Athletes are unlike any other people on the planet. Professional athletes, those who are playing some of the world’s most popular, most watched sports, in some of the top divisions, may have the illusion of a cushy life. Being a sportsman or woman, turning up to training, do a few hours a day, talk tactics, prepare for the game, then get out there on the pitch, the field, or whatever the sporting arena may be, and show everyone what you’re made of, pocketing megabucks in the process.
Take soccer in the English Premier League or Spanish La Liga for example; you’ve got guys at the top clubs in these divisions – Cristiano Ronaldo for example – earning £183,000 a week. Yes, a week! That’s not even taking into account bonuses and incentives, sponsorship deals, etc. It really is a ridiculous amount of cash. Even mediocre players in such divisions, in certain sports, still pocket a monumental sum of cash. These sportspeople can play for a season or two and if they’re smart about things, can live off their earnings for the rest of their lives. It therefore makes you raise your eyebrows and question that person’s habits when you hear about some prominent athlete going broke because they just can’t help splashing the cash. Some of the athletes on this list are still around, and still active in their respective sports, but others are enjoying the retirement phase of their careers – or trying to enjoy it at least, if they weren’t so strapped for cash due to their spending habits. These are 15 of those athletes who have or have had money woes – athletes who have accumulated more debt than wealth over the years because of frivolous spending and poor financial decision making.
15 Dennis Rodman
Dennis Rodman is bizarre in every sense of word, and it’s an image he’s made a concerted effort to portray and make his own. Even if you’re not into NBA, Dennis is one of the game’s most recognizable figures and you’re sure to have seen his pic at some point.
It’s estimated he earned over $50 million during the course of his career, and add to that everything he made through media appearances and sponsorship deals, and Dennis was one of the richest NBA players around. But he blew his cash living that wild lifestyle, probably spending a lot of it on gold navel piercings and other jewelry, but also had to shell out to pay for alimony payments and child support. On top of that, he owned a restaurant, which didn’t do too well, and had to pay a ton of cash in fines due to all the legal trouble he’s been in over the years.
14 Jack Clark
Jack Clark was a huge deal in MLB in the 80s. He earned his corn as a designated hitter and first baseman, but as the years rolled on, he squandered most of it. He was a feared right-handed hitter, and understandably he was earning megabucks – millions, even in that era he was earning a huge salary – but plenty of people feared for him because of the way he blew most of it. He loved to spend and loved to splurge when he was still smacking it out of the park for fun and even when his playing days were over. Most people would realize they’ve got to reign in the spending a bit, or in Clark’s case, a hell of a lot.
Luxury cars were his vice. He had a fleet of luxury motors which drained his bank account, and tried to do what he thought was wise and invest in businesses; his drag-racing business was a total flop and ended up costing him a lot of dough. Clark ended up losing his home, the cars, pretty much everything, but those baseball fans of yesteryear would be happy to know that he managed to eventually get back on his feet.
13 Antoine Walker
If you’re raking in millions, it’s okay to buy a mansion, have a summer house somewhere, have a couple of fancy cars, and enjoy your wealth. But if you’ve got multiple properties and love buying expensive real estate, then you better be able to pay for it all. Antoine Walker played in the NBA for 12 years, and was a pretty big deal for his seven different NBA side. His salary reflected this, because during his career he earned a whopping $108 million, from basketball alone. That’s not even taking into account sponsorship deals and those little money-earning activities he did on the side. You’d think you could buy four bits of real estate with that cash, but not the properties Walker wanted to acquire. The guy had to take out loans after buying the properties, just to live day by day, but in the end everything caught up with him. He filed for bankruptcy, had accumulated millions of dollars’ worth of debts, and consequently his beloved properties had to be sold off, as did his championship ring. Walker announced he had become debt-free in 2013, and is now working as a basketball analyst.
12 David James
David James has only just hung up his cleats. He had a long and glittering career between the sticks playing for various soccer teams in the UK, and at the height of his powers, he was a permanent fixture in the net for Liverpool and the England national team. He’s also – judging by what other people have said about him – one of the nicest people you could meet; he’s certainly not your stereotypical brash Premier League footballer.
David wasn’t really into leading the flashy footballer’s lifestyle that is part of footballing life today. He owned several properties, but aside from that he spent the majority of his cash on being a humanitarian. That’s all well and good, if you have that type of cash to give away that is.
In 2014, David was declared bankrupt. His giving nature, real estate, other aspects of his lifestyle, and his divorce cost him a bomb, and he since had to sell his properties, vehicles, and tons of memorabilia, just to stop himself from sinking further into the depths of debilitating debt.
11 Sheryl Swoopes
Sheryl Swoopes gained fame – not really fortune – for being the first pro basketball player to be signed up to the Women’s NBA. She’s one of the league’s greatest players ever and shone throughout, mainly due to what she got up to on the basketball court but also due to her antics off it. She has also won three Olympic gold medals – not many other athletes can lay claim to having done that!
Any other basketball player in the NBA with those kind of achievements on their résumés would be earning megabucks, but because she’s a woman playing in the WNBA, her salary was a joke. Thankfully for her sake, she was high-profile enough to earn sponsorship deals and earned her fortune doing plenty of other things, but she wasn’t smart about what she did with her cash. She made a number of bad investments, was conned by unscrupulous lawyers and agents and consequently, was nearly homeless. She was so poor she couldn’t even pay her rent – and all of this happened when she was still playing ball!
10 Scottie Pippen
Former B-ball player Scottie Pippen made a series of really dumb purchases that cost him a whole load of dough, and even more when he had to try and rectify his mistakes.
Pip won six NBA titles and played alongside Michael Jordan for the majority of his career, having a vital role in transforming the Bulls team into a feared outfit and helping popularize NBA and basketball around the world. Understandably, you’d think he earned a ton of cash through his salary and his various sponsorship deals, and he did. But amazingly enough, he managed to blow it all.
His first ludicrous purchase got him noticed for all the wrong reasons. What the hell was Pippen going to do with a private jet? God knows, but he got one anyway, and that airplane venture ended in abject failure. It cost him $3,400,000, plus millions more in repairs, and in the end, “Air Pip” failed to get off the ground. He also got conned out of millions by a financial advisor – Pip should have probably realized something was up when this financial advisor gave him the go ahead to buy the plane! – and had huge personal debts. He eventually had to sell his mansion and remained financially destitute for a number of years.
9 Kenny Anderson
Here’s another pro basketball player who was irresponsible with his cash. Kenny Anderson earned $63,425,200 throughout his career – yes, someone worked out that exact figure! – but managed to blow it all, and then some, simply because his lavish spending habits exceeded his income. He himself has attributed his financial woes due to his overspending and lack of saving. “I thought it would last and I didn’t know how to say no,” Kenny said. “I had great attorneys that advised me well throughout my career, but I never listened.” Well, being broke is what you get for not listening, Kenny.
In 2005, all that spending came back to haunt him, as Kenny ended up without a penny to his name. It had to do with his spending, plus he had eight kids to support, alimony payments to make after failed marriages, and all of that depleted what little savings he had left.
8 Danny Williams
How on earth can you be known as “The Man Who Knocked Out Iron Mike Tyson,” at one point the baddest, most fiercest man on the planet, and still have to resort to being a bodyguard to make some extra cash? Only Danny Williams would know. The guy was what’s known as being a shot fighter; in his day, he could trade punches with the best and come out on top, but if things aren’t going for him, he looks like an amateur boxer.
The enigma that is Danny Williams had a huge fan base in the UK, which grew exponentially when he knocked out Iron Mike. But it really has ended up being a sad state of affairs for Danny. Having a poor background meant Danny spent what he got, and more, and add to that agents and promoters wanting to scam any cash they could from your pay cheque, and Danny ended up essentially being poor. He announced his retirement several times, but continued to box, not in the UK – because they were smart enough to not grant him a boxing licence, as he was well past his prime and it was evident that boxing had taken its toll on his health – but elsewhere in Europe. Once the best fighter in Britain, he was losing to unknown fighters pretty much every time he stepped into the ring. All of this was for money, as was his wanting to train and become a bodyguard – a really sorry state of affairs.
7 Vince Young
Canadian football quarterback Vince Young squandered all of his $34 million salary he earned in the NFL. It takes some effort to do that, even more so to blow the $30m he earned with sponsorship and endorsement deals too. He’s said himself that it was his fault and he just got swept away leading that whole lifestyle, having cash to burn, and burn it he did. He even took loans, and hit rock bottom when he defaulted on a $1.9 million high interest payday loan. He was also conned by financial advisors too, adding further to his money woes.
If all of this wasn’t enough, he got in further trouble over his financial situation when a career criminal began impersonating Vince, doing dodgy deals, getting cash, and even helping himself to some of Vince’s earnings. Poor old Vince, he couldn’t stop spending, was betrayed by some of his nearest and dearest, and had criminals after his cash – that’s one way to lose a fortune.
6 Mike Tyson
Here’s another boxer who blew his fortune on pretty much anything and everything. Mike Tyson is, in a lot of people’s view, one of the greatest fighters who’s ever lived. When he was in his prime, the so-called baddest, most fiercest man on the planet would decimate opponents, blow them away with his punching power and ferociousness. So if he had some level of sense regarding his finances, and if he surrounded himself with good, honest people, he’d certainly be one of the richest boxers to have ever lived.
Tyson splurged on the usual cars, houses, nights out, and he spent a ton on sex, but he also made some truly ridiculous purchases, such as that Bengal Tiger he once owned. He was a poor kid from Brooklyn, and so when he grew up and started getting all this cash, he didn’t have a clue what to do with it all, so he spent it. A lot of those around him encouraged him to do so – crafty people such as Don King, who wanted as much of Tyson’s cash as they could get their hands on. Quite a few people who were in his close circle ended up robbing him blind, which added to his money woes.
5 Jack Johnson
One has to feel for Jack Johnson, American professional ice hockey defenseman for the Columbus Blue Jackets. He wasn’t great at keeping a lid on his own spending, but then when he tried to do the right thing and be a bit more responsible, he got screwed over by the people he thought he could trust the most: his parents.
Jack’s money problems started right after signing his first NHL contract for $30.5 million – a contract that should have meant he’d never have to worry about money again. But he started spending, trusted his parents to curb his spending and essentially put them in control of his finances. They got power of attorney over his finances, but it was the worst thing he could have done. They were spending loads, and took this money to be their own, spending millions on homes, cars, and holidays. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they even practiced "monetizing," which left Jack with massive debts, debts he couldn’t afford to pay off.
4 Derrick Coleman
Ex-NBA star Derrick Coleman made around $87 million during his playing days, but spent all of it post-NBA and ended up broke. Unlike the majority of others on this list, he didn’t spend all of it on luxury cars, gambling and properties; he made a string of investments, but the majority of these ventures ended up going south, ending up costing Derrick a hell of a lot of dough.
Derrick is originally from Detroit, and wanted to help the area rise up out of the times of crime and poverty and basically help people and turn the city around. He invested every penny he earned during the course of his NBA days into the city, and then some, but it ended up being an impossible task. The economic downturn hit Detroit hard, and so Derrick’s cash ended up going nowhere in the grand scheme of things. He defaulted on loans, and his various investments in the city couldn’t be sustained. At least his intentions were in the right place.
3 Terrell Owens
In his heyday, Terrell Owens was amongst the best in the NFL. He played as a wide receiver for 15 seasons, and each and every year he drew in the crowds and became a favorite of the media due to his athletic prowess, the fact he wore his heart on his sleeve on the field, and because of his often wild and over-the-top celebrations in the end zone after scoring touchdowns. But post-NFL, Terrell hasn’t had the best of times. He was wild on the field, and wild off it too, in terms of his spending and ridiculous purchases. He accumulated over $80 million in career earnings, but due to bad financial decisions, he ended up filing for bankruptcy.
It would seem to a lot of people that his aim was to go broke. One of his most ludicrous spending sprees was on an entertainment complex. He ploughed millions into that complex, which included a bingo hall. Firstly, NFL players aren’t allowed to invest in gambling, secondly a number of things about the complex didn’t fit in with Alabama’s rules and regulations. It ended up being an almighty flop – just one of those poor investments that led to Terrell becoming broke.
2 Diego Maradona
Diego Maradona is a legend in the game of soccer, and is perhaps one of the greatest players to have ever played the game. He carried his nation of Argentina for many years and was solely responsible for lighting up the world game. He had his fair share of haters, due to some of his antics, but he didn't care – he lived life large and that’s bound to piss a lot of people off.
But to live life large you need the money to do so. Diego had the cash, spent a ton of it, but that’s because he wasn’t paying what he needed to in taxes. He saved a ton of cash he was meant to be paying to the Italian government, around 40 million Euros in fact, which is why he could continue living the life of luxury. But his tax avoidance was eventually discovered and came back to haunt him, and he had to sell a lot of his treasured items to begin paying the tax man back bit by bit.
1 John Daly
The controversial golfer John Daly has been in the pro ranks for what seems like forever, although despite his many sterling performances, he’s also known in the game and amongst sports fans in general for his careless attitude – frowned upon in the gentleman’s game of golf – and his turbulent personal life.
John’s been reasonably successful in multiple business ventures, has a design company, and is also a singer and songwriter. It seems like he’d do anything to make a bit of cash. He needs to too, because although a number of his businesses have taken off, he has still spent millions more than his accumulative earnings, at one point leaving him broke and financially destitute.
Some of his business decisions didn’t work out, so money went into those failed ventures. But the vast majority of his net worth went towards alcohol and feeding his gambling addiction, and you can add alimony payments onto that too.
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