“Started from the bottom now we’re here,” is not only the most popularized lyrical hook in the last year, but also a tagline, of sorts, for the backstories of many would-be NBAers. And really, at the end of the day, Drake (although Canadian) is speaking about one of the hallmarks of the American Dream, for one to begin with nothing and ascend to greatness. What seems to be missing from the narrative with respect to NBAers is foresight; the notion that one cannot play basketball forever and the dream eventually dies. According to Sports Illustrated, nearly 60% of former NBAers are broke after retirement, “sucked into bad investments, stalked by freeloaders, saddled with medical problems, and naturally prone to showing off, many [former NBAers] get shocked by harsh economic realities after years of living the high life.”
The NBA has made a concerted effort to reverse this trend with their Rookie Transition Program, which was originally initiated by the NBA Players Association. With respect to player finances alone, the program focuses on: the business of basketball, continuing and technology education, drug and alcohol education, financial education, legal education, media and image communications and professional ethics. The four-day program is dubbed as “mandatory” for first year NBAers during the summer that immediately follows the draft – so they take the course before they play on the professional hardwood. No doubt age and maturity are huge factors as well as socio-economic background when it comes to young ballers spending all of their money.
As a lay person/reader, if you want to see how one spends $100 million, yeah, and in some cases more - read on. This is the Top 15 NBAers Who Wasted Huge Amounts of Money.
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15 Vin Baker
A four-time NBA All Star and 2000 Gold Medal winner at the Sydney Olympics, Vin Baker managed to have his $100 million mismanaged and wound up literally broke with four kids. Since his time in the NBA, Baker has spoken about his battles with alcoholism, often binge drinking in his hotel room after poor on-court performances. After several property foreclosures, Baker actually auctioned off his Sydney Gold Medal for $67,643. Today, no longer alcohol dependent and with a new perspective, Vin Baker is in retail management at Starbucks, Baker says his biggest mistake “was making basketball a priority” and is now focused on taking care of his family.
14 Jason Caffey
A father of 10 (that’s not a typo), Jason Caffey was a member of back to back Chicago Bulls championship teams in the late 90s, but was traded to the Golden State Warriors before the third. Although not an NBA superstar, Caffey did make over $30 million during his career, which isn’t small change. His post NBA career has largely consisted of trying to make child support payments with no money – which even saw Caffey spend time in jail for not doing so.
13 Robert Swift
Robert Swift’s story, which was well documented in The Seattle Times with a ton of negative feedback, was published because “his story remains compelling.” After earning about $10 million and playing just 97 NBA games, Swift was kaput before he was 25 years old. Injuries, spending money like crazy, substance abuse, poor financial planning, overwhelming family pressure, etc., Swift’s story reads like a Shakespearean tragedy. Today, Swift remains elusive, friends and old coaches know little of his whereabouts and he seems to only resurface here and there, when he’s been arrested for something.
12 Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan is undoubtedly the exception to literally every rule about money management – he is simultaneously one of the savviest businessmen on the planet, yet is oftentimes downright reckless with his own cash. Jordan, as it has been well chronicled over the years, likes to gamble and gamble for big dough. ESPN cited a story where Jordan bet his teammates $100 that his luggage would come out first while waiting at a Portland airport; his squad took the bet and, unbeknownst to them, MJ had paid off the baggage handler. Jordan won that bet, but lost many others. PGA pro golfer Keegan Bradley has referred to Jordan as “the human ATM,” always willing to bet, and part, with his money to keep things competitive.
11 Charles Barkley
Owner of the worst looking golf swing in the planet, Sir Charles Barkley loves to gamble - golf, for Barkley, is strictly just for fun. Barkley though loves the casino. Although he says “you can never break the casino,” Barkley also notes that he “went to Vegas a bunch of times and won a million dollars in a weekend. Probably 10 times. But [he] also went to Vegas and lost three times that much." Today however, when Barkley goes to Vegas, he only wishes to lose more like “a couple hundred thousand,” so it’s still a good trip,” he says. Gambling is ok, says Sir Charles, and he’s learned “to do it in moderation.”
10 Dennis Rodman
The Worm earned millions while playing in the NBA, yet alcoholism, huge child support payments and an unwillingness to fade out of the public spotlight gracefully is why Dennis Rodman remains a topic of conversation – despite not playing in an NBA game for 15 years. Today, Rodman seems to do whatever it takes to make money and garner attention: his trips to North Korea, realty television, and even his sponsored visit to the Vatican in 2013, which was to promote an Irish gambling website that was taking bets on who would be the new Pope. Somewhere in all of this, it’s worth remembering that Dennis Rodman is one of the greatest rebounders in NBA history.
9 Eddy Curry
After 10 years in the NBA, which saw Eddy Curry win a championship and bank over $70 million, he owes tons of money. According to the NY Daily News, “Curry appears to be a very, very generous man, he appears to have taken it upon himself to support every person named Curry on the East Coast.” While with the Knicks in 2010, it was reported that Curry was forking out $6,000 a month for a personal chef, he owed Juwan Howard $350,000, he was mortgaged to the hilt on his mansion, spent another $30,000 a month on “household expenses,” and he had taken out a loan with a Las Vegas outfit that handcuffed him with an 85% interest rate! In short, Curry exhausted his $70 million and then some.
8 Eric Williams
Although $40 million in career earnings may seem almost modest for this list, it’s still a ton of coin. In a court letter drafted by Eric Williams in 2014, he claimed that he was broke and, for the most part, homeless, which explained why he was absent from his child support hearing. With no real explanation of where it all went, Williams presently has no money and owes in the neighborhood of $24,000 in child support payments for his 13 year-old son. Williams, and the collapse of his marriage, was featured on the TV show Basketball Wives.
7 7, Gilbert Arenas
The Washington Post reported that Gilbert Arenas had a salary of $22.3 million in 2013, which made him the third highest in NBA salaries for that year – after Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki. And here’s the rub, those guys actually played, Arenas hasn’t played an NBA game since 2012. Arenas signed a 6 year contract for $111 million with the Wizards in 2008 before being traded to the Orlando Magic. And in the labyrinth of legal and NBA contract jargon, Arenas was dumped on waivers by the Magic under the Collective Agreement’s amnesty clause to clear cap space. The underperforming Arenas cleared wavers, yet he was/is still entitled to his full salary. At the end of the day, Arenas still has lots of money and spends it lavishly. He had a shark tank in his home that ran him about $6,000 a month, he gambles like Barkley, and his back yard had its own grotto. The well, however, will run dry this upcoming season when the Magic will finally be finished paying his salary.
6 Antoine Walker
Another guy that made over $100 million on the hardwood was Antoine Walker. As the eldest of six, he blew his rookie salary on his family. He built his family’s mansions from the ground up, carte blanche, and spared no expense. Not smart, but somewhat understandable. Thereafter Walker’s story gets more Entourage-y, as everything was on Antoine: trips, nights out, cars, gifts, etc., and he liked to gamble. The kicker is that even though Walker was spending lots of money, he was also investing; he bought over 140 properties in the Chicago area, but when the entire United States essentially went into foreclosure, Walker lost his real estate investments and declared himself bankrupt. Today Walker lives modest, has a job as a basketball analyst and stresses the importance of financial literacy to young NBAers.
5 Kenny Anderson
Once dubbed the best point guard ever to come out of New York City, Kenny Anderson made in the area of $60 million in the NBA whilst fathering seven children with five women. Anderson also liked to share the wealth with friends in addition to just spending it because he had it. At one time he had 8 cars in his Beverly Hills garage. To his credit, after he retired, Anderson did go back to school (where, unlike his days in Georgia Tech, he admittedly had to do his own work) and now coaches high school ball in Florida.
4 Derrick Coleman
He was the first overall pick in the 1990 NBA draft, with the potential to be “better” than Malone or Barkley due to his ability to hit the three, Derrick Coleman cleared $90 million dollars in the NBA, then declared bankruptcy within five years of retirement. His work ethic while in the NBA is what seemed to prevent him from greatness on the court, while his failed business ventures in a decaying Detroit economy ate up his on court earnings. In short, Coleman had to sell all his assets, which included a Tim Hortons believe it or not, to pay back his creditors.
3 Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson basically went from jail, to Georgetown, to the Philadelphia 76ers and made over $150 million on the basketball court alone, in addition to millions more in endorsements. The Answer is without question one of the most gifted basketball players of all time, which made his attitude toward the game and about his natural talent all the more frustrating. From his famous sound bite about “practice” to his regular brushes with the law, Iverson could have done so much more with himself. As Forbes magazine articulated, Iverson learned that material items really don’t have huge resale value – “over customized bling,” cars, jets, gaudy jewelry etc., aren’t worth what you pay for them. Even the stuff that he bought with his millions isn’t worth much.
2 Shawn Kemp
The “Reign Man,” or the $90 million dollar man, spent 14 years in the NBA and, although this theme is becoming redundant, also fathered 11 children by 10 different women (and again, that’s not a typo). And from what’s been discovered so far on the list, that many kids with that many women costs lots of money. If you remember Shawn Kemp as a player, he was an amazing talent, but also had drug and fitness issues after initially taking the NBA by storm early in his career. The guy was solid though, outputting 17.8 ppg over his career.
1 Latrell Sprewell
This list has been a mix of former NBAers that have gone broke, but also ones who just like to spend money in unconventional ways simply because they can. Latrell Sprewell is in a category of his own. Like Macbeth, someone, maybe three witches, maybe biased friends, who knows, but someone told this guy he was the best – then came his downfall. Sprewell made over $100 million in the NBA. During his NBA years, he choked a coach in Golden State, where he was suspended and his contract wasn’t renewed, he then went to the Knicks and then to Minnesota, where he turned down $21 million over three years (that’s $7 million a year), and then interest in his services waned. He played a year in Minnesota and was basically done. Sprewell waited for the bids to come for his services, which if you look at his career numbers, was almost a guaranteed 18 ppg, but they never did. At the end of the day, his hamartia was his inflated ego.
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