Nearly every child in the world grows up playing at least one sport, whether it be soccer, basketball, hockey, baseball, football, tennis, golf, or even track and field. For most kids, a sport is played for educational and health purposes, or simply because they enjoy the activity. There are some kids though who, when they get older, decide to try and become a professional athlete, either because they possess an overwhelming passion for their preferred sport, or because they possess a high level of talent that they think they can make a living off of.
If a person does become one of the lucky few to actually become a professional athlete, they are in store to possibly make a very comfortable living for themselves as long as they stay healthy and are able to produce. A professional athlete, depending on the sport and endorsements, is capable of earning anywhere between a few million dollars and hundreds of millions of dollars by the time their playing career is done. Most people would be able to live carefree for the rest of their lives with that kind of money, and most athletes do, but there are also some athletes who through gratuitous spending, terrible investments, and bad personal choices, sometimes end up with little to no money left to their name, and can even be forced into bankruptcy. Here is a list of the top 15 star athletes who went bankrupt.
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15 Johnny Unitas
Johnny Unitas spent nearly his entire playing career with the Baltimore Colts, and throughout his playing career, he was known for his impressive passing game, media adoration, and outright popularity with the fans. He was such a good player, that to this day, he is still considered to be one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. During his time (1956-73), players of Unitas’ caliber were not as handsomely paid as they are today, but they still made a decent enough salary. His earnings though did not stop him from having money troubles however, as in 1991, he was forced to declare bankruptcy after owing four million dollars in bank loans
14 Lenny Dykstra
Lenny Dykstra’s MLB career (1985-1996) saw him play center field for both the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies, and in that time he was a three-time all-star, a silver slugger, and a World Series champion with the Mets in 1986. Dykstra made a decent amount of money as a player, but it was not until he was finished with baseball that he really started to make money primarily via stocks and his own business ventures. By 2008, Dykstra was worth an estimated $58 million dollars, but in 2009 he filed for bankruptcy, because it turned out that he had over $37 million in debt with $24 million in assets, with most of his income in fact coming from his baseball player pension. As it turns out, Dykstra possessed more money than he claimed during his filing, and was then arrested for bankruptcy fraud and indicted for selling property that he had already lost to bankruptcy.
13 Latrell Sprewell
Latrell Sprewell is a former first-round NBA draft choice who spent his thirteen year career with the Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, and Minnesota Timberwolves. He is a four time all-star who helped lead two of his teams to a Western Conference final and an NBA final, but he is mainly known for two things: choking his coach during practice (an act which got him suspended) and for turning down a $21 million dollar contract because it was not enough money for him to feed his family with. As it turns out, he was right about it not being enough, as the monthly payments needed for his luxury home and items left him with very little money to actually buy food. Once his playing days were over, his home was foreclosed on and he filed for bankruptcy.
12 Marion Jones
In comparison to other athletes who play in some of the world’s major sports, track athletes do not make that much money; but there are a very small number of track stars who sometimes do earn well over a million dollars. Marion Jones was one of these few exceptions, She became so accomplished in her field, that she inked an endorsement deal with Nike and went on to buy a $2 million dollar mansion with that money; she would even make $80,000 for simply appearing at minor races and participating in them. Her career would go on to fall apart, as she was caught using performance enhancing steroids. This scandal caused her to lose her endorsements, and the mounting legal fees associated with trying to clear her name ate a huge chunk of her savings; she ultimately filed for bankruptcy in 2013.
11 Tony Gwynn
The late Tony Gwynn was one of the most liked and respected players in all of baseball, which was an added bonus considering he was also one of the best major league hitters ever. Gwynn spent his entire nineteen year career with the San Diego Padres, he even took below market deals to remain with the team, as San diego also happened to be his hometown, something almost no free-agent athlete would do today. Early on in his career though, he suffered some financial problems, which actually led him to file for bankruptcy in 1987. These problems were mainly the result of Gwynn trying to help out his friend and agent Lew Muller. Gwynn cosigned a few loans for Muller, but Muller went on to default shortly after when he tried to buy a Mercedes. Muller went on to get more loans using Gwynn as his co-signer, but these additional loans were obtained without Gwynn’s permission, and ultimately led to his bankruptcy filing.
10 Lawrence Taylor
In 1981, Lawrence Taylor was drafted second overall by the New York Giants, the team that he would spend his entire playing career with. Taylor was a linebacker who was considered to be one of the NFL’s most ferocious defensive players, as proven by his most infamous hit on Monday Night Football which left Joe Theismann with a broken leg. He would become a ten-time Pro-Bowler, a league MVP, and a two-time Super Bowl champion who was at one point worth over $10 million dollars. The Hall of Famer though, did not spend his money wisely, as he wasted a lot of it on drugs and prostitutes. Taylor also neglected to pay his taxes for a few years, with the cumulative amount of back taxes being so high, that it bankrupted him when it came time to finally pay.
9 Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson is a former number one draft who played fourteen seasons in the NBA, primarily with the Philadelphia 76ers. Iverson was an incredibly effective player, as he was capable of playing both shooting guard and point guard, and despite never winning a championship, he was named rookie of the year, a regular season MVP, an eleven-time All-Star, and a four-time NBA scoring champion. Over his NBA career. Iverson earned more than $200 million dollars, but thanks to his terrible spending habits which included bad investments, lifestyle choices, and purchasing unnecessarily expensive things, he blew away more or less all of his money, and was forced into bankruptcy.
8 Mark Brunell
Mark Brunell is a quarterback who was initially drafted by the Green Bay Packers, but played most of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars where he was a three-time Pro Bowler. He would later move on to Washington where he served as their starter, then he moved to New Orleans where he won a Super Bowl as Drew Brees’ backup , and then he ended his playing career with the Jets. Throughout his time as a quarterback, Brunell earned a total of $50 million dollars, but thanks to some bad real estate investments, he was left with just over five million dollars. Five million is a lot of money, but unfortunately for Brunell he had amassed around $25 million dollars worth of liabilities which caused him to file for bankruptcy.
7 Michael Vick
Michael Vick is a former NFL first overall draft pick, which means that he was made a multi-millionaire before even throwing a pass in training camp. It was the Atlanta Hawks who drafted him, and it was with them that he made the most money, as he would make over $24 million dollars a year from his NFL contract and endorsements. Despite making all that money, Vick still went through financial trouble thanks to frivolous spending, quite a few bad investments, and a $45 million dollar lawsuit from his first agent. Things went completely south for Vick after he was arrested and indicted on animal cruelty charges for running a dogfighting ring on his property. The combined legal fees, loss of endorsements, and termination of his NFL contract, eventually left him $20 million dollars in debt which led him into bankruptcy in 2008.
6 Vince Young
Vince Young was drafted third overall by the Tennessee Titans, a team that he spent five seasons with. He would go on to play a year in Philadelphia, and then joined the Buffalo Bills, Green Bay packers, and Cleveland Browns as a member of their respective practice rosters. He may not have been a high quality starting quarterback, but Young was still able to amass over $26 million dollars in his NFL career, as well as $30 million in endorsements. Despite making all that money though, Young filed for bankruptcy in 2014 after defaulting on multiple loans and mounting legal fees associated with lawsuits filed against him..
5 Diego Maradona
For those who do not know who Diego Maradona is, he is a former soccer from Argentina who is considered by many current day players to be one of the greatest soccer players in history. He played in four consecutive World Cups, capturing the championship in 1986, following a quarter final win where he scored one of the most famous and controversial goals in soccer history, a goal known as the “Hand of God”. When his playing days were behind him, Maradona delved into coaching, coaching Argentina’s national team. Needless to say, Maradona made a good living, but in 2009 he filed for bankruptcy after the Italian Tax Authority demanded that he pay back $54 million dollars worth of unpaid taxes.
4 Antoine Walker
Antoine Walker is a former first-round NBA draft pick who played most of his twelve year career with the Boston Celtics. He would also play for the Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Miami Heat with whom he won an NBA championship. Over his career, Walker made $110 million dollars, but that money quickly evaporated after he poured a lot of it into the failing real estate market. He also bought multiple unsuccessful nightclubs, and lost a considerate amount of money at casinos. All of these factors contributed to his bankruptcy filing in 2010.
3 Kenny Anderson
The New Jersey Nets drafted Kenny Anderson second overall, and the six seasons he spent with the Nets was the longest time he ever spent with a single team. Anderson would go on to play for more than half a dozen other NBA teams by the time he retired, but all that moving around did not stop him from earning around $60 million dollars in all that time. His personal choices though, left him with roughly only $150,000 dollars. Anderson was an avid car collector, and he would go on to get divorced, which would have been fine alimony wise, if it were not for the fact that he also had to pay hefty child support payments to five other women. All of those payments eventually became too much for Anderson, and in 2005, he declared bankruptcy.
2 Scottie Pippen
Hall of Fame NBA forward Scottie Pippen spent most of his career with the Chicago Bulls, where he won six championships with the great Michael Jordan. During his seventeen year career, he earned somewhere in the neighborhood of $120 million dollars, a number that should keep someone financially secure their entire life. Pippen made some terrible investment decisions, and shortly after retiring he was made aware that a financial advisor with whom he trusted $20 million dollars with was going to be indicted for bank fraud. Pippen was close to declaring bankruptcy, but before he could, a news outlet became aware of it and reported it. Pippen was not pleased by the story, and sued the news outlet claiming that the story was false. The case was thrown out when it was revealed that Pippen had to sell a four million dollar jet after having bought it only a short few months earlier; and yes he did declare bankruptcy.
1 Mike Tyson
In his prime, Mike Tyson was the meanest and most ferocious fighters in all of boxing, and even though he will be remembered for biting off a portion of Evander Holyfield’s ear, he is still the youngest boxer to win all three major heavyweight titles. He successfully defended one title nine times, and won more than a dozen of his first fights via knockout. Tyson managed to turn his in-ring effectiveness into $300 million dollars, but thanks to an obscene amount of unnecessary and rapid spending, he ended up falling $27 million dollars in debt and declared bankruptcy in 2003. Luckily, Tyson got to star in the Hangover movies, and an animated series on Adult Swim to recuperate some money, but he will never make anything close to what he earned while boxing.
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