Riches to rags: Pro athletes who went for broke

Apr 14, 2010 |

At an NBPA meeting in 2008, a league representative said 60 percent of professional basketball players go broke five years after retiring.

That’s an astounding statistic considering the average NBA annual salary is $5.9 million.

If everyone spent money like professional athletes, the economy wouldn’t be in a recession.

What drives athletes to become walking ATMs? Lavish expenditures, divorce settlements, child support payments and an acquired addiction to drugs, alcohol and gambling are just a few reasons.

Any one of these extravagant lifestyles usually results in millionaires going broke.

Derrick Coleman was the most recent casualty. The former NBA power forward made $87 million during his mediocre career, but filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy last month after a handful of poor investments left him nearly $5 million in the hole.

Below are some of the most recent professional athletes to check in for a lengthy stay at the poor house.

Antoine Walker


Walker accumulated nearly $100 million during his 12-year NBA career but those large paychecks led to gambling problems and his ultimate demise.

The former Boston Celtic was arrested on July 15, 2009 at Harrah’s Casino in South Lake Tahoe after failing to pay back $800,000 in gambling debts owed to three Las Vegas casinos.

Apparently Walker wrote 10 checks valued at $100K each to pay off his expenses but not surprisingly, that bank account didn’t have a dime in it.

Walker was earning a few bucks in the Puerto Rican Basketball League with the Guaynabo Mets earlier this year, but the team terminated his contract after eight games.

Bernie Kosar

That double major in finance and economics Kosar earned at the University of Miami wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.

Kosar went belly up in June of 2009 with assets listed at $9.2 million and debts of $18.9 million. Let’s just say the Bernie’s Steakhouse restaurants aren’t open on the weekends anymore.

The one-time face of the Cleveland Browns franchise also coughed up $3 million for a nasty divorce settlement and $105,000 in missed child support payments.

These days, Kosar can be found moonlighting as a spokesman for the Ohio-based Longaberger Company and is rumored to be the boyfriend of the heiress to the basket conglomerate fortune.

Lenny Dykstra


Steroids, cocaine and drunken driving are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the luxurious lifestyle of Lenny Dykstra.

After a failed high-end jet charter business venture, Dykstra filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. The former Mets and Phillies outfielder claimed assets of less than $50,000 against $31 million in liabilities.

It was reported later that year that Dykstra was living out of his car and in hotel lobbies.

The World Series champ pawned off a multitude of his MLB memorabilia to make ends meet and when those items went unclaimed they were seized and auctioned. Dykstra’s 1986 World Series ring sold for $56,762 last October.

Latrell Sprewell

This former NBAer turned down a three-year contract extension by the Timberwolves valued at $21 million because he was insulted by the offer saying, “I’ve got a family to feed.” What do you feed those kids, steak and lobster every night?

Sprewell never signed with another team and now he’s in the poor house where he isn’t putting dinner on the table for anyone.

Despite making more than $96 million during his career, two years ago Sprewell defaulted on mortgage payments for his yacht and two mansions he owned went into foreclosure.

Marion Jones


Three-time Olympic gold medalist Marion Jones is so desperate for money these days, she’s joined the WNBA. Jones will earn the minimum salary playing for the Tulsa Shock this season – about $35,000.

Things started to spiral downward for the former track star in 2007 after she admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs throughout her career. The International Olympic Committee stripped Jones of five medals.

Charged with perjury stemming from a check fraud case and the PED trial, Jones was sentenced to six months in prison. All of this came after earning around $7 million per year during her days as an acclaimed Olympian.

Mike Tyson

Perhaps these guys get hit too many times in the head to make sound financial decisions because the list of broke boxers is a lengthy one. But Iron Mike tops them all.

Tyson made more than $300 million in lifetime earnings as a professional boxer, but was $27 million in the hole by 2003 and had less than $700 to his name. In his bankruptcy report, the loquacious Tyson casually stated: “I am unable to pay my bills.”

It was reported that Tyson once spent more than $10K in expenses over a two-month period to care for his white tiger.

But Tyson is back after making a cameo in The Hangover and producing a pigeon-racing reality show set to air on Animal Planet.

If only Kid Dynamite had a nickel every time somebody popped in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out on the old school Nintendo.

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