The world loves its athletes. Possessing superior strength, speed and physical prowess all pay off financially in the world of sports. Whether throwing a football, pummeling your opponent in a boxing ring, dunking a basketball or hitting a baseball 400 feet, if you can perform any of these actions better than most, you are virtually guaranteed a windfall payday. Unfortunately being bigger, stronger and faster than everyone else has never been a guarantee of financial intelligence. We have seen many famous athletes earn hundreds of millions of dollars, only to wind up destitute and penniless. How does it happen? The athletes below all lost substantial amounts of money in different ways, but all deserve inclusion in this list they would rather not grace.
In 2008, the NBA Players Association reported that as much as 60% of all pro basketball players are flat broke within five years of retirement. Latrell Sprewell is an example of one cash-squandering basketballer who is helping to make that statistic a reality. Having earned over $100 million in his NBA career, the player that once choked his coach had his yacht, “Milwaukee’s Best”, repossessed in 2007 after missing payments and insurance totaling over $1 million. In 2008 he defaulted on his Milwaukee home, and his Westchester mansion went into foreclosure in 2010.
Lenny Dykstra was a hard-working fan favorite of the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies Major League Baseball teams, helping the Mets to a 1986 World Series victory. After baseball he became a financial consultant, but you really don’t want Lenny’s financial advice. In 2009 he declared bankruptcy, claiming $50,000 in assets and $50 million in liabilities, owing money to both J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America.
For a while, no boxer in the world wanted to tangle with Mike Tyson. But oh, how the mighty hath fallen. Earning more than $400 million in his boxing career he had to file for bankruptcy in 2003, claiming debts of over $27 million.
Marion Jones was a young, beautiful, gifted track and field athlete. At the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Australia, she took down three gold medals and two bronze medals. But after her ex-husband so gallantly reported under oath he had seen her injecting steroids, it was all downhill for Marion. After confessing to using performance-enhancing drugs in 2007, she had to forfeit her medals, and went from making $80,000 per race and owning a $2.5 million home to filing for bankruptcy, even having to sell her mother’s home.
Any discussion of famous athletes who have lost millions would not be complete without mentioning NFL football quarterback Michael Vick. At one point he was one of the most widely recognized athletes in the world, and once signed a 10 year extension with the Atlanta Falcons for $130 million, making him the highest-paid player in the National Football League. But money does not instantly beget common sense, and a string of lawsuits and two years in prison resulting from his participation in a vicious dog-fighting ring in 2007 temporarily ended his NFL career, and killed his incredibly lucrative Nike endorsement. Declaring bankruptcy from federal prison is never high on anyone’s to-do list, but that is exactly what Vick was forced to do.
An athlete’s window of opportunity to exploit his or her natural God-given talents and brutal physical worth ethic is very limited. All the more reason for athletes to receive sound financial advice, forgo costly mansions and jewelry, stay out of the negative limelight and save as much money as possible. A couple of the athletes above received second chances and did well with them, no doubt remembering all too well how far and fast they had fallen financially.