 Rookie of the Year and one-time All-Star earned over $80 million during his playing days. He averaged 16.5 points per game over his career and he retired in 2005 as a member of the Detroit Pistons. Coleman declared bankruptcy in 2010 after some of his property investments in Detroit went belly up.
One notable property was a mall named “Coleman’s Corner,” located in a downtrodden section of the city.
11 David Harrison
Unlike the other players on this list, Harrison was never an NBA star, and played just four seasons for the Indiana Pacers from 2004-2008. He made close to $4.5 million in that time before he left to play basketball in China. Harrison made an ill-fated 2012 comeback attempt on the Dallas Mavericks summer league team. He hasn’t received any calls from NBA general managers since then.
In 2013, he went from McDonald’s All-American to McDonald's employee, where he tried to make ends meet for his wife and son. He even took the midnight shift out of shame of being recognized.
10 Vin Baker
If any of us made $97 million in a 13-year period, we’d be fairly confident in our financial security for generations. Such was not the case with four-time All-Star, Vin Baker.
Baker retired in 2006, after struggles with alcohol and drug abuse derailed the latter half of his career.
In 2007, Baker was arrested for drunk driving when he was pulled over after leaving Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut. One year later, his 10,000 square foot home was foreclosed. His financial troubles resulted in the loss of his entire $97 million in career earnings.
9 Oliver Miller
The former Phoenix Suns’ first round pick spent eight years in the NBA. His peak production came during the 1995-96 season, when he averaged 12.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. By the early 2000s, however, weight problems reduced his speed and endurance, and he retired in 2004. Whereas most players fall on hard financial times, Miller fell on hard times of a very different sort.
In November 2011, Miller pleaded guilty to first-degree assault and unlawful possession of a handgun in a Maryland court. The charges stemmed from an incident the previous April where Miller allegedly pistol-whipped his girlfriend’s brother during an argument at a family barbecue.
8 Daron “Mookie” Blaylock
Blaylock spent 13 years in the NBA with three teams, was a two-time all-defensive player and led the league in steals in 1997 and 1998. He scored nearly 12,000 points in his career, and hit over 1,200 three-pointers. However, his involvement in a May 2013 head-on collision made those accomplishments seem miniscule.
Blaylock veered from his lane, causing his vehicle to collide with oncoming traffic. The woman in the other car, Monica Murphy, later died from her injuries, and Blaylock was placed on life support.
Thankfully, Blaylock’s condition improved, but he was still charged with vehicular homicide, driving on a suspended license, and failing to stay in his lane. To make matters worse, Blaylock had an outstanding warrant for drug-related offenses.
7 Robert Swift
Many great basketball players, such as Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett, have bypassed college for the NBA draft.
First round pick Robert Swift did the same in 2004, but it was too much too soon. The 7-foot-1 center was chosen 12th overall by the Seattle SuperSonics, and struggled through his first two seasons. He injured his ACL during a 2006 preseason game, and was out of the NBA by 2009. He reportedly earned $10 million during his brief career.
However, his life “swiftly” fell apart over the next five years. In 2011, Swift was arrested for DUI, and in 2013, foreclosed on his house. By 2014, he was supposedly living with a drug-dealing friend, and was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm after police raided the home.
6 Dennis Rodman
Rodman was no stranger to controversy during his playing days. From his time with the Pistons’ “Bad Boy” teams of the late 80s, to his tenure with the dynastic Chicago Bulls in the ‘90s, Rodman made his name as a ferocious rebounder on the court and a magnetic personality off of it.
He led the NBA in rebounds for a record seven consecutive seasons, won five championship rings, and was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2011.
However, Rodman’s life followed a tumultuous path after his 2000 retirement. He was arrested on domestic violence charges in 2003, and pleaded no contest to DUI charges in 2004. He entered drug rehab in 2008 and again in 2014.
5 Latrell Sprewell
Very rarely do we express sympathy to star players in contract negotiations. These guys make millions upon millions of dollars. What’s the difference between $20 million and $22 million, you know?
So, in 2005, when Latrell Sprewell rejected the Minnesota Timberwolves’ three-year $21 million contract extension with the excuse “I’ve got my family to feed,” many of us scoffed.
However, that quote rang a little truer in retirement, when the five-time All Star faced a litany of financial calamities. His $1.3 million yacht was repossessed in 2007, and his Milwaukee mansion was foreclosed in 2008 after he defaulted on his $1.5 million mortgage. His Westchester, NY home was also foreclosed in 2009.
4 Allen Iverson
Iverson remains one of the greatest scoring guards in NBA history. Nicknamed “The Answer,” Iverson appeared in 11 All-Star Games and earned league MVP honors in 2001.
Yet, the baller didn’t appear to have an answer for his financial woes during 2012 divorce proceedings from his wife, Tawanna.
A.I. signed to Reebok during his playing career, and stands to make $32 million from a trust fund he set up with the company. However, he can’t touch that money until he turns 55 years old. To make matters worse, his wife is entitled to half of the trust money as per the couple’s postnuptial agreement.
Despite career earnings of $160 million, Iverson lived beyond his means. Iverson faced insurance payments on 14 cars (half of which went to other family members), nearly $50,000 in gambling debts to Caesar’s Palace, as well as thousands of dollars in expenses for security and entourage detail. In February 2013, his house was foreclosed, and he moved into a Charlotte, N.C. hotel for a brief period.
3 Antoine Walker
Antoine Walker’s story is unique in that he lost his $108 million fortune soon after retirement, yet made an inspiring comeback. The former sixth-overall pick won a 2006 championship title with the Miami Heat. He lived lavishly, supported an entourage of 70 people, and bought eight cars.
However, Walker’s expensive lifestyle landed him in bankruptcy court in May 2010, just two years after he left the NBA. He cited over $12 million in debts compared to just $4.3 million in total assets. He even sold off his championship ring.
In June of that year, Walker pleaded guilty to one count of writing a bad check, an incident that stemmed from over $750,000 in unpaid gambling debts to various Las Vegas Casinos.
2 Keon Clark
Forget about a post-retirement collapse. Keon Clark’s life was already off the rails during his playing career. The former center played six seasons and over 300 games in the NBA, but admitted he never played a game sober, and would often drink during halftime.
It’s no surprise, then, that Clark’s life continued down a dark path after his 2004 retirement. In 2006, he failed to show up to court after weapons and marijuana charges. He was caught in Houston, TX, boarding a bus in an apparent attempt to avoid trial. His two and a half year prison sentence was dropped because he didn’t have legal representation.
Clark admitted in a 2013 interview that the fame and fortune of the NBA went to his head. Still, money couldn’t solve his problems. “You can’t live up to something you’re not,” Clark said of the pressure he faced from others. “Nobody cares about your problems.”
1 Eddie Johnson
Take Keon Clark’s trials and tribulations and multiply them tenfold, and you have Eddie Johnson. The two-time All-Star’s life, like Clark’s, was already in shambles towards the end of his playing days in the mid 1980s. Johnson battled a cocaine addiction for much of his career, resulting in several suspensions, and an eventual lifetime ban from the NBA in 1987.
He was just 32, but his life continued to spiral out of control in subsequent years. In 1989, he was arrested for breaking into two houses and stealing nearly $10,000 of personal property. In 2000, he struck a police officer during an arrest for drug possession.
Johnson’s legal woes culminated in a 2008 conviction for sexual battery and “lewd molestation” of a minor under 12. The incident occurred in 2006, when Johnson broke into an 8-year-old girl’s apartment and assaulted her when her parents weren’t home. Pretty reprehensible behavior if you ask me.
Johnson is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
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