You've probably heard some version of this declaration before: "I'd love to just earn the minimum salary while playing in the (insert sports league)."
And why not? Most of us could do quite well earning the $400,000+ minimum per year in any of the three major American sports (or the $525,000 in the NHL). And quite a few would settle for an annual salary equivalent to that of an MLS footballer ($33,750), professional women's basketball player ($37,950 in the WNBA) or even an under-contract baseball minor leaguer ($39,125).
But if we were somehow blessed with superior athletic talent and could earn top dollar in our chosen sport, we would never have to worry about money again, right? After all, if we can pull in millions of dollars a year, we'd be set for life. Easily. No problem.
Except that's not true. At least it isn't among those multi-millionaire athletes.
Bankruptcy courts across the nation are littered with filings from former players who amassed a fortune yet somehow manged to let it all drain away. Sports Illustrated estimated that 78 percent of all NFL players are either under substantial fiscal stress or bankrupt with two years after their career ends. For NBA ballers, that figure is 60% within five years of being out of the league.
In theory, it's not as hard for this to happen as you might think. Most rookie athletes are barely out of their teens when they essentially get handed a big fat paycheck, so they probably aren't well-versed in the nuances of wise spending habits. Plus, many of these men and women come from income-challenged households, where they may have been largely deprived of luxury items and now hope to make up for lost time by buying everything in sight.
And then there are the chosen few athletic stars who bring in tens (or even hundreds) of millions of dollars over a sporting career and still manage to find a way to let it slip through their fingers. It's almost like they make a concerted effort to go broke.
After the recent devastating news of Jack Johnson and his issues with bankruptcy, we wanted to take a look at 15 other athletes who had to file for bankruptcy.
Here are the top 15 athletes who climbed the mountain of riches and plunged back down to earth again nearly penniless.
15 Johnny Unitas
14 Kenny Anderson
13 Dorothy Hamill
12 Marion Jones
11 Diego Maradona
10 Mark Brunell
9 Lenny Dykstra
8 Evander Holyfield
7 Scottie Pippen
6 Lawrence Taylor
5 Darren McCarty
4 Sheryl Swoopes
3 Latrell Sprewell
2 Vince Young
1 Mike Tyson
And then there was Iron Mike. The perennial heavyweight champion in the late 1980s, Tyson amassed between $300 and $400 million during his boxing career. But when you throw cash at mansions, high-end automobiles, and pet tigers, even that much money can disappear before you know it. When he declared bankruptcy in 2003, he owed $13 million to the IRS and $9 million in his divorce settlement. Some reports say that Tyson was worth less than seven hundred dollars at one point after his bankruptcy. His latest venture is an animated superhero cartoon based on his persona. We'll see how that turns out.
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