As part of the NBA's Rookie Transition program, players entering the league get an intensive crash course in financial management and responsibility, a much-needed lesson for a unique, microscopic segment of the young adult population.
Think about it - you're a young kid who hasn't had to take much personal responsibility in the structured world of college athletics and are suddenly thrust into a lifestyle awash with freedom and flush with a multi-million dollar contract.With friends and relatives clinging on and wannabe entrepreneurs knocking on the door, there are external forces on top of the internal that make for a challenging transition. “It was just a recognition that we needed to do more to prepare players for life off the court,” says Greg Taylor, NBA senior vice-president of player development. “So much of the time was focused on developing their skills on the court. We now know that’s 50 percent of the journey.”
Unfortunately, the program, which has existed since 1986, can't save everybody. According to one famous 2009 Sports Illustrated article, an estimated 60% of former NBA players go broke within five years of retirement, a shocking statistic supported by the eye-opening ESPN 30 for 30 film, "Broke".
For as stunning as it is to consider that six out of 10 NBA'ers will be cleaned out within five years of leaving the league, the stories of some of the worst offenders are even more galling. Here are 15 of the most bewildering cases of NBA athletes losing their massive fortunes:
15 David Harrison
Former Indiana Pacer David Harrison was good at being seven feet tall and, well, that's about it, leading to a relatively nondescript four-year NBA career. Still, even as an unheralded role player, Harrison pulled down $4.4 million over four seasons. Not that the Malice in the Palace participant made it last after his career wrapped, turning stoner and getting a job at McDonald's in 2013 after being unable to pay for his son's Happy Meal.
14 Eric Williams
You won't find much sympathy for the plight of 12-year NBA veteran Eric Williams among the cast of Basketball Wives. Williams, who claims that he is now broke and homeless despite having earned nearly $40 million over his career, was miserable to ex-wife Jennifer Williams on Basketball Wives: Miami, going so far as to throw a drink in her face. In response to his broke and homeless claims, former co-star Tami Roman weighed in that "God doesn't like ugly."
13 Gilbert Arenas
No, Gilbert "Agent Zero" Arenas isn't broke - not yet, anyway. That likely has something to do with the fact that he is reportedly still receiving checks from the Orlando Magic - three years after his last NBA game, no less - from a $111 million mega-deal. But Arenas is learning just how quickly even that kind of money can disappear. His exorbitant spending as he sits back and cashes in includes a personal shark tank, over 2,000 pairs of shoes, massive gambling expenses and a seven-bedroom mansion.
12 Jason Caffey
NBA journeyman Jason Caffey lost his $34 million career earnings through a different kind of excess than Arenas. On top of personal issues that include an anxiety attack and an assault charge while he was still active, Caffey has sired 10 children by eight different mothers. This deadbeat dad tried to file for bankruptcy in 2008, but the claim was rejected by a judge, thereby leaving him open to child support-related lawsuits.
11 Kenny Anderson
Credit Kenny Anderson, earner of $60 million over a 14-year NBA career, for being budget conscious. He did, after all, allocate a mere $10,000 per month, which was earmarked as "hanging out money." That 'budgeting' still didn't make it easy to juggle the expenses of eight cars, a Beverly Hills mansion and child support payments for his seven children. His finances also took a hit after his divorce from Tami Ronan, who celebrated her court-awarded funds by buying a car with a vanity license plate that read "HISCASH".
10 Rick Mahorn
Rick Mahorn did an awful lot for the city of Detroit, helping with an NBA title as part of the Bad Boy Pistons in 1990, becoming a broadcaster for the team upon retirement and even making investments on property in the city. If only the city did a lot for him. Those investments went belly up alongside Motown's economy, leaving him in dire financial straits and forcing him to hawk his championship ring while filing for bankruptcy in 2010. His money owed includes $55 worth of late fees to a local library.
9 Eddy Curry
The future seemed so bright for high school star Eddy Curry when he was drafted fourth overall by the Chicago Bulls in 2001. Although $70 million in career earnings is nothing to scoff at, it hasn't helped him avoid financial ruin in the years since. Curry reportedly had major financial commitments to a number of extended family members and purchased 12 cars for various friends and family. There were also a series of ill-advised quick fix solution attempts, such as a substantial personal loan from Allstar Capital that came with a whopping 85% interest rate.
8 Dennis Rodman
When you make nearly $27 million over your playing career and find yourself struggling to pay bills soon thereafter, it's time for pride to go out the window. That's why court documents filed by the lawyer of the notorious Dennis Rodman in 2014 acknowledged that the rebounding savant was "extremely sick and broke," making it impossible for him to fulfil his required child support commitments. At the time, Rodman owed $808,935 in back child support while allegedly struggling to handle his own living expenses.
7 Shawn Kemp
The theme of players getting burned by neglecting to practice safe sex continues here with the "Rain Man", father of seven children by six different women. Not only did Shawn Kemp make $90 million during a decorated 14-year career, but he was the recipient of some lucrative endorsement deals, including an $11.2 million Reebok shoe deal. What of his savings wasn't drained by child support payments was diminished by Kemp's drug-related legal troubles.
6 Vin Baker
Retirement hasn't exactly been blissful for Vin Baker since his 13-year NBA career came to an end in 2006. After losing most of his $97 million in career earnings through a series of poor investments and tax woes that left him forced to pay over a million dollars in back taxes, Baker sued the financial firm Brodeur & Co. Certified Public Accountants for what he felt was negligent management. While Baker may, indeed, have misplaced his financial trust, but a reckless lifestyle that included alcohol abuse problems and a 2007 DUI arrest probably didn't help.
5 Allen Iverson
Former MVP Allen Iverson always had a flair for the dramatic as one of the NBA's greatest scoring guards of all time. So there he was in court during 2012 divorce proceedings, pulling out his pockets and exclaiming that he didn't even have enough money for a cheeseburger. Iverson's descent came just about every way imaginable, with a 50-person entourage, a severe gambling addiction, legal fees and alcohol troubles draining his $160 million in earnings. While Reebok did set up a $30 million trust fund for AI, he can't touch it until he turns 55.
4 Derrick Coleman
Sports Illustrated once wrote of Derrick Coleman that he "played just well enough to ensure his next paycheck." Well, apparently he didn't ensure enough of them, as Coleman's $91 million in career earnings dwindled thanks to a slew of failed business ventures in - stop us if you've heard this one before - Detroit, Michigan. Despite business interests that included ownership stakes in a Hilton hotel and various fast food chains, Coleman filed for bankruptcy in 2010, owing $2.19 million to between 50 and 100 creditors.
3 Latrell Sprewell
2 Scottie Pippen
Perhaps the greatest second banana (to Michael Jordan) in sports history, Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen doesn't carry the attitude problems, checkered legal past or personal struggles of some other entries on this list. That being said, he still wasn't all that bright when it came to money decisions. Heck, he once bought a $4 million jet that didn't even work, sinking another million into trying to fix it for what wound up as a $5 million show piece. Of course, losing $120 million in earnings required more than just one dumb financial decision - and Pippen made a few of them.
1 Antoine Walker
$110 million is a lot of money, but it can run surprisingly thin when it's being used to fund 70 family and friends, in addition to a very expensive auto hobby. Antoine Walker went broke while supporting an entourage of 70 people and treating himself to a car collection that included two Bentleys, two Mercedes, a Range Rover, a Cadillac Escalade, a Hummer and his prized Maybach. Gambling losses of almost $700,000 also created problems for Walker, who hit rock bottom with a Las Vegas arrest in 2009 for writing fraudulent checks to casinos, all the while being pursued by numerous creditors.